Seth Stringer

Award Winning Sports Journalist


Greatest TV Couples of All Time

Posted by Seth Stringer on May 16, 2013 at 9:40 PM

Recently, Entertainment Weekly weighed in on the “Greatest TV Couple of All Time.” The EW staff chose Ross and Rachel, the on-and-off-again, “He’s her lobster” couple in “Friends,” while the EW readers were polled and whittled down a March Madness-inspired Bracket of 64 to Kurt and Blaine, the gay duo from “Glee.”

The two choices couldn’t have been cut from a different cloth – Ross and Rachel being cut from the Will they/won’t they? fabric, while Glee’s gay duo started off as once embattled rivals only to find love through song. The two choices embodied the broad spectrum of the ongoing debate of what makes a TV couple great.

But I’m here to clarify that argument, which can be solved by an easy checklist.

Fresh off of watching Jim and Pam rekindle their romance on “The Office,” I think I have a good grasp of what makes a captivating couple. It’s actually a quite simple recipe, starting with:

1) Chemistry – Without it, romances appear shallow and empty. And in some cases, couples don’t even like each other (think Ray and Debra from “Everybody Loves Raymond” or Sam and Diane from “Cheers.”;). How are audiences supposed to fall in love with characters that don’t even love each other? SImply put, they don’t. Relationships need layers, plenty of attention, and most of all …

2) A good chase – In this case, TV shows that start off with a married couple are at a disadvantage. And if they have kids, double whammy. It’s not that the family dynamic creates for bad drama or lackluster romance. It’s just that viewers like the build-up. We like to revel in the mystery of a blossoming relationship. The more build-up, the sweeter the reward of that final connection. And we love a relationship that survivies by ...

3) Overcoming adversity – Whether it’s fighting through infidelity, a betrayal, an awkward hook-up, the long-distance set-up, a death, a career change, a love triangle, etc., every great TV couple experiences a laundry list of adversity. Without the conflict, the couple’s path is just too cookie-cutter. It’s not real. And nothing's more real tha n showcasing ...

4) A sense of humor – While good drama is the heart of a good TV relationship, the soul is the humor. Through the tears and day-to-day conflict, there has to be a good give and take of laughs. And there also has to be ...

5) Those “You complete me” moments – When considering if the measure of a couple, ask yourself this question: Have you cried, or at the very least fought back tears, during said romance. If not, then the romance isn’t anything to write home about.

With that checklist in mind, let me present to you the top five TV couples of all time.

1. Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly (“The Office” 2005-2013) – That “The Greatest TV Couple of All Time” is debatable is like saying gravity is debatable.

Not only are Jim and Pam atop the pantheon of all-time great TV love stories, they are near or at the top of all-time TV stories in general. It took 53 episodes spread across three seasons for the two to finally get on the same page, and every moment along the way was TV gold.

Remember the look on Jim’s face in season one when Pam fell asleep on his shoulder? Remember the booze cruise talk between Jim and Michael, the Casino Night kiss, the Yankee swap tea pot, the grilled cheeses on the roof top, and Pam’s coal walk declaration? Remember when Jim turned down the job in NYC, only to return to ask Pam out ("Okay then, so it’s a date.")?

I do. And I will forever.

2. Ed Stevens and Carol Vesey (“Ed” 2000-2004) – It’s the classic love story.

Man leaves cheating wife, gets fired from job and moves back home to smalltown, USA, where he falls in love with old crush, buys bowling alley and devotes life to winning back said crush.

Tom Cavanagh plays Ed, a quirky lawyer who loves to shoot hoops, make bets with his best bud and, more than anything, woo Carol. Before Julie Bowen was Claire on “Modern Family,” she was Carol. Oddly gettable and flawed for a woman of her looks, there was no doubting whether they’d end up together. It was just a matter of when.

Like Jim and Pam, it took three seasons – and many love interests along the way – for Ed and Carol’s romance to blossom. And their relationship hits every one of my checklist items and then some, providing for the second-best romance in TV history.

3. Homer and Marge (“The Simpsons” 1989-present)

So I broke my own rules a bit, as Homer (whom Marge refers to as Homey) and Marge  have always been a perpetually 30something-year-old couple with never-aging kids. But the chase has always been there with the marital discord. For a cartoon built on comedy, Homer and Marge have sure weaved an impressive love arc, replete with both the tender moments – Season 1’s rift on “An Officer and a Gentleman”; Season 2’s The Way We Was”: Season’s 3 “I Married Marge”; Season 5’s Duffless --
and trying times – Season 5’s “The Last Temptation of Homer” and the "Secrets of a Successful Marriage.”

4. Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper (“The Wonder Years” 1988-1993) – Unlike the aforementioned couples, it didn’t take Kevin and Winnie to lock lips. Their first kiss, set off by Percy Sledge’s “When a Man loves a Woman,” plays an integral part in the pilot, which is centered on Winnie’s older bother’s death in Vietnam.

Heavy stuff, right?

It sets the tone for their on-and-off-again, at-one-point-long-distance relationship, which (spoiler alert) doesn’t have a happy ending. But that’s ok, because there’s six seasons of Percy Sledge moments. It's the ultimate young-love story, never told again in such a touching way.

5. Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt (2009-present) – Top 5 favorite things about Knope/Wyatt …

1. She wears the pants in their relationship: Ex. Their careers taking them different paths, Ben proposes. But on one knee, Leslie cuts him off, saying “Wait, wait, ok? I need to remember this. Give me a second. (long pause) … I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is right now at this exact moment.”

2. They both love Game of Thrones … and waffles.

3. The flower mural on the second floor is both “their place.”

4. They fight for each other: Ex. After a disgruntled Pawnee citizen calls Leslie a bitch at her bowling alley campaign rally, Ben decks the guy.

5. Things like Mac and cheese pizza make them happy.

Honorable mentions: April and Andy, Luke and Lorelei, Ross and Rachel, Bones and Booth, Buffy and Spike, Phil and Claire, Niles and Daphne.


Categories: Seth's Ramblings

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Reply John Hansen
12:51 AM on May 20, 2013 
No Dawson and Joey, eh? To me, the first season of "Dawson's Creek" is the perfect encapsulation of painful first love, and the writers give equal love to each character, and it's all backed by a delicious '90s pop soundtrack and creeks and trees and docks and all that great stuff. Then again, your list seems to lean more toward mature adult (successful) love, whereas mine would lean toward first (heartbreaking) love. At least you didn't put Joey-Pacey on the list. Also reflecting our different tastes, I'm much more of a Buffy-Angel guy than a Buffy-Spike guy. I never got the sense that Buffy actually loved Spike, although certainly she respected him more as time went on. I'm not sure they can even be labeled as a couple; they were certainly never a healthy, normal couple. I also have to include Max and Liz from "Roswell" on my list; they were the best TV couple ever that spent more than 50 percent of the series actually as a couple (other than Homer-Marge, I suppose). Usually, writers are scared to try that, but it worked in this case because it was usually outside forces keeping them apart rather than their own internal issues. Being of different species, it actually worked. I am recalling some of those Jim-Pam moments now that you list them. I don't think I can rank many sitcom couples that highly on my list though. For example, Nick and Jess are cute and everything, but they just can't compare to couples on dramatic shows. That having been said, I agree completely with Homer-and-Marge. And nice shout-out to Luke-Lorelai. The others I don't know much about. I think I'd like "The Wonder Years" based on your description, but shamefully I simply have not seen it.
Reply John Hansen
7:31 AM on May 21, 2013 
For some reason your comment thread isn't letting me post the link. Must be some sort of spam filter. At any rate, my top 10 is up at my blog.

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