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Love, Television Style

Romance on TV generally sucks. Soap Operas ruin most of it, since love can't be an ending on a show that never ends—so nothing ends happily, no one stays together, no one can resist the wiles of a hermaphroditic demon patch-eyed midget. But the regular network offerings don't do much better. Too often, we're subjected to the likes of Dawson's Creek's Dawson and Joey (hey, look, obsessive stalking works, kids!) or Friends' Ross and Rachel (who actually started strong, but then everyone stopped caring, and no one mentioned this to the producers).

And honestly, some of the best couples on TV aren't couples in the romantic sense. Felix and Oscar. Chandler and Joey. Michael Knight and KITT. Xena and Gabrielle. Burns and Smithers. (Okay, those last two—maybe three—may need to be on another list, but still.)

Still, somehow, the stars will sometime align in order to create memorable TV romances. Some are worth noting, even though they didn't make my top five: Buffy and Angel, Ralph and Alice Kramden, Paul and Jaime Buchman, Archie and Edith Bunker, Miss Piggy and Kermit. All these couples get to me—but there are five that do it better than the rest:

Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper, The Wonder Years. This was one of the most real depictions of young love ever to grace the small screen—and the fact that they didn't end up together in the end makes it all the more bittersweet. Danica McKellar can appear on How I Met Your Mother as a coquettish threesome-seeking chick all she wants (seriously, Danica...all you want….), but in the end, she'll always be Winnie to me.

David Addison and Maddie Hayes, Moonlighting. Okay, take out the self-indulgent fourth-wall breaking, the occasional showcase for Bruce Willis' musical "talents", and the turbulent ego-driven behind-the-scenes nonsense, and you still have one of the funniest romances in TV history. Moonlighting was ostensibly a detective show, but it wasn't really—this was all about romance. And it contained the best flirtatious banter since Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy got together in the 19th century.

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Sam Malone and Diane Chambers, Cheers. Okay, not the most realistic of couples, I grant you, but how can you have a discussion about TV couples without them? They're ubiquitous, and like most ubiquity, may not exemplify the best of their breed just because they're its most famous example. Still, Sam and Diane define the will-they-won't-they dynamic relied on so heavily by many sitcoms that followed. What still holds up more than anything with Sam and Diane is their early attraction, and much later, their breakup. When Diane is leaving, Sam tells her "have a good life." Diane protests, claims that she's coming back, coming back to him. He says okay, and watches her leave and skip up the steps outside the bar window for the last time, and quietly repeats, "Have a good life." Still gets me.

Jim Halfert and Pam Beasley, The Office. These two were better before they actually got together, but then this is true of the best of TV romances. Something gets lost when two characters give into their obvious attraction and finally get together. Whether or not this show can keep their Office romance working is anyone's guess, but even if it takes a backseat now to the great ensemble cast this show boasts, we'll always have the Booze Cruise.

Homer and Marge Simpson, The Simpsons. It would be unpossible for me to end this short list without mentioning perhaps the most romantic couple in animation. These two represent marriage at least as well as Claire and Cliff Huxtable, but they do it on a single income, low-salary budget. If anyone reading this is looking for a couple of role-models for a good marriage, then I suggest that they say to Homer and Marge: I choo choo choose you.

-- Teague Bohlen

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