12 truly romantic TV shows (and where to watch them)
After many, many (enjoyable) hours of TV watching, we think we have an answer. In fact, we’ve found 12 of the most romantic TV shows of all time (as well as where you can watch them online). From costume dramas to beloved sitcoms, from murder mysteries to musical comedies, there’s something here for everyone. Now, who's got the remote?
CAUTION: there may be spoilers ahead!
Pride and Prejudice (BBC/A&E 1995)
The six-part miniseries of Pride and Prejudice made an incredible impact upon its release, and it’s still one of the most beloved romantic TV shows of all time. Case in point: it’s been 22 years since Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy stripped off for his lake plunge, but his wet shirt is still talked of in revered tones. The story follows the trials of the Bennet sisters (in particular sweet Jane and spirited Lizzy), as they each spark against two very different men. Gregarious Mr. Bingley is smitten with Jane, but as for Lizzy and the haughty Mr. Darcy, it’s hate at first site – or is it?
Lake scenes aside, this adaptation stays more or less faithful to the 1813 Jane Austen novel that it’s based on. And that’s a very good thing. The historical setting is a wonderful excuse for gorgeous costuming, lush British countryside settings, and - of course - incredibly romantic scenes as the sisters try and find love in a society that sees marriage as mercenary.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Poldark (BBC One 2015-)
A list of romantic TV shows needs a few bodice-ripping costume dramas, and Poldark is among the best of the bunch. Following the American Civil War, Ross Poldark returns to his native Cornwall, England, in hopes of reclaiming his family copper mine and his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth. But he soon finds that his inheritance is squandered and Elizabeth is engaged to another man. While trying to win his estate back, Poldark meets and marries the earthy, charming Demelza – but is his forbidden love for Elizabeth really over?
If there’s one word to describe this show, it is sumptuous. The filming alone is breathtaking; the setting enabling endless sweeping vistas of rugged Cornish clifftops and breaking waves. To this, you add richly shot romantic trysts, love-triangles, nefarious plots, and an often-shirtless Poldark (Aidan Turner) and the result is romantic television nirvana.
Where to watch: PBS, Amazon Prime
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (ABC 2012 - 2015)
In 1920s Melbourne, Australia, Miss Phryne Fisher is one of a kind. She’s wealthy, and oh-so-glamorous, but that’s not what makes her stand out. Instead, it’s her charming, independent, flirtatious self that wins people over (and often saves the day). A socialite with a knack for solving murders, Phryne is a force to be reckoned with - especially for Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, who might just be the perfect foil for Phryne’s effervescence.
The fabulous 20s frocks and intriguing murder mysteries alone would make this a great show. But add in the delicious will they/won't they tango between Phryne and Jack, and you have an exciting, romantic TV show that will become your next addiction. Good news for fans in need of a fix: after years with no Miss Fisher, the next installment is rumored to be out in 2018.
Where to watch: Netflix
Parks & Recreation (NBC 2009-2015)
A show about local government in small-town Indiana doesn’t sound like it should be all that funny – or all that romantic. TV shows generally have to have a bit more glamour to earn those sorts of reviews. Yet, Parks & Recreation is both hilarious and deeply romantic, with a rich cast of characters who begin to feel more like friends than people on screen. As a result, you’ll find yourself invested in all their lives, and it won't be long before you try - and fail - to find a favorite couple among the many inspired pairings.
Whether you love dynamic Leslie and nerdy Ben, goofy Andy and sarcastic April, excitable Chris and patient Ann, or the one and only Ron Swanson and, well, bacon, the Parks & Rec take on relationships will give you the warm smooshies. In between fits of laughter of course!
Where to watch: Hulu
Him & Her (BBC Three 2010-2013)
Him & Her is most often described as an anti-romantic comedy, but for those who see the romance in everyday situations (and those with a taste for awkward-yet-raunchy British humor), the love is real. It’s a warts-and-all look at the life of Becky and Steve, two mid-20s slackers who want to cruise through life but keep being interrupted by Becky’s terrible sister, her terrible husband, their air-headed friend, and the weird neighbor from upstairs.
So far, so sitcomy. Yet, despite the set-up, Him & Her is a breath of fresh air that often feels more like a play than a sitcom. There’s no laugh track, there are few wacky plot lines; instead you get a filthy, hilarious look at the realities of life as a couple. Here, romance doesn’t have to be all big gestures: love can be you letting them eat crumbly toast in your bed.
Where to watch: Hulu
The Office (US) (NBC 2005- 2013)
A documentary-style look at the lives of office workers in Scranton, Pennsylvania, The Office takes ordinariness and turns it into comedy gold. It started life as a remake of a UK show, but this US take on The Office quickly became its own beast – particularly when it came to character development. Its longer run time allowed this version to go deeper into the dynamics between characters and this allowed us a better, longer look at what many people think is the shining highlight of the show: the romance between Jim and Pam.
Traditionally, will they/won't they couples like these two are fascinating while they’re flirting, but once they’re happy together, the show loses tension and so forces a breakup (looking at you, Ross and Rachel!). Not so here. Once Jim and Pam finally get together, the show lets them grow together rather than apart. It’s real, sweet, and romantic TV at its finest.
Where to watch: Google Play, iTunes
Gilmore Girls (The WB 2000- 2006, The CW 2007, Netflix 2016)
Gilmore Girls is known for its charm, starting with the fast-talking Gilmore Girls themselves: single mom Lorelai and her daughter Rory. Together, these women navigate life in the small town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut; dealing with the town’s quirky residents, work and school drama, and Lorelai’s uptight parents. There’s also romance – from Rory’s high school and college boyfriends to the big one: Lorelai’s friendship/romance with local diner owner Luke.
Rory’s relationships still ignite debate over who was her best boyfriend (hint: not Dean), yet the real romance comes from the Luke/Lorelai dynamic. Over seven seasons and a 2016 revival, the show makes you believe that, as a couple, they could be magnificent. If only the two of them could see it! That romantic possibility will have you watching this show over and over.
Where to watch: Netflix
Grace & Frankie (Netflix 2015 - )
Not all romantic TV shows need nubile young leads frolicking together. Grace & Frankie is sure proof of this. After finding out that their respective husbands are leaving them (for each other), hippie free spirit Frankie and Type-A business woman Grace have to learn how to be single again. They each find the other exasperating – but at the same time, they are also the only ones they know who can relate to their particular situation. So, they begin to support each other and soon find themselves starting to thrive as singles over 70.
One of the best things about this show is that it doesn’t neuter its older leads. Grace and Frankie’s love lives are treated as just as romantic and important as those of their more typically rom-com-aged children, and it is utterly refreshing. It’s inspiring too – indeed, if you’re dating after divorce or as an older single, this might just become a must-watch.
Where to watch: Netflix
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW 2015 - )
Don’t let the title put you off – Crazy Ex Girlfriend might just be one of the smartest, most interesting TV shows around. The crazy ex of the title is Rebecca Bunch, a bright, successful NYC lawyer who is secretly deeply unhappy with life. After running into Josh Chan, the boy who broke up with her when they were 16, a light sparks in Rebecca and she ends up following Josh to California, in the hopes of finding a new life (and love) with this man from her past. Of course, as the theme of the show says, it’s actually a lot more nuanced than that.
In a more typical romance, Rebecca’s love for Josh would win over everything, and we’d be asked to swallow the relationship despite its problematic issues. However, this show tackles those issues, asking us if such grand love is really healthy - or if it's more important to start loving yourself, first? On top of this refreshing take on the genre the show delivers something else amazing: it’s full of hilarious musical numbers that perfectly pastiche modern pop while also delivering belly laughs. It’s not just a great romantic show, it’s a great show, period.
Where to watch: CWTV, Netflix
Pushing Daisies (ABC 2007-2009)
Pushing Daisies is often mourned as one of those shows cancelled too soon. Nonetheless, it is still one of the most charmingly romantic TV shows out there. It follows Ned, a pie-maker who can bring the dead back to life with a touch. There is a catch though: a second touch means they go back to being dead. After Ned revives Chuck, his childhood best friend, she and he fall in love – but how can they make it work when they can never touch?
Full of bright colors, highly stylized sets, and a quirky sense of humor (Ned uses his powers to solve murders, the show is narrated like a fairy-tale), Pushing Daisies manages to take what could be a somber topic and makes it endearingly romantic. If you or your partner are Tim Burton fans, or if you want a one-of-a-kind love story, this is a must-watch.
Where to watch: CW Seed, Amazon Video
Sense8 (Netflix 2015 - 2018)
Whether you see Sense8 as sci fi heavy romance, or romance heavy sci fi, one thing is likely: you’ve never seen TV tackle love stories quite like these. Sense8 revolves around a group of eight strangers who are ‘sensates’ – they become emotionally and psychically linked to one another; able to communicate no matter where they are in the world. As the series progresses they must hide from shadowy organizations that mean to destroy them, using the group’s diversity to overcome the threat.
Yet the show is more than simple sci fi action. It’s an exploration of identity, of society, of religion, of gender, and of what it means to be human. It can also be very romantic: in fact, with a mix of LGBTQ and straight characters, all of whom find and explore love throughout the show, Sense8 makes the case that love and romance are essential parts of our humanity.
Where to watch: Netflix
Outlander (Starz 2014- )
Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels, Outlander is at once beautiful, dramatic, sensual, and deeply romantic. It begins in 1945 with Claire, a feisty nurse taking a Scottish honeymoon with her husband Frank. As she explores a set of standing stones, Claire vanishes from her time, and is transported back 200 years to the days of the Highland clans. There, she meets a young and handsome Highlander, Jaime, and quickly becomes entangled in a revolution. But can she find a way back to Frank? And, with Jaime around, does she even want to?
Unashamedly lush, Outlander is famed for its gorgeous depictions of the Scottish Highlands, its incredible costuming, and, perhaps most of all, for its steamy, electric love scenes. It’s not all petticoats, shirtlessness, and candlelight though: there’s also plenty of action and agony as Claire and Jaime try to fight the tides of history and preserve their love despite the odds.
Where to watch: Starz, Amazon Video
EliteSingles editorial November 2017