There are a lot of relationships on television, just as there a lot of relationships in real life. One of the many reasons television is worth watching is that it allows us to examine the ways that people interact in various situations, which can provide a blueprint for how to interact with others in our own lives. Romance, as one of the major forces that drives relationships, appears often on the small screen. The many romantic couples on the tube are notable not just for their entertainment value, but also for their illuminative value. Here are some of the healthiest and some of the not-so-healthiest TV couples of the past few years, and the lessons their examples offer. (All couples that were included are officially in a relationship. There are plenty of TV pairs who ought to be together "“ or definitely should not be together "“ but that is a separate consideration.)
The Best of the Best
Bob and Linda, Bob's Burgers
In a show that celebrates weirdness as much as Bob's Burgers does, it makes sense that its central couple would be so accepting of each other's quirks. Bob, as one of the most even-keeled characters on the show, could find someone with as big a personality as Linda rather exasperating. So the fact that he actually finds her endearing means a lot. They also demonstrate how to keep a marriage with kids functional and passionate by just accepting and embracing the fact that additions to the family make things messier and crazier.
Molly and Gus, Fargo
Hiding out underneath the dark murder mystery of the Fargo miniseries is one of the sweetest love stories in years. Its matter-of-factness matches the low-key Midwestern style of its Minnesota setting. It speaks a great deal to the strength of this relationship that Molly is able to get over being shot by Gus (albeit accidentally, in whiteout conditions). The fact that Fargo does not go out of its way to emphasize their courtship is appropriate: they quickly realize that they got along with each other quite well, and promptly get around to staring a life together.
Frankie and Mike, The Middle
The Middle is all about the exhaustion of cash-strained lower-middle-class suburban life, and it does not shy away from the tolls that can have on a marriage. So it is kind of remarkable that the Hecks have kept the spark alive as much as they have. It surely helps that they were never a couple that was all that dependent on whatever a "spark" is anyway. While Frankie and Mike cannot be expected to put a whole lot of effort into romance, they are dependable for their loyalty to each other. Also quite hearteningly, the most recent season has seen them getting unusually frisky with each other.
Mindy and Danny, The Mindy Project
This is a classic example of a relationship that should not work as well as it does. Mindy and Danny have such different value systems, with the former's strict Catholicism standing in stark contrast to the latter's more permissive, secular attitude. But they respect each other so much as individuals that even though they constantly drive each other crazy, it is the sort of crazy they realize is good for each other for the sake of mixing up their own routines.
April and Andy, Parks and Recreation
April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer could have easily been no more than just collections of quirks, but they both have a surprising amount of depth without sacrificing what makes them unique. Similarly, their relationship could have been treated as a joke, but instead it is mature and loving without sacrificing how much fun it is to witness. Their quality of communication is especially strong; they feel comfortable talking to each other about their hopes and fears in a way that never fails to bring each other's spirits up.
The Worst of the Worst
The following choices for the "worst" couples do have some positive qualities, and at certain points in their shows' runs, some of them may have even been among the best. But their negative qualities have too much of a fatal flaw to make their relationships overall worthwhile.
Howard and Bernadette, The Big Bang Theory
The interactions on The Big Bang Theory can veer wildly from sweet and supportive to sour and insulting, often within the same episode, sometimes within the same scene. So it is disappointing to say that a relationship that has been as sweet as Howard and Bernadette's has lately been painful to watch, with Howard lazy and inconsiderate and Bernadette nagging and shrewish. But if the writers of TBBT decide they want this to be a consistently healthy marriage, these two could very well be on the best couples list in the near future.
Meegan and Andre, Key & Peele
Truly great couples inspire joy and not disgust in the people around them. Jordan Peele plays Meegan as the ultimate impolite caricature, while Keegan-Michael Key gives Andre a decent amount of patience. But he tolerates her in such a way that only ends up exacerbating the situation, making them easily the worst couple to encounter in a movie theater.
Don and Betty Draper, Mad Men
Not only is Don Draper a serial cheater, he is also suffocatingly manipulative. When he is actually around, his instinct is to control his wives' behavior, forcing Betty to have regular psychotherapy sessions and then in his next marriage demanding that soap opera actress Megan not be so passionate with her co-stars. While he has plenty of passion, Don is probably too pathological and unable to address his own faults to ever have a truly functional romantic relationship.
Bill and Libby, Masters of Sex
The marriage of Bill and Libby Masters demonstrates the dangers of staying together for the sake of propriety, a child, or even a (twisted) sense of doing the right thing when your heart is firmly elsewhere. For almost the entire series, Bill has been in love with his research partner, Virginia Johnson. And while theirs is hardly the healthiest relationship either, it has the passion that his marriage sorely lacks, rendering him always desirous of being elsewhere whenever he is home, which is obviously not the right frame of mind to be in to make you and your wife happy.
Mitchell and Cameron, Modern Family
At their best (such as the time around their marriage) Mitch and Cam are rather sweet and exemplify the simple joys of domestic life. But most of the time they represent the passive-aggressive tone of "Modern Family" as a whole. They just do not seem like a very compatible match: Cam's guilelessness often runs up against Mitch's instinctive sarcasm. They put in an admirable effort to overcome their personality clash, but in a more ideal match, such work would be minimized.