The popularity of television is largely due to the fact that it brings forth characters that are relate able and realistic in such a way that many times we feel as though we could know these people. They come into our homes every week, sometimes every day, and as such we unconsciously sometimes feel a connection to them. There is no greater connection to character than when they are a part of a relationship. I believe “shipping” is the word we often used to describe our preference for certain fictional couples, or characters whom we’d wish were in relationships. So in the spirit of fun, and in honor of my wedding anniversary (I know i’m like 3 weeks late!) I have decided to compile a list of the top ten greatest television couples of all time.
Disclaimer: Even though I sought the help of some of the best love experts out there (wink), this list, in the end, is completely subjective. So, don’t yell at me if your ‘ships didn’t make the cut. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
- Santana and Brittany (Glee).
Ok, so I was a little older than the common demographic when this show premiered in 2009, but I’m a sucker for musicals so there. Santana and Brittany first debuted as ⅔ of the mean girl/popular/cheerleader clique who first joined the glee club to infiltrate and destroy the organization from within, taking their commands from their coach, Sue Sylvester. We soon grew to love the trio, especially the aforementioned two who seemed to always be a little closer than “just friends.” What I especially loved about this couple’s arc was that we got to see a total transformation in Santana Lopez as the over-sexed, superficial mean girl who was really super insecure of herself, to someone who could care for and love another person without needing or wanting anything in return. Glee did a wonderful job of showcasing the stress, anxiety, alienation, and depression that often accompanies sexual identity and the fear of coming out for the first time and in no place was that done better than in the story of Santana and her Abuela. Brittany Pierce was the only one who always knew the person Santana really was and when they were together, the audience forgot that that two were once known for causing chaos and mischief, breaking hearts everywhere they went. They made each other better people. Isn’t that what love is supposed to do?
- Cece and Schmidt (New Girl).
When we meet Winston Schmidt for the first time, it is safe to say that he is the typical “doucebag” character. He always says the most inappropriate stuff at the most inappropriate times, has a painfully annoying particular way of doing almost everything, and is depicted as being the “playboy” of the group. He used to be overweight as a young boy and since losing the weight, he has developed a personality to ensure he only attracts the most attractive women, although this tactic often times fails him. Safe to say, he is probably the most superficial one of the group, although he at first glance has it “all together.” Cece Parekh is the main character, Jessica Day’s, best friend and is a model when we first meet her. She’s tall and exotic, the kind of woman Schmidt believes he should be with. When he first meets her he’s instantly attracted and although it takes time, and few one night stands, the two eventually fall in love. I love this couple because they are two people who technically should not be together. Schmidt mentions this by pointing out his Jewish and her Indian heritage. Cece learns that the probability of her being able to conceive children is very low and opts to begin meeting Indian men that her mother deems suitable for her. Throughout her courtships with these men, Schmidt refuses to give her up, but reasons that he’d rather her be happy, even if it means it’s not with him. This is the first time we get to see Schmidt be truly unselfish, choosing to care for someone else’s happiness instead of his own. Eventually they realize they belong together, and Schmidt does everything in his power to show Cece just how much he loves her, including taking a flight the morning of his wedding to personally plea for her mother’s approval and bring her back so that she can attend her daughter’s wedding. Their dedication and love for one another knows no boundaries, including their racial and religious background and it’s not long before children round out their happily ever after.
- Jay and Gloria (Modern Family).
I was late to the party when Modern Family premiered on ABC in 2009. It looked funny, but like most people I know, I didn’t particularly like the idea of the family patriarch marrying a much younger, and beautiful, woman. To anyone who hasn’t seen the show, it would appear as though the much younger Gloria Ramirez-Pritchett only married Jay Pritchett because of his wealth. This is the elephant in the room that the show’s producers quickly address within the first few episodes. Jay Pritchett was married before Gloria to a woman with whom he has two adult children. His older daughter has older children of her own and does not take kindly to Gloria because of the stark age difference. She is actually older than her own step-mother! However, Jay and Gloria are an incredibly “normal” couple. They have arguments, they make-up. They have differences in how they view raising children, but are always able to compromise in the end. And although the show embraces and at times poke fun of the differences in culture and age (Gloria is from Columbia), Modern Family avoids the typical stereotypical traps that often gets other shows in trouble. It is clear that Gloria truly loves Jay, and never was interested in him just because of his money. Gloria brought a son, Manny, from her first marriage and Jay has taken on the responsibility and joy of raising him as if he were his own. Gloria’s entrance into the crazy Pritchett family might have seemed a little fishy at first, because it is safe to say that they wouldn’t be the Pritchett’s without her.
- Olivia and Fitz (Scandal).
This list wouldn’t be complete without a hot mess and so I present Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant. This couple, if you want to call them that, would’ve been so great together. They both had ambition and drive, and weren’t too bad looking to boot. There was just this one little thing in the way… a marriage. Fitz was married when he met Olivia and soon after she began working on his presidential campaign, the sparks between the two began to fly. It was on the campaign trail that they began sleeping together and their affair lasted on and off throughout his presidency. Fitz even had the gall to move Olivia into the White House after he separated from his wife, longing to make their relationship official. Everything about Olivia and Fitz was messy, from their meeting to the ending of the series. And there were so many twists and turns that should have torn them apart. But the one thing that Olivia and Fitz always had was that first spark… you know the one that initially attracts you to, and maybe even leads to, falling in love, with another person. They couldn’t help themselves around each other and I don’t know if it was because of the thrill of the forbidden, but that spark never went away. For the first time, I found myself rooting for the mistress to win in the end. Who else can do that but the one and only Olivia Pope?
- Leslie and Ben (Parks and Rec).
Parks and Rec premiered at a time when mockumentaries were first becoming popular, Poking fun at government jobs, Parks and Rec tells the story of a Parks and Recreation department in a small, laughable Indiana town. All the people who work for the department are characters in and of themselves, especially the main protagonist, Leslie Knope, who seems the be the only one who takes her job seriously… maybe even more serious than she should at times. Leslie is a type-A personality who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” She has high dreams and hopes for her small town and firmly believes that all she does for her job will one day land her in the highest office in the land. She has enough confidence for just about everyone in the city’s government and maybe a little more to boot. Safe to say, it is her leadership and drive that turns her small town of Pawnee from a joke to a legit desirable place to live. Insert Ben Wyatt, a failed politician turned serious accountant who comes to town when the very nature of Pawnee is a stake (they have no money). Ben lacks a sense of humor and has very little desire to enjoy himself. Because she sees Ben as a barrier to her goals for her town, Leslie shows very little interest in Ben. But over time, as the two type-As spend more time together, their fondness for one another grows. We get to see this couple date, become engaged, get married, and start a family all before the show’s finale in 2015. I love this couple because Ben is ok with taking a back seat to Leslie’s ambition, and being the supportive spouse. She may have fallen in love with Ben, but that hasn’t, and won’t deter her plan. Parks and Rec does a great job portraying a couple in which the female is the Alpha character and in which the male puts his career on hold to support his wife. And they get along beautifully, especially since they are both such strong personalities. PS: I give extra points to Ben for being a great sport… it is no secret that Leslie has a thing for Vice President Joe Biden and knowing this, still uses the connect he made while working Washington to introduce his fiancee to her man crush Sunday-Saturday. I tell ya… any man willing to do that and totally secure in himself especially when his fiancee tries to plant on her celeb boo is number one in my book!
- Overton and Synclaire (Living Single).
I love Obie and Sinclair Jones so much because they represent the innocence that love is supposed to be. Living Single tells the story of four single women who are friends in 1990s NYC. Of the four, Synclaire is the overly innocent one who hails from a small town. It could be said that her naivete would be a hindrance to her survival in such a big city but in spite of it all, she finds Overton, a modest handyman who also comes from a small town. Together, they find joy in the little things that are often overlooked by the other main characters. Their ability to stick together in spite of the stresses that big city living often brings is inspirational. While The other characters experience events and turning points in their lives, Overton and Synclaire relationship was the one thing that remained the same, and in a good way. Their love story could’ve been the foundation of the show. They held to each other and their own cooky ways of doing things, despite living in a city where it is easy to get swept up in a variety of things that can lead a person a stray from their own personality. Overton and Synclaire embraced who they were and where they came from, and because they kept it real and true, their love remained a goal to which the other characters aspired.
- Rebecca and Jack (This Is Us).
Since its premiere in 2016, This Is Us is by far one of NBC’s most popular and well-received shows and for good reason. This show does an awesome job at discussing the dynamics of family life between two generations and how the decisions of the first generation is affecting the life choices of their children and their families. The premise of an episode going back and forth between the two generations could possibly cause confusion if it is not done right. I believe the great success of this show is attributed by the relationships among its characters. And at the center of everything is Rebecca and Jack Pearson, the mother and father of the “The Big Three,” Kevin, Kate, and Randall who the show follows in present-day. Throughout the first three seasons, we get to know Rebecca and Jack at various parts in their relationship, from their first meeting, to their engagement, to the birth of their twins and adoption of Randall. Rebecca and Jack’s relationship is so real; it showcases both the ups and downs of long-term relationships. What I appreciated the most was that things weren’t always so awesome. In fact, for a bit there, Rebecca and Jack weren’t doing so well at all. We saw tensions rise when Rebecca longs to return to music and witness Jack’s insecurities through it all. We see them struggle with Jack’s addiction. We see them decide to separate and then rescind that decision. And perhaps most striking of all, we get to see their relationship end. That’s right, sorry to break it to you if you haven’t watched the show yet, but you had three seasons so. Jack is killed in a house fire. Rebecca is a widow with three teenagers to care for. It is one of the first shows that I’ve watched in which we see how life for a family continues following the death of a parent. Losing a spouse is something that is not easy to simply get over and This Is Us does a great job at encapsulating the dynamic array of emotions that accompanies the loss of a life partner. This couple is fun to watch because many of us who are married or in long-term relationships can or have been able to relate to them at one point or another. Furthermore, Rebecca and Jack demonstrate that love can still exist and be just as strong as it was when it was fresh and new, despite the inevitable ups and downs that comes along with it. They remind us that life is too short, and that whatever is going it, we have to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Also, I’ve chosen to rethink my decisions to leave food in the Crock Pot overnight. Too soon?
- Clair and Cliff The Cosby Show.
Ok, I know what you are thinking and I’m gonna tell you right now. Don’t. Don’t do it. Regardless of what is happening in the news right now, it won’t change the dramatic effect this show on the American television. Period. This show was a total game changer. Not just for the portrayal of African-Americans on TV but also how it represented the American family on TV. But that, friends, is another post for another day. I am here to talk about Clair and Cliff Huxtable. Clair is often referred to as one of the top TV moms of all time and rightfully so. She is a college-educated woman who practices law in New York City. She has been a lawyer for some time when the show premiered in 1984, which reflected the significance of the rising number of women in high profile careers in our country at the time. Clair had a no nonsense attitude when it came to raising her children. She had expectations for her children and did not want to hear any excuses when those expectations weren’t met. It should be noted that these expectations were totally realistic; she was by no means a Tiger mom or anything like that. She was a loving and caring mother, and despite having 5 very different offspring and a full time job, she managed to find time to spend with each and every one of them. Heathcliff, a doctor, was the more easy-going one of the duo. The show constantly had guest stars coming through, who’s characters mostly had connections with Cliff, so it’s safe to say that he might have been the more social of the two as well. I love this couple because they showed that when a couple works together and plays well on the same team, they can be even better parents to their children, and partners to each other. And with five children, this was essential! We often saw their children try to play their parents off one another, as most kids do. And I guess they always thought they could get away with it because there were so many of them. But regardless of their demanding careers and the constant influx of guests, the Huxtables always stayed in sync with one another, something that is very difficult to do throughout a couple’s child-rearing years. They balanced one another and any differences between the two simply complimented each other. Some may say that the show’s legacy is tarnished because of the recent news about Bill Cosby, but it doesn’t change how affable and influential this TV couple was. Everyone wanted a family like the Huxtables.
- Topanga and Cory (Boy Meets World).
Anyone who knows me knew this was coming. YOU KNEW THIS WAS COMING. I am obsessed with this show. Yes, I still am. This show was my existence as a youth coming up in the 90’s. Boy Meets World told the coming-of-age story of a young boy, Cory Matthews, who while living with his family in a Philadelphia-suburb and alongside his best friend, Shawn Hunter, and his ever-present teacher, Mr. Feeny, learns some of life’s most valuable lessons in the most innocent and light-hearted ways possible. Sure, there were some serious episodes like the “Drinking” one… we all remember and reeled at poor Shawn coming into class drunker than a skunk… but all in all, most of his experiences were told in such a way that even the youngest of viewers could enjoy. From the first episode, it is made very, very clear that Cory is in love with Topanga Lawrence, a ecentric girl with hippy parents who is all about the vegan lifestyle long before it was a trend. At first, these two could not have been more different. Cory is a typical 11 year old boy who is into baseball, water guns, and aiding and abetting a wanted fugitive (I’m looking at you, cherry bomber, Shawn Hunter… and shout out to my people who know what I’m talking about!) Topanga, on the other hand was the exact opposite of Cory, opting for poetry readings instead of America’s past time. Over time, she shed her granola girl image and suddenly became more attractive to Cory. By the beginning of season 3, we see our young teen pining for an entire episode as to how he is going to make it official and ask Topanga to be his girlfriend. Cory and Topanga represent the innocence and the intensity of young love. It was said throughout the series that Cory and Topanga first fell in love when they were babies at the playground. And although the show saw its hero and heroine deal with all the complications that accompany young love, including, several break-ups, navigating the next-step-in-the-relationship-question, and even temptation by the fruit of another, we somehow always knew they’d end up together. Cory and Topanga were the quintessential teenage romance and despite all the obstacles, it overcame and persevere well into adulthood. We all want a love like Cory and Topanga’s… resilient and ever-lasting. Perhaps their love was the greatest lesson Boy Meets World could’ve taught us.
- Whitley and Dwayne (A Different World).
You already know what it is. My number 1 absolutely bestest, most magical, most transformative, most amazing TV couple is Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert from A Different World. This show was a spin-off from The Cosby Show and originally told the story of the second-oldest Huxtable daughther, Denise, making her way through college. Denise attended the fictional historically-black college/university (HBCU), Hillman College. Due to some behind-the-scenes issues, Denise left the show after the first season and suddenly there was a character void that needed to be filled. Never to worry, however, insert Whitley Gilbert, a southern-belle who navigates her way through campus, and life, in the fanciest clothes and a wallet full of credit cards. She is oblivious to the struggles of the “common man” in the first few seasons which is credit to her upbringing as a spoiled brat of divorced parents. She is egotistical, selfish and self-centered, and yearns to find a man who can keep her comfortable and in the life to which she’s grown accustomed. Then there’s Dwayne Wayne, a computer and math nerd from Brooklyn, NY who is introduced as a girl-crazy, no juice having, pain in the butt. His lines were so tired and weak but even as such, he still came across as a caring and selfless guy. He was just a little clueless when it came to girls. Now, at first, these two together just doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it would seem that Whitley would crush poor Dwayne with the point of her stilletto and keep it stepping. However, as fate would have it, these two manage to get together, even after all the games Whitley thought she had to play. There were teases of these two possibly getting together in the second and third season, the constant agony of the will they, won’t they, and oh so so much flirting, but it wasn’t until the fourth season when they finally confessed their love for one another, making Dwayne and Whitley officially official. Theirs is the story of how two people who couldn’t be more different from one another somehow, someway, find a way to be together. Like all good couples, they make each other better. We see how they grow, not only in love, but also as ambitious individuals. Where she was once seemingly only in college to meet a husband, by the end of season 3, we are introduced to a Whitley who is determined to start a career and be more independent of her bougie parents. It was through Whitley and Dwayne that we got to see what happens when one’s parents do not approve of the person you want to be with. It was quickly apparent that not only did Whitley’s mother disapprove of Dwayne, but Mrs. Wayne was none too happy with her son’s choice of girlfriend, often encouraging him to pursue Whitley’s best friend, Kim, who just so happen to look like her. And even when Whitley was wooed to the altar by another man, Dwayne stepped in right in time to take back his woman, and in the most dramatic way possible. Even after they were married, things didn’t go swimmingly for them i the least. They had very little money which Whitley was not used to, lived in small apartment that was robbed, and was left with very little possessions. A Different World did a great job at portraying the reality of young marriages which often times includes money woes. This should’ve been a deal-breaker for Whitley, being that she had grown up believing money and material possessions are everything. These trials might have torn apart another couple, but it instead only drove Whitley and Dwayne closer together. They were all they had at one point and they knew it, although they fought from time to time, they relished in being able to confide in and rely upon one another. Whitley and Dwayne were at their brightest when they weathered the storm that was their first year of marriage and because of that, they proved that opposites can and do attract. And for me, they became the standard for what a true love should look like.
So what do you think? Did I get it right? Am I missing a couple that you would say, “Oy, what about so and so and what’s her face? They changed my life!” And to that I will say that this list is not all conclusive. There are so many great TV couples that I needed to seek help in narrowing my choices down. And even some of those suggestions didn’t make the cut. In that respect, then, who should be some honorable mentions, or even round out the list to make it a top 20? Drop a line below and thanks for reading!