....PSYCH!! There is no McDreamy/Meredith appearing on this list. Come on now, people, this is the top five! We aint got time for Doctor Sexy, M.D.!
Well to those of you who didn't just click on this due to the 'Grey's Anatomy' photo and have since clicked away in a huff, I welcome you to our final installment of the Television's Greatest Couples Countdown!
THE ROAD 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' #10) HOMER AND MARGE, 'The Simpsons' #9) LUKE & LAURA, 'General Hospital' #8) GEORGE BURNS & GRACIE ALLEN, 'The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show' #7) DENNY AND ALAN, 'Boston Legal' #6) DAN & ROSEANNE, 'Roseanne'
It has been a fun ride already but the best has been saved for last. Today, on Valentine's Day, we get the top five greatest television couples in history.
#5) ROSS & RACHEL, 'Friends'
While I expect to take some flak for this one, I stand by Ross & Rachel's inclusion in the top five. The two names are always uttered in tandem, the characters are the roles that David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston will be associated with for their entire careers, and everyone--EVERYONE--was watching 'Friends' when their love affair was blossoming.
'Friends' is one of the biggest sitcoms in television history and the first-season storyline about lovelorn Ross trying to muster the courage to tell Rachel he loves her is the biggest reason why the series rocketed to smash-hit status as swiftly as it did. Eventually the pair would finally kiss and spark their romance... but that doesn't mean Ross & Rachel became an example of a healthy relationship.
Just as 'Friends' fans remember the time R&R got together for the first time, we all recall the infamous "break" just as clearly. After a fight, Ross and Rachel declare a break. From what, you ask? Well therein lies the rub! Was it a break from their relationship? From each other? Just from fighting?
Just like in situations involving presidential impeachment, the meaning culled particular words can dramatically change someone's experience of those words. Ross ended up getting drunk and having a one-night stand during this break (the cad!) and Rachel felt cheated on, regardless of any break-semantics. Fans were outraged! Some took Rachel's side, some took Ross' side... and EVERYONE was watching. (Noticing a trend, here?)
So Ross & Rachel broke up... but were still in love. They dated other people... then got back together. Then they broke up. Then they professed their love for each other, but stayed broken up. Then they get drunkenly married... then they divorce... then they have a child together.
Oh, and, Ross married someone else during all of that. Still with me?
My point is, unlike many couples on our list, Ross and Rachel didn't earn this spot due to loyalty or longevity. These characters grew up together, grew apart in ways but closer in others, and finally became parents together. This brought us to the ending of the series...
How do you end a show that was carried to such a large extent by one couple? Well, odd as it may seem, the original plan was for Ross and Rachel to remain apart as the series concluded:
As producer David Crane revealed after the close of 'Friends,' the initial plan was for the conclusion to go in a different direction. "At first we thought that [getting them together] seems so expected," Crane stated, citing their motivation for wanting the duo to keep apart.
Well, when I go to a birthday party I expect cake--that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it when it's handed to me!
Luckily, happily, 'Friends' gave us the "happily ever after" that fans so craved regarding Ross & Rachel. Later, on 'Joey' (the spin-off series featuring another of the eponymous 'Friends'), the Joey character explained that Ross and Rachel got married and were happily raising their daughter, Emma. Not wanting to simply leave it at that, Jennifer Aniston speculated on what became of Ross and Rachel since 'Friends' went off the air during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:
"They're absolutely, 100 percent together," Aniston said, adding "They have more kids!"
A happy ending, indeed.
#4) ROB & LAURA, 'The Dick van Dyke Show'
Rob (Dick van Dyke) is a comedy writer for a fictional television series. Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) is an ex-dancer and stay-at-home mother to their child Richie. Together, they are perhaps the most perfect couple in television history.
Debuting in 1961, 'The Dick van Dyke' show lasted for five successful seasons, winning dozens of Primetime Emmy awards. Why did it win so many awards? Well check out this episode and you'll have your answer!
Great writing, hilarious acting, brilliant chemistry, all in episodes treated like a stage play--the show relied entirely on the chemistry between actors to bring off the laughs. Luckily, van Dyke and Moore had chemistry to spare.
Rob met Laura when she was seventeen and they were inseprarable ever since. The minor fight you see in the clip above is about as rough as it got for the Petries, as they were the quintessential American family: caring husband who works in the big city, loving wife caring for their adorable son. Sure, it's a cliche and it's an idyllic fantasy that never really existed, but shows like 'The Dick van Dyke Show' are what allowed us to have such pleasant daydreams in the first place.
With other couples on this list, I give a run-down of what happened to them over the course of the series and let you know how things ended up. Well, for Rob and Laura, nothing changed because that wasn't what television was about. 'The Dick van Dyke Show' wasn't a serial, at least not narrativistically. Each episode can stand alone as a mythic slice of American pie, tying together the best of what we like to think of ourselves and eliminating all of our dirty little secrets. It wouldn't exactly be healthy to stage such a show today, but at the close of the 1950s, after the difficulty of the first half of the twentieth century, a little idyllic myth was precisely what the average family needed.
The fun continued for both Dick van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, as 'The Dick van Dyke Show' proved to be only the beginning for two incredible careers. Not only did the pair break new ground by actually showing a married couple in their bedroom and in pajamas on network television (albeit with their beds separated), but van Dyke and Moore were only getting started when it came to the legacies they would each create on silver and small screen.
The duo still get along, they still appreciate what magic they were able to create together... oh, and they aren't too old to poke fun at their stuffy 1961 roots:
Is any further comment necessary, here?
#3) RALPH & ALICE, 'The Honeymooners'
'The Honeymooners' was created to introduce America to Ralph & Alice Kramden, whether they were ready or not. The show was created by comedy legend Jackie Gleason who wanted to create a series to capture the love and tumult of married life in Brooklyn. The idea was to portray a real couple from the real world; up to that point, television had always presented an idyllic setting where there was always enough money and food, jobs were plentiful, friendly, and steady, and no one was ever angry. Gleason decided to head in the exact opposite direction: to Chauncey Street in Brooklyn, where the rooms are cramped, the rent is cheap, and people struggled to get by in the city that never sleeps.
Enter Ralph Kramden and his ever-lovin’ wife Alice (played by Gleason and the gorgeous Audrey Meadows). Gleason wanted to capture the bickering and argument of a married couple but he insisted that there would be an ever-present current of love and adoration between the pair. The series ran for thirty-nine amazing episodes (now known as the Classic 39) with almost every single outing ending with Ralph’s famous line to his spouse: “Baby? You’re the greatest.” Ralph and Alice tore strips off of each other each and every week, but the fact that the pair was meant to be together was never in dispute.
Sadly, the aspect of The Honeymooners that resonates with many television viewers today is the bad reputation given to the show regarding the in-fighting between the love-birds. Many critics have unfairly lambasted the series as one that glorifies violence against women; I insist that anyone who holds this view has never actually seen a single episode. The fact is, Alice ‘wears the pants,’ so to speak, in the marriage; her authority is never in dispute. The majority of the situations that provide the comedy in this sitcom stemmed from Alice giving excellent advice to Ralph which Ralph would subsequently ignore. Alice was always right and the bumbling Ralph would return to her, tail between his legs, to let her know. His hilarious delivery of “One of these days, Alice…” was about as threatening as Buster standing up to Lucille in Arrested Development—there was no violence to speak of between Ralph and his beautiful blushing bride.
Ralph and Alice were relatable characters, breaking up a streak of television families that were all too good to be true. Viewers at home could root for the couple, as they were struggling with the same economic and emotional issues as The Honeymooners themselves. The show offered America an opportunity to look at themselves in the mirror and laugh at the absurdity of their situation rather than dwell on the misfortunes of the age.
In many ways, Ralph and Alice Kramden were the opposite of Rob and Laura Petrie from 'The Dick van Dyke Show;' the two series were after entirely different points and entirely different laughs, with each being intensely important to the history of television, comedy, and America itself.
#2) SAM & DIANE, 'Cheers'
It physically pains me to not place Sam & Diane atop this countdown--far and away, they are my personal favorite couple in television history. There are reasons why our couple-yet-to-come has won the #1 spot, but until then: Sam Malone and Diane Chambers.
Sam and Diane are different from every other couple on this list--even Ross and Rachel, who were a modern attempt at recreating the will-they-or-won't-they magic of 'Cheers.' Even the pretenders can't quite be what Sam and Diane were... because they've all missed one crucial element: Sam and Diane could never really be together.
How very odd: one of the greatest love affairs in television history and I'm claiming they were doomed from the beginning? Well see, my dear Ragers, it's like this...
Sam Malone is representative of masculinity during his age, the 1980s: under fire from some, bolstering its strength in other ways. The character embodies the very best and the very worst of the macho American ideal. Then, there is the progressive Diane Chambers, over-educated, fiercely feminist... and yet she remains drawn to this ex-ball player who can count how many books he's read on one hand. That is what makes Sam & Diane such a special television couple: their trials and tribulations were the trials of love in 1980s America. We weren't secure in our positions any longer--the role of the man and the role of the woman, so secure back in 'The Honeymooners' and 'The Dick van Dyke Show' had fallen wayside. We had lost the myth of the American family but dammit, we were still raised with it, dangling before our faces like a carrot before a mule. So what were we to do?
We were left with only one option: fall in love. Hell or high water.
Unfortunately for Sam and Diane, both Hell and high water were in store. The couple were known for their bickering as much for their romance and we loved them for it. There was something cathartic about watching these two characters profess to despise one another due to their differences in social stature, while we knew the truth: if you took one away from the other, they would never again be complete.
Despite being lambasted as a cheap counter to the feminism of the 1980s, Sam Malone has always been more than that, as a character. While on the surface, or perhaps at the time of the pilot episode, Sam is that roguish rake character who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, the point of the Diane relationship on ‘Cheers’ is to show that our Sammy wanted more. Throughout the first few seasons we see Sam strive to improve himself in order to impress Diane, including reading Tolstoy’s “War & Peace.” Diane represented a richer life for Sam that he never knew how to embody, which is why the pull towards the smart-mouthed blonde remained even after the sexual conquest that used to mark the end of Sammy’s affairs.
It was Diane; it was always Diane.
It finally came time for 'Cheers' to end. So how do you do it? Keeping true with their theme, Sam and Diane rekindle their passion, plan to jet off to somewhere far away to be together... but eventually, reality sets in. The writing on the wall becomes clear and Diane and Sam are forced to go their separate ways. They love each other more than they will ever love another person, but due to their time, their lives, their needs, they simply cannot rely on those passions in the real world. It is a stark look at love in modern America and it is wrapped up in a situation comedy with a beautiful bow.
Sam & Diane may not be the happiest couple on our countdown, but there's no denying how special they are to television and American popular culture.
#1) LUCY AND RICKY, 'I Love Lucy'
It seems inevitable now, doesn't it?
Before we even talk about Lucy and Ricky on 'I Love Lucy,' a word needs to be said about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the actors who played them. Ball and Arnaz were in love, were married for many years; in that time they formed Desilu Productions, from 1950 until their divorce in 1960.
The importance of Desilu Productions to the growth and formation of American television cannot possibly be overstated. Desilu Productions became one of the first companies to ever shoot on film rather than direct live broadcasting and they revolutionized the sitcom, allowing for the multi-camera set-up which would act as the standard for six decades.
Dann Cahn, working for Desilu on 'I Love Lucy,' was the visionary behind the classic three-camera method of recording sitcoms. Cahn had to get creative when it came to the editing of a sitcom that had been recorded by three cameras at once, producing a swath of footage that overwhelmed editors at the time.
So why use multi-camera format at all? The staging of three motion picture cameras around the set allowed for the actors to play through a scene continuously; if one camera missed one of Lucy's trademark "WAAAAHH!"s, you could rest assured that one of the other two cameras caught it beautifully. This allowed the actors the freedom to treat the scene as though it were a stage play, giving more for the studio audiences to enjoy. Television had been changed forever and it was Ball and Arnaz that pioneered this brave new path.
Now... onto Ricky and Lucy.
I strongly urge you to watch the clip above. Not only is it a perfect example of what made 'I Love Lucy' so special, of what made the interplay between the two characters so special... but because there's an hilarious blooper as well. When Ricky mistakenly begins speaking to his Cuban friends in English? Yeah, that was an actual mistake by Desi Arnaz; the cast was so skilled they were able to play through it, providing the biggest laugh of the episode.
While filming the series, Ball and Arnaz learned that Lucy was pregnant--so into the series came little Ricky. Episodes based around Lucy's pregnancy were a huge hit (despite the fact that you couldn't even say "pregnant" on the air) and Lucy eventually gave birth, showing an entirely new side to the beloved couple on the program.
As for what can be said about the couple themselves...
Arnaz and Ball were tumultuous off-screen, but Ricky and Lucy were passionately devoted to one another on it. There were no lengths one would not go for the other and this current of devotion and respect is present in each and every episode.
'I Love Lucy' was madcap, slapstick and silly... but Lucy and Ricky were admirable always, in their respect for each other and their unflappable romance.
They are, quite simply, television's greatest couple.
Well that finally brings us to the end of our countdown. Thank you for reading and sticking with it! Now you may begin harping on me in the comments about which ones I forgot... because c'mon, that's the fun of these lists! I look forward to hearing your ideas!
Oh, and before I forget: Happy Valentine's Day, TV Ragers.