Before I begin, let me just say that this is dedicated to the love of my life. I certainly would not be able to write 3,000 plus words on the subject of love without her.
Since it is the day/week of romance it is now time to revisit my top ten couples list. I’ve made some changes as I’ve recognized romances I’ve overlooked and had the opportunity to watch shows that contained new ones. As much as I don’t watch TV primarily to vicariously live through others romance, it is an important part of what TV can do. Of course that is when TV is doing it well. There are countless examples of romances portrayed on TV that lacked any real chemistry. In some cases, like with Cheers the chemistry was there, but the execution became cumbersome. People loved the back and forth of Sam and Diane, but the “will they won’t they” aspect became so crushing to the rest of the show that when they got together it became anti-climactic. That’s not a great end result, even if it worked so well early. Unfortunately the “will they won’t they” is often the bane of good TV. Between that and the inevitable coupling of male and female leads, it is a wonder that there are as many successes as there are. When it works the romance feels natural. The actors have a good chemistry and there coupling is a celebration. Sure, they may have some speed bumps on the way, but in the end what is on TV reflects a quality relationship that exists in real life. After all, love is a beautiful thing, and it should be presented as thus.
10. Olivia and Peter – Fringe
I was dubious on this relationship at first. When Fringe begins Olivia is facing the death of the man she loved, who is most certainly not Peter. Peter isn’t that fully developed of a character and doesn’t come off as a romantic lead. Their chemistry was completely non-existent. As they show progressed and evolved the characters evolved with it. In the second season finale there was finally some heat being produced between the two characters and things lifted off from there. It is almost weird to watch the first season and a half of Fringe and compare it to any other episodes in the series run. It is in some ways a completely different show. This romance is just one example. Early on they were colleagues and in later episodes they were soul mates. At some point the extent of their soul mate status is delved further into when more of their past was revealed. I think what ultimately appeals to me about this relationship is that it differs from most male/female romances. Olivia is more intense, while Peter is more emotionally aware. The flipping of roles definitely subtle and there is no attempt for some sort of social commentary. It is just an interesting dynamic that isn’t normally presented.
9. Pacey and Joey – Dawson’s Creek
Hey its Josh Jackson again. I must find him dreamy or something. There aren’t a whole lot of reasons to watch Dawson’s Creek, but they relationship between Pacey and Joey is one of them. Most of DC revolves around shallow relationships and plots that don’t really end up going anywhere. The major exception that that rule was how much care the writers put into coupling Pacey and Joey. This was a big deal for them because the series was set up to have Dawson, the titular character, and Joey end up together. The problem with Dawson was is that Dawson was a boring character. Uh, he liked film and was a pretty nice guy. Yawn. Pacey on the other hand was a little rougher around the edges and had way more in common with Joey who also was from humble beginnings. As Pacey began to realize that he had feelings for Joey, the writers did a very unlike Dawson’s Creek thing, and gave things a chance to play out over time. Pacey was conflicted and felt he was betraying his best friend, but also had to work on convincing Joey that she felt the same way. After many episodes devoted to his efforts, as well as an annoying cameo by Jonathan Lipnicki, things culminated in a roadside kiss. It was a payoff that was well earned. Of course after a while the writers got bored with showing a functional relationship between two people that cared about each other and found a reason to break them up. In the series finale, which played like an afternoon school special on dealing with the loss of a loved one, Joey had to choose between Dawson and Pacey. While I’m sure it was tempting for the writers to saddle her with boring Dawson, they instead paired her with someone that was well suited for her.
8. Marshall and Lily -How I Met Your Mother
Back in the days when How I Met Your Mother was cranking out good episodes instead of prolonging actual meeting of the mother, Marshall and Lilly were one of the stronger parts of the show. They were introduced as being in love, and despite a small hiccup, they continued to be in love. They had a great wedding episode, plenty of sentimental moments along the way, and most importantly lots of humor. Lately things have been tough for everyone on the show, but their relationship seems stale. They’ve had Marvin, their baby, but many of their stories have seemed isolated from the rest of the group. Granted that is realistic when a couple has a child, but things were even worse before Marvin, when 90% of their stories revolved around trying to get pregnant. I think this is symptomatic of how the show has stalled creatively as it has desperately tried to push back the date that the mother is introduced. That isn’t on the actors, as both Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan are incredibly talented, but I do feel Hannigan is kind of going through the motions at this point. Despite my issues with the show currently, I still have fond memories of them as a couple, and are relieved that it remains a given that these two won’t be divorcing or having affairs.
7. April and Andy – Parks and Recreation
Last year I was excited about where things were going with April and Andy as a couple. I was totally charmed by the two of them. They make a weird sort of sense. Andy not exactly educated or brilliant, but is fun and kind. April doesn’t really like people, but Andy’s goofiness brings her to life. They also share a maturity level that makes for great comic fodder as they try to get through life as a married couple, despite really being teenagers in a lot of ways. Their wedding remains my favorite of any TV wedding. It came out of blue for the characters on the show as well as the audience. They invited people to a party and just got married. It was fun, it was a celebration, and lacked all the stiff formality of most weddings fictional or otherwise. In a recent episode mentions to Reggie Wayne (the WR for the Indianapolis Colts) that he got married while wearing a replica of his jersey. Yes, that did happen. Since the wedding their relationship has continued to be fun to watch and in many ways inspiring for its joyful innocence.
6. Luke and Lorelei – Gilmore Girls
It was clear from the pilot episode that Luke and Lorelei would have some romantic encounter at some point in the series. On the surface their relationship was perfectly friendly with a hint of flirtation, but it was the stolen glances between the two that really set up their interest in each other. And the jealously. There was lots of that. In case the glances were too subtle whenever one of the two would start dating someone else there was loads of jealousy. Eventually the two did get together. It was as natural transition from friend to couple as I’ve seen. At other points they weren’t ready to take it to the next step with each other, but once they were, it happened. I enjoyed watching them as a couple. Luke was always firmly on Lorelei’s side in a way nobody else had been. Then the urge to drive a wedge between the two became irresistible for the writers and a daughter of Luke’s who had never met was manufactured out of the ether. It was one of the uglier sides of Lorelei as she drifted away from Luke because he wanted to get to know his daughter. In the final season a new writing team took over as contract terms could not be met with the show’s creator Amy Sherman. Perhaps Sherman was just planning a wrinkle in the relationship that was going to be solved early in the final season. We will never know. The new team abruptly split the two up and the final season was a bit of a disaster. In the finale there were hints that the relationship between the two wasn’t dead for good. Between that, blaming the new team for bungling the final season, and the enjoyment of watching them as a couple they make my top ten.
5. John and Aeryn – Farscape
Farscape is a show that takes some getting acclimated to. Often episodes jump right in and start where a normal second act would be, and the tone of each episode can range from completely silly to deadly serious. It is kind of hard to track until you get the right rhythm down. Underneath all that is a more familiar story. One in which the power of love between two people completely changing them and making them better. In the case of John, this meant coming to terms with no longer being a citizen of earth, but a adventurer in the larger universe. In the case of Aeryn it meant completely transforming herself from an emotionless soldier, to a woman. Particularly in the latter case it is compelling to watch. As brought up before TV is at its best when it uses its amount of storytelling time to develop things at a slower pace. Aeryn didn’t fall head over heels for John right away, how could she? She can’t even experience full emotion at the beginning of the series. It took time for her to become a fully aware person before that was possible. In the case of Farscape she had to fall in love with John twice, after he was split into two identical versions of himself and the crew was split off. Her range of emotion from finally falling in love, to dealing with the grief of loss, to finding love again was a true pleasure to behold.
4. Jim and Pam – The Office
What made The Office appealing to me was never just the Michael Scott schtick. At times that was funny and at times it was hard to watch. Jim and Pam gave the show some heart. Things began with Jim being clearly interested in his office mate over at the secretaries desk. This was thwarted because Pam was engaged to a not so great guy. The Office maybe even went a little far in portraying him as a awful human being. I’m not sure that he needed to be so bad for me to be ok with them eventually coming together. It did make a brilliant move of having Jim transfer for a while, when it seemed clear they were not going to be around. He couldn’t handle working along side her every day if they couldn’t have a relationship. Eventually things came together and it was always pleasant to watch. What made their relationship even better was how it progressed. Them getting married wasn’t a fly by night event, it was developed. Then raising a family came. All those were treated with great joy. I’ve dropped this in my rankings because after Michael Scott ceased to be on The Office this couple was supposed to take lead. The show hasn’t been nearly as good and that is in part because the writers haven’t been able to make this relationship feel as special when the spotlight was thrust upon it. That and there are some new entries that trump it.
3. Sawyer and Juliet – Lost
It was a complete oversight that I failed to include this couple in last year’s post. Maybe it was that they are only together for a single season, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a great season of them together. Juliet was initially introduced as a romantic interest for Jack, among other things. It seemed as if maybe those two would couple up while Sawyer and Kate would get together. Then a monkey wrench got thrown into what seemed to be the case, as Lost often did, and Jack and Kate left the other two behind on the island. Not only were they left behind, but they were also thrown into the past. Picking things up after those left behind had integrated into their new time and place, Sawyer and Juliet had become a couple. It was a new side for Sawyer who was the consummate bad boy. After several seasons of fighting off personal demons and causing trouble amongst those who crashed in the plane, Sawyer seemed to be relaxed and comfortable as himself. This was largely due to finding something less chaotic than the love triangle involving Jack and Kate. He seemed at home. Likewise with Juliet, who had been brought to the island under false pretenses and forced to do the bidding of Ben, whom she despised. She seemed to have found a home as well and comfort in Sawyer. What initially was revealed as a surprise, soon came to make sense. Nothing was more heartbreaking than Sawyer’s response to the tragedy that befell Juliet. Nor was anything more satisfying than it being called back when they met again in the series finale.
2. Chuck and Sarah – Chuck
Would it be totally corny if I said these two made me believe in love again? Yes it would, and it isn’t entirely accurate either. In a way I do feel a little bit of that as this was the first time when watching a TV show that I became deeply invested in a couple’s happiness. Maybe it made me believe that a love story could be a focal point of a series and play as great from beginning to end. I think this can be attributed to the writers of Chuck willing to break with convention in how TV relationships need to be dealt with. They quickly saw the chemistry between the actors/characters on screen and expedited how fast they were planning on pursuing the romantic angle. Then after drawing the two apart because it seemed premature to get the two together officially (at least according to standard operating procedure) they reinvigorated the series by having them couple up. The initial episodes after them getting together were an example of how fun and romantic a TV show can be. Contrasted with the not so fun of having them drift apart, it seemed clear that the rest of the series would be about their relationship. Just like all the great romances I’m writing about it was a transformative love. Sarah stopped being the emotionless spy who could only focus on the task at hand and Chuck grew into a more confident and capable person/spy. The final episode leaves things up in the air, after emotionally disemboweling the viewer by having Sarah’s memory wiped, but it strongly hints that of course those two will always find each other.
1. Eric and Tami – Friday Night Lights
When a TV show is working it is because it is presenting a familiar reality in an entertaining package. In some cases that involves space ships and sparring with monsters. In this case it means Texas football. Unlike most of the couples on the list (Marshall and Lily being the other exception), these two don’t forge a relationship over the course of the series. In the pilot episode they are married and have been for some time. There isn’t that excitement of two people falling for each other, instead this makes my top spot because it deals with the romance of a couple working through life as a unit. There were definitely fights and disagreements over the course of the series. Sometimes with one person being much more wrong than the other. The Taylors always knew that they would be together and instead of focusing on winning the argument (more in a long term sense than a short term), they worked on making their lives work together. While the falling in love part of a relationship is exciting, whether you are viewing or participating in the act, nothing is more romantic to me than a couple still having that love as they grow and face challenges. I can easily state that I’ve never seen anything close to the match how this married couple was portrayed.
JD and Elliot – Scrubs
While I like this couple there was more than enough struggle in this relationship for it to beat out others.
Logan and Veronica – Veronica Mars
I think this relationship is example of great fire, but without any sustainability. At times Logan seems almost abusive, and that probably doesn’t need to be in my top ten.
CJ and Danny – The West Wing
They have a cute and fun relationship, but it is such a minor part of the series that I felt it warranted inclusion.
Jimmy and Sabrina – Raising Hope
The episode where they got together was touching and one of the most romantic I’ve ever seen. They just haven’t been a couple long enough to make the list, but definitely a couple I’ll enjoy watching.
Sydney and Vaughn – Alias
They are definitely meant for each other, but their relationship is almost never any fun. It is always being harrowed by circumstance and the forces of evil.
Felicity and Ben – Felicity
This probably would have made my list by the writers bungled this one. Felicity randomly slept with another guy for inexplicable reasons and the final episodes of the series involved some fantasy where she had really been with Noel the whole time. Maybe I was just dreaming that they did that for a few episodes. I must have hit my head and imagined it.
John and Cameron – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Did I find a potential relationship between a teenager and a robot intriguing? Yes I did. Nothing was ever consummated before the series ended, so that was a huge disappointment.
Seth and Summer – The OC
This had some fun moments, but the writers of The OC (and probably the majority of the audience) had to keep the relationship mill turning. They couldn’t leave anything alone and this was a casualty.