Valentine's Day is this week. Now I know what you're thinking: "Ugh, another Valentine's Day tie-in... I'm sick of the crass commercialism of this greeting card holiday designed only to prey upon the lonely and innocent!" Fair enough. But regardless of your feelings about the strangely-contrived holiday itself, at least Valentine's Day has given us some terrific television!
Many television series, dramas and comedies alike, have featured Valentine's Day inspired episodes. I considered doing a countdown of V-Day episodes themselves (similar to my look at Holiday specials back around Xmas time) but instead of looking at episodes, we're going to look at iconic television couples.
These characters created a chemistry and an infectious allure when put together on screen. Through thick and thin, through better and worse, these pairings gave us a love worth rooting for and a reason to tune in to be comforted by our favorite couples week in and week out.
Without further ado, I give you the top twenty couples in television history (beginning with #20 through to #16)!
#20) LOIS AND CLARK, 'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman'
'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman' is an underrated television series. The show reimagined the Superman mythos in a modern way, while keeping the interplay between the key characters intact. The series also managed to create a fantastic will-they-or-won't-they interplay between the characters of Clark Kent and Lois Lane; the audience knew that both characters had feelings for each other, but their commitment to professionalism (or in Lois' case, an unwillingness to admit that a country boy had stolen her heart) kept their feelings smouldering below the surface for a number of seasons.
Add to that the fact that Lois had a persistent suitor by the name of Lex Luthor... as well as a crush on a certain hunky Man of Steel who couldn't possibly just be Clark without his glasses. 'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman' also gave Clark Kent some temptation, with Tracy Scoggins playing Cat Grant, a sexy and sultry Daily Planet employee who swiftly noticed how muscular, fit and appealing the otherwise-nerdy Clark really was.
Inevitably, Lois was finally let in on the big secret, just as she was in the comic books all those years ago (of course, DC Comics' recent New 52 relaunch put Superman's identity back in the closet and even introduced a new love interest for the Justice League's flagship character, but that's neither here nor there). Amazingly, the series managed to remain successful even after the big reveal, although admittedly some of the fun was lost once the cat was out of the bag.
Still, the revelation introduced a brand new interplay between the characters, as the tough newshound Lois Lane suddenly realized that she had a nigh-invulnerable protector with the ability to see through walls and move at super-speed as her news partner. The feisty and ambitious Lois would seek out news in increasingly dangerous situations, now that she felt like she had a pet superhero on the leash. Clark didn't always appreciate this of course, wishing Lois would stay out of trouble, maintaining the playfully competitive attitude that the duo shared over the course of the series.
A special mention needs to go out to the Lois and Clark relationship on 'Smallville,' a Superman adaptation that debuted years later. While this couple was certainly a lot of fun, they just don't live up to the fun energy that Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher brought to their roles.
How'd they end up? As the series concluded, Lois and Clark were married but unable to bear children, due to Clark's Kryptonion biology. However, the series ended in a cliffhanger when the couple find a baby in the same manner that Ma & Pa Kent found Clark, leading fans to believe that the pair raised a child--one who most likely is also of Kryptonian origin.
Photos of the pair like the one above practically wallpapered the 1990s, making Lois and Clark one of televisions most iconic couples.
#19) MELANIE & LINDSAY, 'Queer as Folk'
While there are many prominent couples on 2000's 'Queer as Folk,' the couple of Melanie and Lindsay overcame the most obstacles and persevered through thick and thin the way that we love our television couples to do.
We want the best for our favorite television couples, but at the same time they wouldn't be very interesting if their lives were just smooth sailing. The characters of Melanie and Lindsay traversed a boundary on 'Queer as Folk' that the male/male couples did not; whereas the series explored the lives of gay men at bars, in work and in their homes, the characters of Mel and Linds continually brought their love into the open, seeking the integration, respect and acceptance that all couples deserve.
The storyline between the two women featured having a child together, proposing marriage (before such ceremonies were legal in the U.S.A.), overcoming an affair, and facing down parents who repeatedly tried to transform their daughters into some perceived heterosexual norm. Far from an exploration of any mythic singular lesbian culture, this was an exploration of two women, very much in love, facing down the obstacles thrown in their path.
Here's a nice compilation of some of the key moments in their relationship over the course of the series:
The love affair between Melanie and Lindsay on 'Queer as Folk' is award-winning, acclaimed, realistic and moving. They also managed to remain a couple over the course of the series (despite hiccoughs along the way), a rarity for any couple on a soap-style show driven by romantic entanglements.
So how did the pair end up?
After a mutual friend of both women is murdered in a hate crime, Melanie and Lindsay reconcile after a break, brought together by a reminder of what is truly important in life. When we last see them, the pair have decided to move to Toronto, Canada in order to be free of some of the government persecution same-sex couples faced at the time. I suppose fans can either imagine them living happily ever after up here in my hometown, or we can imagine that they returned to the U.S.A. years later, after the march of progress continued in their home state.
Despite the tragedy they had faced, Melanie and Lindsay were given a happy ending--one that every fan of the landmark series 'Queer as Folk' was rooting for.
#18) BUFFY & ANGEL, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Angel'
And we're back to the 1990s with our #18 couple, the unlikely pairing of a vampire with a vampire slayer. Joss Whedon's ascension to Hollywood-god had not yet taken place back in 1997, but he had already sparked his rocket to the stars by crafting a forbidden romance between the ageless Angel and the slayer who had sworn to exterminate all his kind.
Buffy and Angel also captured something that our first two couples didn't embody: the passions and trials of young love. When 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' began, the eponymous character was in high school, taking the "high school is hell" saying quite literally. The high school in the series sat atop a hellmouth, a literal opening into the evil firey pit itself. That made the positioning of a slayer extremely necessary, and extremely convenient for the quirky blend of comedy and horror that the series became known for.
What this also meant was that Buffy had to deal with living at home, having a curfew, and learning about love and boys the way that all American teenage girls do. For those of you who are parents, we all worry about our daughters falling for the wrong boy, a boy with a darkside... well Buffy fell for the archetypal goth--a vampire.
Angel wasn't like the vamps that Buffy had to stake each and every episode: Angel is the vampire with a soul. (Don't think too hard about the metaphysical implications of introducing a soul into a world of goblins, witches and werewolves--it's all part of the suspension of disbelief inherent). Angel's soul meant he didn't want to hunt and eat humans the way that other vampires did... and for whatever reason, the one human being he was drawn to more than any other was the slayer herself.
The pair embodied the ultimate in forbidden love, long before the success of "Fifty Shades of Gray" and similar publications made forbidden love all the rage once more. The main thrust of the storylines during the first few seasons of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' had the love between Buffy and Angel at its heart, acting as driving force for drama and plot.
Eventually, Angel and Buffy realized that they could never truly be together (thanks to a convenient curse placed on the hunky vampire which is too convoluted to go into here). Despite going their separate ways and eventually seeing other people, it was made clear at the close of both 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and its spin-off series 'Angel' that each remained the other's true love.
Just like Joss Whedon to leave us wanting more, eh?
#17) WILE E. COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER, 'Looney Tunes'
What, you expected only romance?
In any discussion of television's must iconic couples, Wile E. Coyote and his would-be-prey have to be raised at some point. I am here to take that stand--these two have all of the markings of a great TV couple:
Great television couples share an ineffable chemistry that makes their shared scenes work in a way that they cannot have apart. Well Wile E. Coyote occasionally acted as Bugs Bunny's nemesis, in cartoons that aren't nearly as memorable as when Wile E. is hunting his speedy target.
When Wile E. Coyote is featured in cartoons without Roadrunner, he has a voice. Seriously, go and watch the old cartoons--occasionally Wile E. speaks to Bugs Bunny in a mellifluous faux-British accent. In the cartoons between Coyote and Roadrunner, no language is needed... their bond, their allure for one another goes deeper than words... (rolling your eyes yet? Just wait!!)
The pair are always mentioned together--it's very rare that anyone references one without the other. Wile E. pursued the roadrunner over the years, never giving up despite being repeatedly crushed and maimed. But what of the roadrunner? You would have to be blind not to notice the enjoyment the character gets from the thrill of the chase, being pursued, playing hard to get...
Besides: can we not call Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner the greatest will-they-or-won't-they suspense couple of all time?
I rest my case.
#16) AL & PEGGY, 'Married... with Children'
Back in 1987, Al and Peggy Bundy were introduced to America, whether America was ready for them or not.
The antithesis of the archetypal sitcom couple, The Cleavers would vomit if they ever had the Bundys over to dinner. Al and Peggy were rude, crude, mocked each other incessantly, fought, undermined and nagged each other--and were very much in love.
A true product of their time, Al and Peggy pushed the envelope of what you could talk about on television and what you could show on television, capturing America's attention along the way. While we love to root for the romance of our favorite television couples, it was almost more fun watching Al and Peggy go for each other's throats. Some of the best and biggest laughs on 'Married... with Children' came at the expense of one, for the benefit of the other.
And that is not to mention their unique parenting skill set:
Al & Peggy were a sitcom couple that had problems in the bedroom, problems in their bank account, and problems with each other. We were able to laugh with Al & Peggy through thick and thin because in many ways we were laughing at ourselves; there is no marriage on Earth that is all wine & roses and Al & Peggy drew humor from those less-than-flawless marital moments.
They were just over-the-top enough to make us want to tune in to see what they would say next--but they were just realistic enough for us to see ourselves. That's a tried-and-tested formula for good television comedy.
And, despite the insults, there was true love beneath the surface of each and every episode of 'Married... with Children,' making Al and Peggy a unique and unforgettable television couple.
Well that wraps up part one! What's that? I've forgotten so many television couples, you say? Well of course I have junior, this is only the bottom-five of our top twenty! Tune in tomorrow for part two of Happy Valentine's Day! Television's Greatest Couples Countdown!