The greatest strength of the TV format is that it allows characters to develop over a length of time. This is not just true with individuals, but relationships between characters. For this reason, as great as movie romances are, they can’t complete with fleshed out TV romances. So, with it being Valentine’s Day, the staff of The Pop Break came together to list off TV couples we love.
Here are our Favorite TV Couples. Fair warning, there are SPOILERS, so read each entry at your own risk.
Fran and Maxwell from The Nanny
One half of my favorite TV couple has style, flair, and perhaps one of the most annoying voices on television. The other half is charming, British, and super sexy. It’s Fran Fine and Maxwell Sheffield from The Nanny.
While Fran and Maxwell’s relationship is highly improbable, that’s also what makes it compelling. She’s a sassy Jewish woman from Flushing. He’s a widowed Englishman with three children and lots of money, despite a poorly received career as a Broadway producer.
Because of their differences, Fran is able to teach Mr. Sheffield how to relax and enjoy time with his family. Of course, there’s plenty of humor and sarcasm as New York clashes with England, which is what makes this couple so entertaining. As someone who thinks like Fran, it’s also fun to live vicariously through her.
Jim and Pam from The Office (U.S. Version)
The ’80s had Sam and Diane at a bar in Boston, the ’90s had Ross and Rachael at a coffee shop in NYC and the ’00s had Jim and Pam at a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Television has produced a lot of great will-they or won’t-they workplace couples, but none had the chemistry, heart and comedic flair of Dunder Mifflin’s best office couple.
The Office ran for nine seasons, and through nearly a decade of Michael’s awkwardness, Dwight’s schemes, branch closings, holiday parties, Angela’s kitten emergencies, warnings from corporate and visits from Todd Packer, Jim and Pam’s romance gave the show an incredible heart that made it one of the few shows in TV history that was both laugh-out-loud funny and full of endearing characters that warranted both respect and empathy.
While the couple would eventually marry and have children in later seasons, the relationship shined brightest during the first few seasons when a single Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) was pining for Pam Beasley (Jenna Fischer) while she was still engaged to warehouse worker Roy Anderson. The two characters had such obvious chemistry, it was clear to even casual fans that they should be together, but there was at least three seasons of obstacles that had to be cleared until the new millennium’s best unrequited love story could be resolved. This period of the show featured Jim and Pam flirting over email, text message, AOL Instant Messenger and in the rare position of having hours of free time while working for a seemingly buffoonish boss in a dying industry that made the relationship simultaneously timeless and unique to the early 2000s in ways that few shows capture.
In a show with so many classic characters and memorable relationships – Ryan and Kelly, Michael and Jan Levinson-Gould, Dwight and Angela, Phyllis and Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration, to name a few – Jim and Pam stood out as not only the best couple in the history of The Office, but also the best couple in the history of television.
For their best episodes, watch “Niagara,” “Beach Games,” and “Casino Night.”
Rizzoli and Isles from Rizzoli & Isles
When I asked my mom who her favorite TV couple of all-time was, I caught her a bit off-guard. “How about Ray Romano and that lady?” she said. Well, Ray Romano and “that lady” (or Patricia Heaton, as some of us elitists might refer to her as) aren’t exactly my cup of tea. My cup of tea is a bit zestier, a bit hotter. Okay, my cup of tea is much gayer. My favorite TV Couple is Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles from the aptly named Rizzoli & Isles.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you. Rizzoli & Isles, which finished its seven-season long run on TNT this last year, was not exactly The Sopranos. Sure, it had its moments. If we’re talking accolades, it was once nominated for the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Drama. Some even say it got votes. But Rizzoli & Isles is not about the plot. It is about the tension between the two main characters, the gay subtext that the actresses themselves have admitted to playing up for the cameras. The sexual tension between Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) had become so obvious and intense that the Internet began exploding with fan pages for the couple that did not even exist. In interviews the cast had to start addressing it. A huge part of the show’s fan base was now in it for Rizzoli and Isles, not Rizzoli & Isles. The show’s fans went on to consist of two types of people: lesbians, and people who had never met a gay person in real life.
The show had its finale last year, and my favorite television couple did not act upon their attraction. But the fact remains that I watched a show for seven years that I did not even really like, simply because the chemistry between the two actresses was unprecedented. To me, that is a great TV couple.
Barry and Iris from The Flash
With all the love floating in the air this month, I think most of it overflows from Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Iris West’s (Candice Patton) relationship on The Flash. I’m sure you’re familiar with Barry as the man who is faster than the speed of light, but you should get acquainted with Iris and Barry’s relationship goals.
The series introduced viewers to a guy who was in love with his childhood friend, Iris, who had no idea romance could even exist between the two of them. After a few seasons of dating other people, being together in parallel universes, and close encounters that were disrupted by alternate timelines, Barry and Iris finally got together by the third season.
Their fondness for each other can be seen as ideal for modern-day “wholesome” TV shows. Barry is a crime scene investigator moonlighting as a multi-verse crime-fighting superhero who is solely devoted to an interdependent journalist, who is not only romantically committed to Barry but faithful to the S.T.A.R. Labs crew that now includes her brother, Kid Flash. This TV couple’s love story is definitely one worth tuning in for . . . and then tweeting, tumblring, and fan-fictioning about.
Mike and Eleven from Stranger Things
Not since Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom have I found myself rooting for a relationship between two preteens so hard. Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown from Netflix’s Stranger Things were the surprise hit within the surprise hit. These are two characters with an almost undefinable brand of chemistry beyond the usual romantic flair. Mike and El are constantly learning about each other all the way through the end of the season. Mike wants El to like him because she’s the most interesting thing in his life. El wants Mike to like her because he was the first person who was ever nice to her and didn’t put her in a nightmare. Mike has a unique way of relating to El, unlike any other character on the show. Every little bit he brings the strange short-haired girl out of her shell, we as the audience are treated to Brown’s too-innocent-for-this-world hopeful smile.
The magic between these two arises when they use what they have mutually learned about each other to progress their friendship and the story. The obvious scene is, of course, their first kiss when Mike asks El to the Snowball. Mike finally takes the leap in the season finale and expresses to El the feelings we all know he had. He talks about once the bad men are defeated she can officially live in his house. And his mom can cook for her. And they can go to the Snowball because they’re more than just friends. Mike paints this picture beautifully for us and for half a heartbeat we dare to think this may all turn out okay. The loss of this picturesque happily ever after is what makes things go from sad to heartbreaking at the end as Mike desperately calls out “El, where are you?! El!”
Excuse me. I need a moment alone to cry again.
Daryl and White Josh from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
As you can probably guess from the name, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show with a lot of toxic relationships. The show’s main character, Rebecca Bunch, finds herself in a number of ill-advised romantic entanglements, whether that’s chasing her childhood ex to California or an unfortunate attraction to her new boss. All of these relationships are fun and compelling and have plenty of chemistry, but it feels wrong to consider any of them a great TV couple, given the show’s clear emphasis on the fact that they aren’t healthy. Thankfully, in a sea of bad hook-ups and relationships that have run their course, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend delivers one pairing that’s as stable as it is adorable: Daryl and White Josh.
If you go into the show knowing that the two of them end up together, you’ll likely be pretty confused. At the beginning, Daryl is just Rebecca’s clueless boss who says mildly offensive things, and White Josh is just her ex-boyfriend Josh’s blandly handsome, fitness-obsessed friend. But over the course of the first season, the two of them evolve past those boxes. Daryl is revealed to be a loving father and an incredibly kind and earnest man who may come on strong but always has the best of intentions. White Josh becomes something of a wise voice of reason among his friends, always cheerful and supportive, if slightly sarcastic, while gently encouraging them to stop making bad choices (it’s hardly his fault they never listen). By the time they get together, their shared compassion and dogged likability makes them a far better fit than you would have expected.
But what really makes the two of them such a great couple is what all the other show’s couples lack: respect and understanding. Where everyone else on the show tends to compound their problems through deceit and manipulation, the two of them are always honest. Daryl and White Josh have their share of issues, sure, but they’re always open about what bothers them and work towards fixing it. From the very beginning of their courtship, when White Josh gives Daryl an ambiguous kiss on the cheek and a sly wink, they make the healthy choices rather than the ones riddled with drama. Daryl chooses to ask about it directly, and though he doesn’t take the suggestion he might be attracted to men as gracefully as he could have, he soon comes to terms with his bisexuality and restarts the dialogue that leads to their relationship. Since then, the two have tackled every bump in the road through open communication and mutual respect for each other’s boundaries, a feat that is rare on TV as a whole, let alone this show. We can only hope the two will keep being the healthy counterpoint to every toxic relationship on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for a long time to come.
Rainbow and Dre from Blackish
It’s an easy feat to compare the dynamic of the Blackish family to that of a resurfaced Cosby bunch. Television was absent of modern black family representation in a comedic light-hearted lens. The children of the family range from teens to elementary aged kids and the grandparents are main characters who are included in every episode. To sum it up, Blackish is a fun show that any modern day family can relate to. The way Blackish toggles with black issues, both serious and amateur ones, makes it easy to watch a show that address the black experience today without feeling like these conversations are a secret.
Spearheading the group, we have Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Dre (Anthony Anderson) Johnson, who are the ideal modern day couple – both dressing as fashionably as a pair can get – and by being quite established in both of their careers. They seamlessly glide through your everyday problems gracefully, both teaming up with each other, or battling it out as opposing sides. Rainbow’s cheeky performance as a doctor symbolizes that you can both be a well invested hard worker, and a chic, mom of four. Her outfit changes are to die for and let’s not even get started on the the hair. Tracee makes Rainbow relatable. She’s delightful, funny, sarcastic and a vision to watch.
Dre Johnson is a grown-up self-certified cool kid. With a sneaker-addiction that is out of this world, he represents the cool factors that you secretly wished your parent had when you were twelve. While leading the pack and helping his kids conquer their typical teenage issues, he also battles with that “grown-up spoiled child” syndrome. In a nutshell, he balances the family out. His love affair with his wife and unwavering support of his children, no matter what he personally thinks, is a warming way to relate to Dre.
All in all, Rainbow and Dre are the high school sweethearts, turned married for ever couple that you admire when you experience your first high-school reunion and I’m happy they grace my screen every Wednesday night.
Ben and Leslie from Parks and Recreation
Anyone who knows me (or has spoken to me for about two minutes or scrolled through my last five tweets) will know I am an obsessive fan of Parks and Recreation. I’ve rewatched the entirety of the show multiple times (the count might be near eight, nine, or even ten). Showrunners Michael Shur and Greg Daniels created characters with depth. They also created an inherently feminist world. This is what created the beautiful and very real female friendships, as well as supportive and actively involved male characters.
Any two characters could have a scene together and it would feel natural. Every character was developed to the highest degree (except maybe Aziz Ansari’s Tom, but that’s a rant for another time). This allowed more variation in the show because no character match up created a dud storyline.
This was hard for me then, to choose my Favorite Television Couple, as I enjoy and love every coupling on this show. But I believe in soulmates and Ben and Leslie embodied my idea of soulmates. They are whole persons. They, individually, have their own sense of self and independency. They have individual dreams and aspirations. Neither needs, nor was looking for, their “better half” or “someone to complete them.” Leslie and Ben complement and balance each other.
However, when they come together, they are a team. They work for each other. Support each other and as Ron so aptly noted, they “like to hold hands and jump off cliffs together.” They are my favorite couple because their relationship did not hold any of the normal drama BS. They were real, adult humans navigating a regular relationship through work, friends, and family. If ever there were a time to use the phrase “relationship goals,” it would be now.
Philip and Elizabeth from The Americans
Showing my age as a television critic, I actually picked a couple for this very topic a few years ago—namely, Don and Megan Draper. They were my favorite couple then, and while Don and Joan might be my favorite now (not that they were ever a couple, but because of that scene they shared in “Christmas Waltz”), another choice would be both interesting and necessary. Therefore, my favorite television couple, far and away, is such a good one that I recently found out (and had my first squeal-out over a celebrity marriage) that they are, as people, actually, really married. Their relationship feels real, I guess, because it became real. Meet Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) from The Americans.
These betrothed Russian spies go through the grinder together. Their first episode finds Phil listening to a tape of Elizabeth seducing a lead, which she does countless times over the series, as does he. Even so, we feel agony from Rhys, outmatched only by Russell, who is perhaps the best actor on television. Writhing is their main mode, whether it’s watching each other seduce short or long-term leads (and very long-term), struggling between their commitments to their motherland (that ultimate in-law), each other, and their American children, muscling feelings underneath a marriage that was espionage from day one (they shared only false backstories with each other, to immerse themselves fully), or managing their travel agency while raising their children, every role authentically demanding. They have exhausting lives together.
Watching the Jenningses grow more connected (they share relationship strength training, with bonding experiences incessantly), we become committed members of their pact. Their real-life marriage should only strengthen Rhys and Russell’s onscreen drama, their characters entwined enough that Don and Megan look even colder. Early February couldn’t hold its breath for lovers this entrenched in the poison warfare of marriage, deception, and parenthood.
Charlie and Claire from Lost
When it comes to couples, Lost might be better known for its love triangles and squares than its strictly monogamous relationships. But some of the show’s most tender moments were products of its strong romances. Most fans will be pretty quick to tell you that Desmond and Penny are the best couple in Lost (just try watching “The Constant” without choking up, brother), and I would be hard-pressed to disagree with them. Nevertheless, I’ve always had a soft spot for one of the show’s other notable couples: Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan) and Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin).
While the majority of the show’s other marque couples (Desmond and Penny, Sun and Jin, Rose and Bernard) are married, the heroin-addicted rocker and pregnant Aussie never officially dated one another or became openly intimate. Yet (or perhaps because of this) the two shared a truly touching relationship. Admittedly, they were far from the perfect couple, largely because of Charlie’s inner demons and boneheaded decisions; Charlie’s kidnapping of baby Aaron is without a doubt one of the show’s most frustrating character arcs. But no matter how many idiotic things he did, Claire and Charlie always managed to persevere and rekindle their relationship.
And when they’re on speaking terms, Charlie and Claire make the cutest couple on the Island. If you’re looking for an aww-full moment, look no further than the scene in “Confidence Man” where Charlie brings the peanut butter-craving Claire a jar of “stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth, oh-God-it-makes-you-want-a-glass-of-milk, extra smooth” peanut butter. Gets me every time. Oh, and all the times Claire and Charlie play house with baby Aaron? So touching! And then there’s the #1 moment on the “greatest hits” of Charlie’s life? Ugh, who’s cutting onions in here? And the scene in “The End” when Claire and Charlie remember their time together on the Island? Oh gosh, here come the tears. Go to next entry on the list! I need to get a box of tissues.
April and Andy from Parks and Recreation
In the entire world of television, my absolute favorite couple is April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer of Parks and Recreation.
April and Andy are great because they are so opposite. April hates everyone and everything while Andy loves everyone and everything. She is negative and dark while he is upbeat and bright. April is very smart and manipulative and Andy is . . . well, stupid, but these things make them perfect for one another. They are able to give each other the half they are missing. We gradually see as April opens up more and starts to have fun because of Andy and we see Andy start to grow up a bit and achieve more because of April. They are always there for one another and are very supportive of the others goals. Never once do we see or hear anyone asking the other to change because they love the other for exactly who they are.
The best part really is watching their relationship come together. We get to see April fall in love with Andy, who is completely clueless to it until she is already dating someone else. Then we get to see Andy fight for her in his sweet, goofy way. We get to see their relationship evolve from flirting, to dating, to marriage, to parenthood and it was hilarious the whole way. My personal favorite is watching them role play as Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole when they go out to bars or clubs. It’s impossible not to fall in love with them both when they role play.
If you haven’t watched Parks and Rec yet, catch it on Netflix. Andy and April, alone, are worth it.
J.D. and Turk from Scrubs
Before I state my favorite TV couple, keep in mind it is not the most conventional one. In fact, I’m here to talk about a bromance. It is, quite possibly, the greatest TV bromance of all time.
J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) is easily the best relationship on my favorite TV show, Scrubs. The dynamic between the two friends is just so much fun to watch, and it helps even more that everyone that they interact with understands how much they love each other. They even have a song dedicated to their relationship, simply titled “Guy Love.”
There’s nothing J.D. and Turk haven’t done as friends. Whether it’s a running slow-mo hug towards each other, or J.D. jumping on Turk’s back and yelling “EAGLE,” these two set the bar for their significant others and guy pals everywhere. The friendship on the show was so strong that Faison and Braff continue to be best buds in real life. That’s true guy love between two guys.
Marge and Homer from The Simpsons
For 28 seasons now, the story of Marge and Homer Simpson has been one of perseverance. Now, in the show, the characters do not age, so it truly shows that loves does preserve a lot of things. Homer, the often aloof and clumsy counterpart, and Marge, who is more even-keeled, are the quintessential for-better-or-worse couple. An episode in particular hammered this notion home to me. In the eighth season, “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer” saw Homer question if Marge was his soulmate after eating a hallucinogenic pepper, and go on a journey where the late Johnny Cash voiced a coyote. Eventually, he made his way back to Marge, and if those set of circumstances doesn’t show you what love is – I don’t know what to tell you.
Now, you can make a song like Kirk Van Houten did to try to get back Luann, or you can just keep getting yourself into trouble, thus making your love stronger like our dear old Marge and Homer.
Charlie and the Waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Why are Charlie and the Waitress the best TV couple? Well . . . because they aren’t one.
Look at the “great TV romances.” Jim and Pam. Sam and Diane. Ross and Rachel. They are just a couple of regular people who start off as good friends but after a little push and pull, end up together. The problem is, more often than not, that push and pull lasts waaaaaaaaay too long and becomes a massive drag.
Charlie and the Waitress don’t have that problem because the Waitress has stated multiple times that she will 100% never ever be with Charlie. There is no “Will They or Won’t They?” Just Won’t They. Definitely Won’t They. And that gives the show some flexibility to have fun with their “relationship.”
Charlie gets to protect the Waitress by giving her enemies boxes of hornets. The Waitress gives Charlie a restraining order. Charlie writes a musical and proposes to the Waitress. The Waitress makes Charlie give her back the diary he stole from her. And even when Charlie seems to have a normal relationship with a gorgeous rich girl, it is secretly just a ploy to make the Waitress jealous and she takes a couple feet off of the restraining order.
And, of course, they are married in real life.
Tony and Michelle from 24
Love is a very relatable emotion, but the types of love stories we enjoy vary. I, for the most part, don’t like romances that get too cute with displays of affection. Sentimentality is one thing, but there comes a point when something is so lovey dovey that I want to throw up. In contrast to most of the other entries, mine is from a serious show. I know I’ve been on a 24 kick lately, but I’ve wanted to write about this couple since I came up with the idea for this group article.
The show’s most famous pairing is ironically the friendship between Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian. However, my favorite duo has always been Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler, played by Carlos Bernard and Reiko Aylesworth. In my mind, even though Tony appears in more episodes, one does not exist without the other. While the idea of a husband and wife running a government agency is pretty hard to believe (less important jobs wouldn’t allow this relationship), Bernard and Aylesworth’s chemistry is too great not to get invested in it. Separately they kick butt, but together they kick even more. The bad guys take advantage of their relationship more than once, and they even divorce at one point before remarrying, but they make it work. For three seasons, they’re the emotional heart of the show. And I like to think Jack was the best man at their wedding.
Unfortunately, virtually all couples are doomed on 24. The fifth season finds Michelle killed by a car bomb meant for both of them, only for Tony to die (seemingly) in Jack’s arms hours later. And with his last breaths, Tony says, “She’s gone, Jack.” Tony eventually returns, bent on getting his revenge, but both of these gut punch moments still stick with me as a television viewer.
Tim and Daisy from Spaced
Before Simon Pegg became a member of the U.S.S. Enterprise or killed a whole bunch of zombies, he wrote and starred in the greatest sitcom of all-time, Spaced. Airing in the UK for two seasons in 1999 and 2001, Spaced was a classic “will they, won’t they” sitcom. But it was so much more — it was a celebration of pop culture — crazy clever references to movies, television, comic books, video games and Pegg’s overwhemmingly negative view on the Star Wars prequels. Produced and shot in a highly caffeinated, cinematic way, thanks to director Edgar Wright, it remains one of the most innovative comedies known to man (I’m not at all biased or speaking in hyperbole).
Our heroes, comic book artist Tim Bisley (Pegg) and struggling writer Daisy Steiner (Jessica Stevenson), are absolutely perfect for each other. Daisy is a flighty, super-positive yet self-deprecating hipster before hipsters were cool. Tim is a sarcastic, cynical, geek before being a geek was cool. The two are slackers, they have no real purpose in life outside of their lofty artistic goals, but yet it’s the other who inspires them to eventually chase their dreams. What I love about them as a couple is they’re best friends first and foremost — they bust each others balls, they call each other out when needed and they love just hanging out at home on the bean bag chair watching TV. The show brilliantly slow builds their romance and when the two finally get together, it’s one of the best payoffs ever.