Warning: This is a long, probably tedious, and most definitely geeky post. It might sink.
I’m a pretty venomous guy these days. I’m not proud of it. I think I need to turn over a new leaf. What’s the opposite of venom? Love! Love, love, love. All you need is love. Love makes the world go round. Sadly, I can only explain about this love thing in TV terms. So here are THE TOP 10 TV COUPLES OF ALL TIME!!
10. MAJOR MARGARET “HOT LIPS” HOULIHAN & MAJOR FRANK BURNS
(Loretta Swit & Larry Linville in M*A*S*H, 1972-1983)
Her Story: Blonde martinet in charge of the nurses of the 4077th. Margaret was a stickler for army regulations and spent most of her screen time either shrieking at everyone, or making out with Frank when they thought no one was watching.
His Story: Nicknamed “Ferret Face” by his wacky tent-mates Hawkeye and Trapper John, Frank was a paranoid, sniveling, fascistic weasel of a man, and a lousy surgeon as well. If Joseph McCarthy and Wile E. Coyote had a son, it would be Frank. Actually, that last sentence was revolting. Sorry.
What Happened: It wasn’t so much love as it was lust and mutual antagonism towards everyone else that made Frank and Margaret a couple. Their constant attempts to have Hawkeye and Trapper court-martialed and Colonel Henry Blake relieved of command never worked out.
How It Ended: After several seasons of being bamboozled, Margaret dumped Frank, who went nuts and became increasingly more pathetic and cartoony (which is why Larry Linville elected to bug out after the fifth season). Frank was sent stateside and replaced by pompous Harvard grad Charles Emerson Winchester III who was the doormat of Hawkeye and B.J. for the next six seasons. Margaret, meanwhile, became one of the boys as M*A*S*H became more menopausal, self-important and touchy-feely. By the show’s final years, she was sporting a fake tan and Farrah Fawcett hairstyle that should’ve been against army regulations.
9. GEORGE COSTANZA & SUSAN ROSS
(Jason Alexander & Heidi Swedberg in Seinfeld, 1989-1998)
His Story: Bald, stocky, neurotic, frequently unemployed, and self-proclaimed “Lord Of The Idiots.” Best friend of Jerry Seinfeld, George was, for years, unparalleled in the fields of underachievement and inadequacy. Amazingly, though, he seemed to date (and bed) a new hot woman every episode.
Her Story: One-time executive for NBC television, where she met George (who was pitching a sitcom pilot with Jerry at NBC). Susan came from old money and appeared to be a regular person, but willingly getting into a relationship with George does indicate a certain degree of mental deficiency.
What Happened: Through her association with George, Susan ended up getting vomited on (by Kramer), her family’s cabin was burned to the ground (by Kramer, and which also led to the revelation that her father was John Cheever’s gay lover), and she lost her job with NBC (after George kissed her in front of the other execs). She dumped George and flirted with lesbianism before accepting George’s marriage proposal, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of.
How It Ended: George almost immediately regretted getting engaged to Susan, and was constantly scheming to weasel out of their impending marriage. Ultimately, Susan died from licking the toxic glue on the envelopes of the cheap wedding invitations George bought (to say that George was unperturbed at this ghastly development would be an understatement).
8. NILES CRANE & DAPHNE MOON
(David Hyde-Pierce & Jane Leeves in Frasier, 1993-2004)
His Story: Wimpy, neurotic, prissy brother of fellow-psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane.
Her Story: Physical therapist of Frasier and Niles’ father, ex-cop Martin Crane. Daphne was a perky Mancunian with delusions of being a psychic.
What Happened: To be honest, I was never big on Frasier (it was functionally funny, but tremendously overrated and not a patch on the show that spawned it, Cheers). Niles’s unrequited, double entendre-laden pining for the unaware Daphne was one of the show’s running gags, until the inevitable happened and the two became a couple in the later seasons.
How It Ended: Niles and Daphne got married at some point long after I stopped watching the show.
7. MADDIE HAYES & DAVID ADDISON
(Cybill Shepherd & Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, 1985-1989)
Her Story: Former fashion model who went broke. The Blue Moon Detective Agency was one of the few businesses she still owned, but before she could liquidate it, she became involved in the agency’s quirky cases.
His Story: Wise-cracking Private Eye at Blue Moon who persuaded Maddie to form a partnership with him.
What Happened: Damned if I know – I’ve never watched more than five consecutive minutes of Moonlighting in my life. Yet I feel obliged to mention Maddie and David here as Moonlighting was a seminal influence on the “dramedy” genre of TV, with post-modern fourth-wall-breaking asides and an onscreen relationship that still gets cited in pop-culture circles.
How It Ended: I don’t know, I never watched it!
6. AL BUNDY & PEGGY BUNDY
(Ed O’Neill & Katey Sagal in Married…With Children, 1987-1997)
His Story: Shoe salesman, misanthrope and perennial loser Al was living proof that you can’t be everything you want to be and that life is cruel. Al lived on frequent visits to the Nudie Bar, baiting his neighbour Marcy, and railing at life and the world. His wife Peg and no-hope kids, Kelly and Bud, were constant reminders of his lost youth and failed dreams.
Her Story: Al’s girlfriend in high school, Peg married Al, bore him two children, and evolved into a lazy, self-centered couch-potato with ludicrously large red hair and tight clothes, and whose life revolved around Oprah, bonbons, avoiding any kind of housework, begging Al for sex, and making fun of Al’s sexual inadequacy.
What Happened: Before The Simpsons, it was Married…With Children that blew away the saccharine conventions of the standard sitcom family. The show was popular in its day but tends to be written off as a lowbrow smut-fest, when in fact it was (for 8 seasons at least) one of the most brilliantly brutal black comedies ever made. The vitriolic relationship between Al and Peg was the source of much verbal sparring over the years, and although their marriage was by no means healthy, there was something oddly touching about it – especially since neither would cheat on each other or leave each other.
How It Ended: Difficult to answer – Married…With Children was abruptly cancelled by Fox after its eleventh season, before it could have a proper final episode. Still, there was no indication that things would ever change with the Bundys…
5. BUFFY SUMMERS & ANGEL
(Sarah Michelle Gellar & David Boreanaz in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, 1996-2003)
Her Story: Cheerleading blonde who discovers that she is the chosen one of her generation to kill the vampires and other supernatural monsters which congregate around “the Hellmouth” in Sunnydale, California.
His Story: Formerly-evil vampire who was cursed by gypsies into having a soul and thus feeling remorse for his sins. Angel attempted to atone for his past life by aiding Buffy in dealing with evil stuff in Sunnydale.
What Happened: Buffy and Angel’s maudlin romance went sour midway through the second season when, after consummating their love, Angel lost his soul, went evil and murderous, and Buffy was forced to stick a sword in him and send him to hell at season’s end. Angel returned in Season Three, but knew that things obviously couldn’t go back to the way they were.
How It Ended: Angel left Sunnydale and Buffy (at the end of the third season) and relocated to L.A. (getting into his own series of adventures and acquiring a more substantial personality in Buffy’s superior spin-off, Angel). Buffy spent a season and a half with the extremely boring Riley Finn (Marc Blucas) before embarking on a self-destructive relationship with her old enemy, the vampire Spike (James Marsters). With both shows now over, it looks like Buffy and Angel will only end up together in the realm of fanfic.
4. KEVIN ARNOLD & WINNIE COOPER
(Fred Savage & Danica McKellar in The Wonder Years, 1988-1993)
His Story: Teenager in late 60s/early 70s suburban America, Kevin’s older brother Wayne was an unmitigated sadist and his best friend Paul Pfeiffer was a prototype Millhouse Van Heuten. No wonder Kevin was so screwed up.
Her Story: Doe-eyed object of Kevin’s infatuation. Her older brother Brian died in Vietnam and her parents divorced.
What Happened: Winnie being the archetypal “girl next door” and “first true love” masked the fact that Kevin’s obsession with her over the years was nigh-on pathological and creepy. Winnie treated him like crud and yet Kevin was too whipped to see it, even spurning the amorous advances of the school fox, Madeline, who was inexplicably attracted to him.
How It Ended: In the last episode, after Kevin and Winnie’s relationship got as tumultuous as it had ever been, they took refuge from the rain in a secluded barn and apparently did the nasty. However, Kevin’s final voice-over informed us that eventually, Winnie fled to France and Kevin married someone else. Here’s hoping it was Madeline.
3. SAM MALONE & DIANE CHAMBERS
(Ted Danson & Shelley Long in Cheers, 1982-1993)
His Story: Ex-pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, recovering alcoholic, and ultimate womanizer. Owned and ran a bar in Boston.
Her Story: Pseudo-intellectual, snobby yet insecure post-grad who took an improbable job as a waitress in said bar.
What Happened: Miles ahead of most other sitcoms of the time, Cheers was successful not just because of the snappy lines and characters, but because of the soap-like plot turns in the Sam/Diane relationship. They spent most of the first season fighting, before the inevitable kiss in the season’s last episode. As the seasons flew by, they broke up, then Diane was engaged to pompous psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane, then she dumped him and took up with Sam again. Until the end of Season Five.
How It Ended: Diane left Sam to pursue a career as a writer in LA. In reality, Shelley Long ditched Cheers for a movie career that practically blew up on the launch-pad, at the same time, condemning Cheers to six seasons with that whining slob Kirstie Alley as the lead female. Long returned in the very last episode in which Diane reconciled with Sam and tried to whisk him back to L.A. with her, before they changed their minds. He stayed with the bar, she didn’t (both Sam and Diane later guested on Cheers’s spin-off Frasier, but never in the same episode).
2. FRY & LEELA
(Billy West & Katey Sagal in Futurama, 1999-2003)
His story: Pizza delivery boy who is accidentally cryogenically frozen and awakes in the 30th century city of New New York. The frequently-stupid but perpetually happy-go-lucky Fry made a new friend in Bender (an alcoholic, kleptomaniac robot) and took a job as a delivery boy for Planet Express, owned by his senile descendant, Professor Hubert Farnsworth.
Her story: Curvaceous, purple-haired Leela was a no-nonsense cyclops who could kick the crap out of anyone, but her lonely upbringing in an orphanarium and hang-ups about her looks made her emotionally fragile and unlucky in love.
What Happened: Throughout the course of their wacky, space-age follies and adventures, Fry fell in love with Leela, which came to the fore in Season 3. Since then, the lovesick Fry tried constantly to impress Leela and win her heart.
How It Ended: Fox cancelled Futurama before its time, but the final episode of the fourth season was set up as an episode that could serve as an epitaph but still be ambiguous enough in case the show ever returns – and a straight-to-DVD movie is rumoured to be in the works. So for Fry/Leela fans…It’s not over yet (maybe)!
…and, the NUMBER ONE TV screen couple of all time is…
1. LYNDA DAY & SPIKE THOMSON
(Julia Sawalha & Dexter Fletcher in Press Gang, 1989-1993)
Her Story: Straight-A high school student and editor of school newspaper The Junior Gazette, Lynda was an amoral, emotionally-repressed, career-driven megalomaniac. Her fiery temperament and unscrupulousness kept the newspaper running, but belied her vulnerable interior and alienated her from her peers (who nicknamed her “Vampira,” “Attila the Skirt,” and “Bitch”).
His Story: Leather-jacketed, rebellious American assigned to reporting for The Junior Gazette to avoid being expelled from school. Spike’s wisecracking demeanour and Jagger-esque posturing and pouting constantly rubbed Lynda the wrong way.
What Happened: Aficionados of early-90s Brit TV might remember Press Gang, ostensibly a kids’ show but more intelligent, witty and sophisticated than most shows geared for adults. The romantic tension between tough-as-nails editor Lynda and cocky, insubordinate reporter Spike was the heart of the programme, the source of much high-speed verbal sparring and playful/spiteful repartee, and it culminated in the two becoming an item in the second season. Sadly, Lynda crushed Spike’s heart after he confessed his love to her, and Spike went back to America. He came back in the next year, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Lynda continued throughout the rest of the show’s run.
How It Ended: After being trapped in the Junior Gazette office as it burnt down, it seemed like Lynda ended up dead. The show’s very last scene was played out to either be Lynda surviving and she and Spike kissing, or Spike only dreaming that Lynda survived and she and him kissing. Ambiguity sucks. I want certainty!
…anyone still with me? Okay, it’s been a long haul, and I’m sure there are loads of couples just as worthy, if not more, that I’ve neglected to mention…Marge and Homer…Caitlin Ryan and Joey Jeremiah…Riker and Deanna Troi...David Fisher and Keith…Burns and Smithers…Dale Cooper and Sheriff Truman…Bert and Ernie…Any more suggestions?