When it comes to which TV couples are good and which are bad, people have a LOT of opinions.
Twitter has been abuzz recently with discourse about which “ships,” a.k.a fictional relationships they liked, loved, and hated.
A Fleet of (TV) Ships
Some opinions aligned with general opinions about TV couples that haven’t changed much over time: The Office’s Jim and Pam are still “endgame,” Robin should have picked Barney instead of Ted, and Loki probably should not have dated himself. However, there are still some opinions about history’s most memorable fictional couples that we haven’t collectively decided on (were Ross and Rachel really on a break?!)
Regardless of our opinions about specific pairings, we can all agree that a good couple can help hold a show together and give us something to root for as the show progresses. If a couple is central to the plot of a show, it had better be a good couple! Otherwise, many of us will be left rolling our eyes and thinking, “What are these two people doing together, and why should I care?”
What Does a “Good” TV Couple Look Like?
Three traits make up a “good” tv couple. Firstly, they must have chemistry. Ideally, the fictional couple’s chemistry is rooted in chemistry between the actors portraying them and amplified by solid writing. Secondly, the couple should have traits that complement each other to bring out the best in each other. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the couple’s happy ending should be earned, proving to the audience that this couple belongs together.
While many couples on TV can be considered “good” based on these qualifications, there are only a few that can be regarded as “great.” This article would be remiss not to include the undisputed king of couples, Gomez and Morticia Addams. While younger viewers might only know them as the devoted parents of a morbid teen named Wednesday, some will recognize them as the one true pairing that has endured the changing nature of television since the 1960s.
Gomez is entirely, hopelessly, devastatingly devoted to Morticia, believing she walks on water when others see her as creepy and kooky. Morticia returns this love tenfold, and they created a beautiful (and macabre) family together. In every iteration of the Addams Family, from their original 1960s TV series to the extremely popular Netflix reboot, one thing has always remained the same: Gomez loves Morticia, and he always will.
Okay, But Can I Have Another Example?
Gomez and Morticia might be the blueprint for the perfect TV couple, but there are plenty more in the last 50 years that have proven that true love can conquer all. Ben and Leslie from Parks and Recreation, David and Patrick from Schitt’s Creek, and Rob and Laura from The Dick Van Dyke Show stand out as some of TV’s most unforgettable couples of all time — pairings so good that make you look at your partner and say, “Why can’t you love me like that?” and makes your partner think, “Ah, hell. Here we go again.” In all of these cases, the couples have undeniable chemistry, complementary traits, and an ending that brings a tear to the eye after thinking about everything the couples have been through together.
Sometimes couples have those three things I mentioned — chemistry, complementary traits, and an earned happy ending — and never have a romantic relationship. The best example of this in modern media is Troy and Abed from Community. While the ending of Troy’s memorable time in the show is marked by one of the saddest episodes, the two still had chemistry and complementary traits. They not only accepted each other for their zany quirks, but they reviled in them and amplified each other’s zaniness. If that’s not a soul mate, I don’t know what is.
What Makes a “Bad” TV Couple?
What makes a bad couple? That’s a little more complicated. Some couples have storylines that might make viewers trepidatious about “shipping” them. Even Insecure creator Issa Rae was unsure that her character should have ended up with someone who already had a family with someone else. However, there are some identifiers for bad couples that can be applied generally. A bad TV couple is usually shoehorned into the plot — the love isn’t earned, and the characters wind up together just because they’re both single at the time, often because writers didn’t seem to know what to do with them (I’m looking at you, Troy and Britta from Community.)
Another more obvious trait is a couple that is abusive or toxic. This reflects the reality of life: sometimes relationships are unhealthy and can harm one or both parties.
Believe it or not, while there is a strong opinion about what “good” and “bad” couples look like on TV, for the most part, it’s not a black-and-white thing; it’s a spectrum. Some couples have chemistry but don’t complement each other positively, like Mindy and Danny from The Mindy Project. There are couples with complementary traits lacking in the chemistry department, like Chidi and Elenor from The Good Place. Then, some couples lack complementary characteristics and chemistry, but we still like them anyway, like Robin and Barney from How I Met Your Mother.
Swiping Right On Realism
Let’s be real here… even though idyllic TV couples are fun to watch and make our hearts swell, it’s not always super realistic. As much as we want to all believe that there is someone out there that is perfect for us — a Jim to our Pam, an April to our Andy, a Santana to our Brittany — most of us still struggle to find that right person. Sometimes TV can be an escape to a world where the right people always fall together at the perfect time. But sometimes TV can be a closer reflection of who we really are: imperfect people in imperfect relationships struggling to find that happy ending.
Whether you prefer the will-they-wont-they dynamic of Sam and Diane or want something a little more stable like Jake and Amy, there are so many shows that reflect relationships in all their forms. Even the hardest-hearted viewer can find something that makes them say, “Aww.”
This article was syndicated and produced by Wealth of Geeks.
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Alexandria Love is a writer, comedian, and actor from Oakland, California. She's been a featured stand-up comedian in numerous clubs and festivals. Her comedic writing is seen on Netflix, ABC, and NBC. She has contributed essays to an upcoming "She Series" book compiled by Karen Hellion. Alexandria currently resides in New York City.