Small-screen romance: the 10 best TV couples of all time

Couple watching TV together

Want to get romantically inspired in time for Valentine’s Day? Start with a TV date or firing up a streaming service – our latest survey shows that TV romances can be very inspiring! In fact, a majority of Americans think watching lovebirds on TV can make them feel more romantic in their own lives. But that begs the question: who are the best TV couples of all?

After surveying single Americans, we have the answer – in fact, we’ve uncovered the 10 best TV couples of all time. From will-they/won’t-they pairings, to on-again/off-again matches, to rock-solid romances, these relationships are officially the nation’s #couplegoals.

America’s top 10 best TV couples

10. Mitch and Cam (Modern Family)

ABC’s award-winning Modern Family shows there are many, many ways to be a strong couple – you just have to find the lid that fits your pot. Gay couple Mitchell (Jesse Tyler-Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) have found that connection, and in the process become one of the best couples on TV. Sure, they don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they support each other when it counts, they’re great dads, and they love each other warts and all. If you want to watch a real TV romance, this is a great place to start.

In this Season 5 clip, Mitch and Cam are – finally – tying the knot. They’ve been through a lot to get here, but in this scene they can just relax and love each other. If you feel yourself getting misty-eyed when they take the dance floor, know you’re not alone!

9. Marge and Homer (The Simpsons)

Yes, you might already be screaming “d’oh” at the sight of this inclusion, but we’re overjoyed that television’s most beloved cartoon couple made it onto the list. That’s right; Marge and Homer Simpson come in as America’s ninth most-loved TV couple! Voiced by Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner, Matt Groening’s famous creations have won the hearts of viewers across the globe with their iconic relationship.Along with their children Bart, Lisa and Maggie, the Middle-American parents have guided the Simpson family through 29 seasons of high jinks since the show began in 1989. And as for Homer and Marge, although they don’t always see eye-to-eye, there’s no disputing they’re truly in love!

Watch as Homer and Marge meet for the first time – it was love at first sight for Homer! He goes as far as getting detention just to speak to her. Now that’s real love.

8. Will and Grace ( Will and Grace)

Will and Grace stole America’s heart with their sitcom about two best friends, Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing), living together in New York. Will, a gay lawyer, and Grace, a straight interior decorator, hit the mark navigating the challenges of early adulthood together. Along with sidekicks, Jack and Karen, the best friends stand together through thick and thin. This platonic pair won their place as the embodiment of friendship – the foundation of every romantic relationship. During its original run of 8 years, Will and Grace became a mainstay of weekly viewing, won 16 Emmys and became America’s highest-rated sitcom. It has been lauded as grounding breaking, being one of the most successful TV series with a gay leading character and bringing LGBT culture to mainstream media. The great news for fans is that show made a come back as of 2017, and these beloved best friends are back on our screens!

Here, Will comes to say goodbye to Grace before she goes to Bali for 8 months with her husband Leo. Their comfortable familiarity makes us all grateful for our best friend!

7. Jim and Pam (The Office)

When NBC’s The Office was first adapted for a US audience, many people thought that they couldn’t top the British original, especially given the fact that Tim and Dawn (turned here into Jim and Pam) were held among the best TV couples. But, over 9 seasons, the show became its own beast, and the relationship between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) became more realized than Tim and Dawn’s ever was. Here, it didn’t end with a first kiss; it became love, and marriage, and children, and all the work and joy that such a life involves.

In this scene, Jim and Pam are making a lot of fan dreams come true with a Season 5 proposal. It’s not a ground-shakingly romantic occasion – its just a gas station in the rain – but it is a moment that has become TV legend.

6. Lorelei and Luke (Gilmore Girls)

Fun fact: the diner owner on Gilmore Girls was originally supposed to be a background female character. Even after they changed the part to male, it was a one-episode role. That is until everyone saw the obvious chemistry between Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Luke (Scott Patterson)2. From then on, it was never a question of if Luke and Lorelei would get together, but when. Thankfully for those who consider L&L one of TV’s best couples, the answer finally came in the 2016 revival – a reveal that only took 16 years!

Here, Luke has realized at long last that he is in love with Lorelei. But how will he let his best friend know about his feelings? For now, he settles with a waltz at his sister’s wedding. You can almost see the chemistry.

5. Mulder and Scully (The X-Files)

If you haven’t watched the show, you might think that Fox’s The X-Files is all aliens, conspiracy theories, and monsters-of-the-week. And while there certainly is a lot of that, there’s romance too. In fact, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) might just be one of TV’s great will-they/won’t-they couples. Over 10 seasons they’ve moved from platonic partners to something far richer. Will they end up together? Only time, and perhaps the current revival will tell. But we want to believe.

In this moment from Season 7, Mulder and Scully kiss as the new millennium dawns. It was a moment many fans had been waiting for; a moment so major it’s still being talked about in the media1 .

4. Carrie and Mr. Big (Sex and the City)

Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) had a number of significant relationships over the course of the show, but none ever quite measured up to the love she felt for Mr. Big (Chris Noth). They had to do a lot of growing to be together, and they hit a lot of road-blocks along the way – marriages to other people, affairs, breakups – but throughout it all they carried a flame for each other. That flame saw them through six seasons and two movies; and right into second place on our list of the best TV couples of all time.

In this clip, Big has announced he’s moving to Napa. Carrie can’t imagine New York without him and so, even though they’re not together at this point, she goes to say goodbye – and it’s clear that the torch they carry for each other could still have a spark.

3. Sam and Diane (Cheers)

A lot of the couples in this top 10 have one huge thing in common, and that’s the delicious tension of a will-they/won’t-they, on-again/off-again romance. Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) are a particularly interesting example of this. Over 5 seasons (and a special finale episode), Sam and Diane captivated viewers with their opposites-attract love, but here’s the kicker – they could never quite make it work. The unusual thing is that this didn’t put people off: despite their romance ending with a broken engagement, they were still voted the third-best TV couple of all time.

Here, their crackling chemistry is on full display as both Sam and Diane try to get the other to admit to having feelings. The only question is: who will crack first?

2. Ross and Rachel (Friends)

And so we come to the top two TV couples of all. For those who watched TV in the 90s, it should come as no surprise that number two is from the ever-iconic Friends -it’s Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). As it turns out, their era-defining TV romance may be perennially popular for a reason: it fits several of the relationship templates Americans like to see on TV. 37% of those surveyed pick will-they/won’t-they as the ultimate type of TV romance, 34% opt instead for a happily-ever-after ending, and 18% think on-again/off-again is number one. In fact, there’s only one mold Ross and Rachel don’t fit: the tragic ending, a favorite for only 9%.

In this clip, it’s the moment 90s romantics were waiting for with bated breath – the first proper kiss between this on-again/off-again duo. With hindsight, we know that break-ups and make-ups and babies lay in this couple’s future, but at the time, this kiss was all that mattered.

1. Lucy and Ricky (I Love Lucy)

And the ultimate in best TV couples is the classic couple, Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky (Desi Arnaz) who have been making best couple lists since 1951! And so with their enduring pull, it should come as no surprise that in 2018 they still come in at number one best TV couple. Looking at their show now, it’s hard to conceptualize just how revolutionary it was for its time – here was an interracial couple in love on American TV 16 years before it was even legal in all 50 states. It’s easy to see why people love them: Ricky was the perfect straight-man foil to Lucy’s screwball antics. Although married in real-life, the Ball/Arnaz relationship didn’t last, but it seems Lucy and Ricky have a permanent place in audience’s hearts.

In this scene, Lucy is trying to find a way to tell Ricky that she is pregnant. The most moving thing is that her tears here were real – Lucille Ball really was pregnant on screen, and this was their way to announce it to the world.

So, why do we love watching TV romances so much? EliteSingles Relationship Psychologist Zoe Coetzee explains that just as we get scared watching a horror movie, we also feel the release of serotonin and feel-good love hormones watching a romance unfold on TV. People connect with fictional characters through empathetic feelings, and neuroscience research has shown that the same hormones and chemicals associated with stress and attachment in real life situations are released while watching TV. So a TV romance can actually emulate the feelings of a real-life romance, just one of the reasons why TV couples are so popular!

Did we cover your all-time favourite TV romance? Is our list missing one of the best TV couples of all time? Let us know below, or get in touch at [email protected]

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TV clips and characters are owned by the following networks:

Modern Family: ABC
The Simpsons: Fox
Will and Grace:
Warner Brothers
The Office: NBC
Gilmore Girls: CBC Television
X-Files: Fox
Sex and the City: HBO
Cheers: NBC
Friends: NBC
I Love Lucy: CBS

Results based on EliteSingles’ Best TV Couples Survey (2018)

About the author: Sophie Watson

See more articles written by Sophie Watson