Despite the number of experienced, professional people at the firm/lab/force/whatever, everybody on the staff is single. Some may have once been married, but they are now divorced. It might be mentioned that the hard hours their profession demands cuts out the chance for the standard nuclear family, or they may simply be Married to the Job
. Usefully, especially in sitcoms, any attractive guy/girl they meet and try to hit on will also be single, unless them being taken is relevant to the plot.
In reality, though, the writers just want as many people to have as many potential love/lust interests as possible.
This is common in Sit Coms
such as Friends
, but is more jarring and noticeable in dramas such as ER
Actors portraying these perpetually single characters are often married themselves, showing how odd the trope is for people of their age.
Note that series are much, much more likely to start this way than end this way. As the years go by and writers add romantic subplots, cast members are more and more likely to pair off, whether with each other or with characters who aren't part of the main cast. Also, the trope is called "everyone is single," not "this guy is single;" it only applies when everyone in the cast is single, or at least the vast majority, not just half the cast.
Compare All Love Is Unrequited
- Any show with military underpinnings usually does this as well, since it would be "improper" to actually have a relationship within the ranks. Star Trek in particular usually plays fast and hard with this trope (and when two officers do get married, they always seem to be the same rank at least).
- Not actually considered much of an issue in the British Army, provided those involved are not in the same chain of command, i.e. no boinking the boss. (There are strict rules against any sexual contact- including kissing or holding hands- between any personnel on tour (rules that get broken a lot, but rules never the less). It's okay to declare that you're in a relationship, though.)
- The US military rules about "fraternization" are thus: 1) The two parties cannot be in the same chain of command. 2) You cannot cross the officer/enlisted divide. 3) You'd both better be either married to each other, or not married to anybody.
- Note that #2 can have exceptions, as long as numbers 1 & 3 are followed. See #3, bold item 2, here.
- As far as the Navy goes, #2 is actually regarded as the most important of these rules. The only way an Officer and Enlisted can be in a relationship is if they were married (married, not dating or engaged) prior to one entering an officer training program.
- Played largely straight in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, which isn't surprising, since most of the main cast are junior officers still in their late teens. Averted in Zeta Gundam, with two couples from the original who had gotten married in the intervening years (although the wives had left the EFF to raise their children), and with lead protagonist Kamille Bidan's own parents. Most Gundam shows play it straight, though.
- Narrowly averted in Pat Labor, as shinshi often mentions having a wife at home. The rest of the main cast are single, but considering their personalities, that's hardly surprising.
- In fact, most Humongous Mecha shows usually play this straight with the pilots & support crew, with a few exceptions, probably the best example of which would be Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!, where the pilots of the titular robot are a husband & wife.
- Double subverted in Fresh Pretty Cure!!. It seemed that, finally, in the sixth season of the Series Franchise, a character would be introduced who was already taken... but the "boyfriend" turned out to be her brother.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: the only married couples are Maes and Gracia Hughes, Izumi and Sig Curtis and King Bradley and his wife, and the first is broken up by Maes' murder in the fourth volume. Especially notable given that the series is populated with attractive people.
- Funny thing about Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, despite the fact that a decent part of the cast are parents, the only characters who are currently married are Chrono and Amy. Other parents either adopted their kids while single or lost their mate before the series began.
- Averted in Umineko no Naku Koro ni - everyone in the Ushiromiya family, with Battler and possibly Rosa as an exception is either married or in relationship. Though Kanon usually admits his love for Jessica just before his death...
- Update: everyone but Rosa.
- Ouran High School Host Club's cast is made up mostly of singles. All the Host Club members and their customers are single (as far as we know), as is Haruhi's father (widower), Tamaki's father (divorced, and forcibly separated from his lover and mistress), Tamaki's grandmother (widow), and Ranka's co-worker and friend Misuzu (divorced). The only couples in the series are the Hitachiin's parents, Kyouya's parents, Kyouya's sister and her husband, and a few students at the school who are in perfectly arranged marriages. And, Tamaki and Haruhi at the end of the manga.
- Any superhero comic book character. Expect any long-term relationship with other superheroes to fall victim to No Going Steady and for non-superpowered spouses to end up Stuffed into the Fridge.
- Notably averted by Spider-Man. He managed to hang onto Mary Jane for decades. At least until the relationship was retconned out of existence in the One More Day storyline. That, and Lois Lane and Clark Kent, whose relationship resulted in a marriage.
- The Spider-Man example is particularly notable, since both the above comic and The Clone Saga were explicitly made to be an extremely convoluted series of Retcons all for the purpose of making Spider-Man single again. This backfired monumentally with the fans (Mary Jane was really popular with them, and Stan Lee), and the flaws can be summed up in Linkara's tirade on reviewing One More Day.
- Averted in the DCU by the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick and his wife Joan.
- The second Flash was in a stable relationship as well. Then she died, but then she turned out to be alive. Then he died.
- Wally West (the third Flash) eventually got married and had children.
- Invincible and Atom Eve are a good example or an aversion.
- Averted by Reed and Sue Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman in Fantastic Four.
- Most of the faculty in Archie Comics, with the exception of Coach Clayton. And he's possibly the only subversion because his kid attends the school and is friends with Archie.
- Seems to have creeped up on The DCU with the Comicbook/New52. Barry Allen is no longer in any kind of relationship with Iris West (effectively wiping out Wally West in the process), Superman is no longer married to or interested in Lois Lane.
- Bait and Switch uses this for the characters whose marital status we know, although in the case of security officer Dul'krah, Clan Korekh it's because his species doesn't actually practice marriage. According to his bio on the Memory Gamma fanon wiki, Dul'krah has a son and daughter by two different women. Also, in Reality Is Fluid Eleya and Gaarra become a couple, although they're still unmarried.
- In the Doctor Who New Adventures novels, the decision to give ex-companion Bernice Summerfield her own spin-off series — in which, as lead character, she would be expected to participate in romantic-interest subplots — led directly to the messy collapse of her marriage, which upstaged the violent deaths of a tenth of the Earth's population. This, less than a year after an entire novel was devoted to the wedding and much effort was expended in assuring readers that it was Happily Ever After-type True Love.
- Jasper Fforde married off the character of Thursday Next in her first book, specifically to avoid romantic subplots in the rest of the series, and get on with the main story.
- Subverted in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, in which the protagonist is married... but still eligible for a love interest subplot, as it's a group marriage. In fact, four spouses (three male/one female), get added to the marriage over the course of the book, two of which are main characters. The new wife is the protagonist's new love interest (and all the other spouses grow to love her too), one of the new husbands is a friend protagonist and love interest acquired during the plot, who thoroughly charms all the other spouses.
- Aversion: in the In Death series by J.D. Robb, policewoman Eve Dallas gets married shortly into the series, and has stayed that way throughout the rest of the books. Her best friend is married and has a kid, and her aide is living with a serious boyfriend. Many of the other supporting characters are also shown as more or less happily married, with a few exceptions.
- In Harry Potter, none of the staff at Hogwarts seem to be married or indeed to ever have been able to sustain a proper relationship. The only counterexample is in the future, with Neville being Herbology professor and married to Hannah Abbot.
- JKR stated in an interview that some of the teachers are married, though. Can't recall if she mentioned how their living arrangements work...
- Pottermore reveals Professor McGonagall was briefly married. They lived in Hogsmeade, so McGonagall would have an easy commute to Hogwarts every day.
- The Honor Harrington series has this in the earlier stories as a common issue. While there are many couples, the main character is very single with romance subplots. Loads and Loads of Characters with the Author taking 12 books to start cleaning up loose ends.
- All seven Friends of Narnia in The Last Battle are single. None of them married either in Narnia or England.
- In Star Trek: Titan, both Will's first officer and his superiors are concerned about his wife Deanna serving aboard Titan as Senior Diplomatic Officer because it puts her directly in the chain of command (as just Ship's Counselor, she was not an officer of the line).
- Seems to be the case with the guardians in Vampire Academy. There are guardians in sexual relationships, but the series never introduces an active guardian who is married. Instead there are two cases of guardians who resigned to marry. Probably an indication of how dedicated the guardians are to their jobs.
- Averted and played straight in Women's Murder Club; one of the main characters is a single workaholic whose obsession with her job destroyed her marriage, but another is happily married with kids and a third is in a long-term relationship (although she's a commitment-phobic with a tendency to stray).
- On 24, this is universally true at CTU — however, this is partly because of 24's recurring theme of the conflict between family vs. duty. Hence, there are a lot of divorcees and widows featured on 24.
- In season 8, this was averted by Cole and Dana until, as you might expect, Dana turned out to be The Mole.
- At the beginning of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, almost every member of the main and supporting cast is single, but by the end of Season 2 everyone is already hooked up or on their way there. During the year-long gap in the timeline between the Season 2 finale and the beginning Season 3, the Love Dodecahedron of the previous season has resolved itself into four reasonably Happily Married couples.
- The only married character of Criminal Minds divorced in the third season—but everyone's favorite tech kitten is dating Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Xander, and it looks like certain other characters might start getting some... Also, JJ has been living with and dating Will since season three. They even have a son together!
- JJ and Will are now married, but Garcia split from Kevin (Xander), and everyone else is still single. Newcomer Alex Blake is the only exception, though she hardly got to see her husband, James, due to the fact that he was almost always abroad with Doctors Without Borders. In "#6", though, we find that he took a job as a professor at Harvard and asked Alex to join him. Alex says no, but agrees to visit him during the weekend and on holidays.
- Grey's Anatomy begins with all of the young employees of Seattle Grace at least nominally single.
- The Chief and Bailey were both stressfully married, McDreamy had just split with Redheaded Doctor after banging McSteamy, so the grown-ups weren't even coping. In fact given the state of Izzie-Alex, George-Callie and Yang-Burke GA is not really an advert for the medical profession.
- In later seasons we get more stable relationships. Meredith and Darek are happily married and Owen and Christina are giving marriage a fair shot. Alex and Izzie got married but that ended badly when Izzie was written out. Even Mark seems to be looking for a stable relationship. Arizona has proposed to Callie even with the entire Callie-carrying-Mark's-baby debacle.
- All of the doctors in House, M.D. (with the exception of Wilson, who eventually gets a divorce from his third wife during the run of the show) are single. A patient does a Lampshade Hanging by saying this is why he's not interested in a medical career.
- Taub, Cameron, Chase, Foreman and Thirteen are all doctors and none of them are single. This only leaves Cuddy, House and Wilson single in the primary cast. Kutner doesn't count.
- And then everyone breaks up except for Taub and his wife (until they divorce later in the series). On the other hand, Cuddy gets a boyfriend breaks up with him. Then she dates House for a while and then broke up with him.
- Going strong so far on The Mentalist. Viewers know little of Lisbon and Cho's personal lives (except Cho's seems to consist largely of working steadily through very thick books), with the impression they're too consumed with their work to bother. Rigsby loves van Pelt, but van Pelt initially runs like a frightened rabbit from the idea because as the junior member of the team, she'd get transferred out if she started dating a coworker (and she doesn't come off as that into Rigsby anyway). Jane, meanwhile, lost his wife and daughter to a pissed off serial killer he was helping to hunt, and still hasn't recovered emotionally.
- Cho was revealed to have a girlfriend and Rigsby and Van Pelt finally give in, not without fear. The impression of consumption with work, however, remains strong, and social lives outside of work seem virtually nonexistent.
- Of the main cast of NCIS, only Jimmy Palmer is married, and he wed at the end of Season 9. Director Vance was Happily Married before his wife was killed; and Gibbs has been widowed once and divorced three times, and is rather cynical on the subject of marriage as a result.
- All versions are represented in New Tricks; the boss is a single workaholic, one of the detectives is a multiple-divorcee and another is a widower. Ironically, however, the most psychologically-screwed up of them all is also the only one who is happily married, and has been for a good long time.
- Everyone in the mayor's office in Spin City is single, except for the mayor himself, and he gets divorced during the series. Paul does attain a happy marriage at one point, but his wife later leaves him to become a nun.
- On The West Wing, the president and vice-president are the only people in the entire administration who can hang on to a spouse. The show suggests that this is one of the sacrifices you make by working for the President. Leo McGarry's marriage falls apart because of the demands of his position as White House Chief of Staff, Sam leaves his fiancee to work for the Bartlet campaign, CJ fails to get it on with at least four men during the show and Leo's lawyer girlfriend vanishes during season four.
- Averted somewhat in the final season when Josh and Donna hook up, and at the end of the series seem to be successfully holding things together. CJ and Danny don't just get together, but have children together, and Sam returns with a new fiancee in tow.
- Santos is also notoriously happily married with his wife often delaying him for a hook-up.
- This is true of all of Sorkin's movies and TV shows; he just can't write couples very well.
- The central characters in Las Vegas, except for Ed Deline, mostly stay out of serious relationships. Samantha is Allergic to Love (although we later learn that she was married), Mary wants to settle down but can't make it last, Mike and Danny date multiple girls, and Delinda flits from man to man until she and Danny get together near the end. In season 5, new owner A.J. Cooper had a wife that he never talks about.
- This was the premise of Sex and the City for the first several seasons. Near the end, though, they all wind up either married (Miranda & Charlotte) or in serious relationships (Samantha & Carrie).
- All of the main cast of Cold Case are single, widowed, or divorced.
- As mentioned in the summary, CSI is this to a ridiculous extent. Subverted with Grissom and Sara, who are married, but since neither one is a regular character anymore, we're right back where we started. (There have been rumblings about Wendy/Hodges and Catherine/Vartann, but neither are canon as of yet.)
- Catherine/Vartann is canon, and Wendy/Hodges is... sorta canon. She kissed him, but it was never really said if they're in a relationship. Maybe we'll find out in the premiere, right around the same time that we never see Wendy again because they fired Liz Vassey...
- Warrick got married which surprised all the other characters since they did not even know that he was seeing anyone. The marriage is rarely mentioned on the show with the implication that Warrick is trying very hard to keep his professional life separate from his private one. When he gets divorced it comes equally out of the blue and then he is killed. The audience does not really get to see the wife.
- Subverted in the first episode of the British sitcom The IT Crowd in a blatant parody (Jen even says it's just like Ally McBeal): "That's the sort of place this is, Jen. Lots of sexy people not doing much work and having affairs." Of course, Moss and Roy are both single because they're extremely nerdy.
- Only Gwen in Torchwood has a partner, Rhys. Captain Jack encourages her to stay with him and not let her work consume her... it doesn't go well. On the other hand, they're still together at the end of series 4, so...
- Although Ianto and Jack later officially became a couple, so it's was subverted in series 3 when all of the Torchwood team were in a relationship at the same time.
- In series 4, Miracle Day, the new Torchwood team and the Dark Messiah hired by PhiCorp are single as well.
- On The Office (US), every character with the exception of David Wallace has at some point been single. All the ones with kids are divorced and while a few have been married or are in relationships, none have been for the entire run of the series.
- Occurs in Stargate SG-1 even though Sam and Jack clearly have feelings for each other (and do eventually admit to them) due to their ranks and roles. Various SG team members start dating at different points throughout the series, but nothing serious ever comes of it. Daniel is initially married, but since his wife gets possessed by the Goa'uld in the first episode and later dies, he might as well be single. This trope is lampshaded when everyone expresses extreme surprise that Teal'c has a wife and son, but that's mostly because earlier he told them he hadn't left anyone important behind when he defected.
- The show's USAF technical advisers put the kibosh on a proposed Sam-Jack relationship that the writers had been planning.
- There is the Daniel/Vala pairing, and it sorta did happen, but then didn't since there was time travel.
- Carter also manages to maintain a relationship with Pete Shanahan for most of a season.
- Also Stargate Atlantis with almost all of the expedition members being single. Justified as they were chosen because they didn't have significant people waiting for them. (It was a one-way mission to another galaxy). Elizabeth who is initially the exception, breaks up with her boyfriend expressly for this reason.
- Subverted later as Rodney, Teyla, Ronon, Keller and possibly Carson all hook up with someone by the finale. John's still single, but much like Sam and Jack, it's implied he and Elizabeth had feelings for each other but were unable to admit them
- Almost averted in The X-Files, Scully was originally supposed to have a boyfriend named Ethan. A scene with him in the pilot was filmed but cut when the idea was scrapped before the show premiered. Mulder and Scully instead remained single until finally hooking up with each other sometime in the later seasons. Skinner is shown to be married but we only find out about this in the episode where he gets divorced.
- Initially true in Bones, but notably averted by the eventual marriage of the on-again/off-again Hodgins and Angela.
- Though they all date throughout the show.
- By the time they get to season 6, most of the cast are in committed relationships with children.
- When Parks and Recreation started, Tom was the only character who was married, although Ann and Andy were living together. He later got a divorce (in an episode titled "Tom's Divorce", no less).
- And even before the divorce this was a thinly-veiled green card marriage and so Tom acted as if he was single anyway.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is actually an aversion. The show features four married couples total, three of which involve a soldier married to a civilian. This is likely because the characters live on a space station instead of a starship, making it much easier to form relationships outside the ranks (although one of the couples, Miles and Keiko, actually did meet and get married on a starship).
- It's rather telling though that the one main character in a lasting nuclear family is the character the writers have confessed to enjoy torturing.
- Also true on JAG, with the exception of Bud and Harriet.
- In a first season episode, Harm and Meg are investigating the death of a Marine recruit. While investigating an alibi, Harm discovers that one of the female Drill Instructors (who had recently applied for Officer Candidate School) is romantically involved with the CO of the base. At the end of the episode, the DI asks if he's going to report them for fraternization. Harm replies he'll overlook it, if she gets her commission within the next 6 months.
- By the end of Friends, only Joey is single. In the first half of the series the cast all has short relationships that usually only last a handful of episodes. (Joey and Kate/Kathy, Chandler and Janice/Kathy, Monica and Bobby/Richard/Pete, Phoebe and David, Rachel and Paolo/Ross/Joshua, Ross and Julie/Rachel/Emily) but are mostly single. From Season 5 onwards Monica and Chandler are the only two in a long-term relationship and the others continue with short relationships. (Gary, Janine, Mona, Tag, Parker, Gavin, Charlie etc.)
- In Cheers, everyone working at the bar is unmarried. This caused a problem when Rhea Perlman (Carla) who in real life is married to Danny DeVito, got pregnant. Since her character was shown as a trollop they just had her get pregnant by one of the guys she was dating. However, at the same time Shelly Long (Diane), who was also married (to a stockbroker) in real life, got pregnant, and it would look ridiculous to show both bar maids as pregnant, so they mostly hid Diane behind various fixtures to disguise her pregnancy.
- Used constantly in Professional Wrestling, except in cases where a spouse and/or children would add drama to the angle.
- Averted a little with HHH and Stephanie McMahon, as their marriage is frequently used in feuds.
- There are the two classic examples of Macho Man Randy Savage being married to Miss Elizabeth for years before an on-screen wedding, then still using her as a valet for years after their divorce, and Kevin Sullivan pairing his wife up with Chris Benoit and booking his own divorce.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Throughout the series, only 3 of the clients, and none of the victims or main characters, are married/have married parents (possible exception for flashbacks to Nick and Edgy as a kid, even though his parents aren't mentioned). Some (like Ms. von Karma) are never even mentioned, the Feys (Mia, Maya, Pearl, and Dahlia and Iris are specifically said to come from unstable families, and Trucy's mother is missing from an accident. But none of the main characters (possibly excluding Manfred) have ever been married.
- Manfred seems to subvert this even further, in that he mentions having a granddaughter. Neither Edgeworth or Franziska are ever mentioned to have children, and it's very unlikely so he's probably got another (perfect) kid. Ship teasing is probably the main reason here. There's pretty strong hints for Phoenix wanting to be with multiple different characters.
- In Homestuck, despite the Love Dodecahedrons, All Love Is Unrequited is in effect and of the giant cast very few are capable of getting into a relationship at all, let alone keeping it without breaking up or dying. The fact that most of the characters are between 13 and 16 helps, but you'd think at least some of them would manage it, and even the adults are pretty uniformly single as well. Dad and Mom started going out at one point, but...well, here's where that 'without dying' catch comes in.