While it may be better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, these loves will never be lost--it's the greatest television couples countdown!
This is the third installment of our great countdown, with parts one and two coming over the past two days. We have already counted down numbers twenty through to eleven, leaving us with the top ten remaining! Who have we seen so far?
#20) LOIS AND CLARK, 'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman' #19) MELANIE & LINDSAY, 'Queer as Folk' #18) BUFFY & ANGEL, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Angel' #17) WILE E. COYOTE & ROADRUNNER, 'Looney Tunes' #16) AL & PEGGY, 'Married... with Children'
#15) PAUL & JAMIE, 'Mad About You'
#14) MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE & MISS ELIZABETH, WWE Programming
#13) MULDER & SCULLY, 'The X-Files'
#12) CLIFF & CLAIRE, 'The Cosby Show'
#11) PACEY AND JOEY, 'Dawson's Creek'
That already impressive list is about to get some good company. The top ten television couples remain!! Who are you dying to see? Which omissions would make you want to cyber-slap my face??
#10) HOMER AND MARGE, 'The Simpsons'
So how dare I place The Simpsons higher on this list than some of the heavy-hitters we've already seen? Admittedly, longevity and promulgation factored in to the decision. 'The Simpsons' is in its twenty-fourth season--this is almost unbelievable. I am a mere five years older than the series itself and the majority of its viewers weren't even born yet when Homer uttered his first "D'oh!"
But this is a list for couples, not series; Homer and Marge have stood the test of time. And I don't mean that as in, they have stayed together--they are cartoon characters after all. They have stood the test of time insofar as, they have had over five-hundred and twenty episodes written about them and their family and are still going strong. They have fought in every way, reconciled in every way, romanced in every way... they're the ultimate television couple in that regard.
Even the feature film adaptation of 'The Simpsons' featured a plot focused largely on Homer & Marge's love and their ability to renew it, keeping it passionate and fresh over the years. This bit of meta-commentary on the years of the series itself gave us a genuinely romantic moment between the two yellow-skinned parents.
Hey, even the living legend Weird Al Yankovic wrote a song about the duo!
Homer and Marge would do anything for each other and anything for their children, which ends up sparking a lot of the plots and comedy of the series. The coolest part? If you asked twenty people for their favorite Marge & Homer moment, you would get twenty different responses. There is a 'The Simpsons' for all seasons and this couple is perhaps the most universally recognized of all others on our list.
#9) LUKE & LAURA, 'General Hospital'
While this one may seem a little esoteric to some, there is an entire generation who holds Luke and Laura in their memories and in high esteem. In all American television soap operas, no couple has commanded more attention nor garnered higher ratings than Luke and Laura on 'General Hospital.' With their characters' love affair spanning literal decades, the love of Luke and Laura Spencer took soap operas to heights previously unseen.
Luke & Laura aren't just any couple: they define the term Supercouple and are the quintessential example of the concept (as evidenced by the fact that it is a picture of the pair that graces the wikipedia entry on the subject).
Every other competing soap opera did their best to recreate the magic of Luke and Laura for themselves, but 'General Hospital' had caught lightning in a bottle. TV Guide ranked the wedding of Luke and Laura on their list of the Top 100 Memorable Moments in Television; the couple wed in an episode back in 1981--one of the highest rated episodes of any soap opera in history.
L&L, as they came to be known, had a rare crossover appeal, being known to fans outside of the usual soap opera demographic. For a period, the storylines revolving around Luke & Laura became adventures of daring and criminal activity, catching a sort of "Romancing the Stone" vibe from the rugged Luke and his more demure bride. The pair made dangerous enemies and eventually fled to Canada for safety, leaving the show for a number of years.
When L&L returned, they brought another L with them: their son Lucky Spencer (played at the time by Johnathan Jackson). Eventually they would add a daughter to the family, Lulu, and the Spencer clan continues to dominate the storylines of 'General Hospital' today.
In fact, this entry is particularly timely: the character of Laura has been written out of 'General Hospital' on and off for years (being explained away as being treated for an ongoing mental and physical illness) but the character--still played by Genie Francis--returned to the series a mere two days ago! That's right, read this and flip on 'General Hospital' for the latest between television's Supercouple!
#8) GEORGE BURNS & GRACIE ALLEN, 'The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show'
George Burns and Gracie Allen are entirely unlike any other couple on our list. This is due to a number of reasons, none more significant than the fact that Burns & Allen were not playing characters--they were a world-famous comedy duo, playing themselves, very much in love.
The other reason is that the pair were stars of stage, radio, feature films... and television came later. So how come they made this list? Well the duo was so dominant, so famous, so beloved, that their work in television alone makes them worthy of inclusion on any list of this type.
When George met Gracie he incorporated her into his existing vaudeville routine playing the "straight man" part. Something was awry, however, when the audience was chuckling more at Gracie's set-up questions than George's punchline answers! You see, it was impossible not to fall in love with Gracie Allen, as every single audience did, year in and year out. George made the move of writing Gracie's parts as the more eccentric from that point forward and their success grew by leaps and bounds.
The pair worked together but were not lovers... at first. Allen was even engaged to another performer at one point. But travelling together and working closely together caused the couple to fall in love.
Marrying in 1926, Burns and Allen's careers spanned the most tumultuous and changing era in entertainment history--and the pair remained on top. Finally came 'The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show' and the couple's antics were broadcast across America, allowing everyone to enjoy their work. One hallmark of the series was Burns' willingness to break the fourth wall, pausing to discuss the episode with the audience--and often reminding them how much he loved his wife.
George & Gracie's two children even made appearances on the program later in its life. The show ran until Allen's eventual retirement, becoming 'The George Burns Show' afterwards, but an awful lot of the magic had been lost.
There is no couple quite like George Burns and Gracie Allen.
#7) DENNY AND ALAN, 'Boston Legal'
"Shenanigans! Alan Shore and Denny Crane are not a couple! Shenanigans!"
Quiet down, voice in my head! Over five seasons of 'Boston Legal,' the storyline of Alan and Denny explored the depths and workings of male friendship in a way no other series ever has--and hell, the pair get married in the series finale! So romantic or not, they are a couple and they earned their way onto this list.
Thematically, 'Boston Legal' is about a great many things. In some ways, the spin-off from 'The Practice' is an exploration of the character of Alan Shore (played by James Spader), growing from a scoundrel into an admirable man over the course of five years. In other ways, it was about the rift between Americans... the gap between rich and poor, between elderly and young, between Left politics and Right politics. The character of Denny Crane is an outspoken Republican, despite appearing on a series with undeniably Left inclinations. The friendship between Denny and Alan is deeper than party politics, as the pair disagree on most everything but still share a bond beneath it all.
Throughout the run of 'Boston Legal,' Denny and Alan traverse America (and some of Canada) together. They each visit the other in prison, when one or the other is incarcerated (which happens quite frequently). They find love and they lose love with various women. They win cases and right wrongs where they see them. And through it all, they always make time for their best friend, to end each episode sitting on a balcony, enjoying the air, a cigar, some scotch and good company.
"Balcony time" has become synonymous with male bonding, thanks to this series. After the pair agree to attend a Hallowe'en party dressed as flamingos (hey, they stand out from the pack anyhow, may as well look the part), the term "flamingos" becomes a way of denoting one's best friend. I am not ashamed to admit that I have used both terms in my day to day, being lucky enough to stand as my Flamingo's Best Man when he wed his lovely bride in 2012. The reason these terms resonate is because 'Boston Legal' never shied from exploring platonic love between male friends. The word may be taboo in certain macho circles, but just as Lord Tennyson pointed out all those years ago, love between male friends can be just as strong a bond as between lovers.
So... why did Alan and Denny get married at the close of the series? For that answer, dear readers, you must seek out 'Boston Legal' on DVD or BluRay. You shall not be disappointed.
#6) DAN & ROSEANNE, 'Roseanne'
Dan and Roseanne Conner are a lot like some of the other sitcom parents on our list, with a few key differences. For one, the Conners were never the ideal family in the way the Huxtables were--they fit into certain definitions of "white trash" and laughed at it. One of the other key differences is that the series 'Roseanne' was in many ways a drama as much as it was a sitcom... and yes, in the end, the character of Dan Conner passes away.
Traversing nine years of love, laughter, pain and growth, 'Roseanne' chronicled one television family as members left, got married, changed, and new members were born. One of the most critically acclaimed television series of all time, the lynch-pin to the entire show was the marriage of Roseanne and Dan.
Unlike many sitcoms, we got to see both Dan and Roseanne reach their breaking points... and beyond. They flew into rages, they mourned and grieved, they suffered in front of us. It was their bond that kept them together and in many ways it was that bond that kept viewers enraptured for nine years.
'Roseanne' covered ground many shows wouldn't have dared; we saw Dan explaining masturbation to his teenage son; we saw Roseanne have doubts about the future of her family; we saw an elderly mother come out of the closet as a proud gay woman. And through it all, Dan and Rosie held fast to each other... until the very end.
When the heart of a series is the love between one couple, there is one logical conclusion: the end of that couple. 'Roseanne' continued to travel ground other sitcoms never would when Dan suffered a heart attack during the ninth and final season. While the character would pull through, his appearances became sporadic until the final episode when the reason for his spotty presence was revealed: the sitcom itself became a story that Roseanne Conner had been writing about her family, having altered some details to make the ending a happier one.
In the true story, the meta-story of the series, Dan Conner died of that heart attack and Roseanne simply couldn't face that reality when she reworked the narrative. She loved her husband too much to write the story of how his family mourned his passing... so she gave us the story we all watched instead. It was a brilliant meta-narrative ending to one of the most important television couples of all time.
A more somber note for the end of part three, no? Well have no fear: the top five television couples of all time is coming your way tomorrow... just in time for Valentine's.