From Carrie and Big to Ross and Rachel, compelling couples are often at the heart of any must-see TV show. Whether it’s “Will they or won’t they?” drama or a rollercoaster love story that keeps us watching, the best TV couples typically bring no shortage of pass-the-popcorn moments.
And their impact can ripple offscreen, too—diverse representations of love (like Callie and Arizona from “Gray’s Anatomy” or Agustin and Eddie from “Looking”) can be particularly powerful for those in marginalized communities. For LGBTQ+ folks, they may have seen the first relationship that looked like the one they wanted on TV before they ever saw it modeled in real life.
But before we get too idealistic here, it’s necessary to state that not every relationship shown on television makes a positive impact. Watch any episode of “90 Day Fiance,” and you’re sure to see that all relationship representation is not good representation. And if the “Real Housewives” franchise has taught us anything, it’s that toxicity thrives on TV, but marriages don’t always fare so well.
For as much relationship dysfunction as television has brought into mainstream society, there are still some positive role models found in on-screen romance. We don’t love these relationships because they’re perfect; we love them because they’re relatable. Relationships aren’t perfect but the best TV couples have made us laugh, cry, and shown us what healthy partnerships can look like!
Here are our picks for six of the best TV couples who showed us #RelationshipGoals:
Dwayne Wade and Whitley Gilbert from “A Different World”
Dwayne and Whitley perfectly embody the title of this beloved 80s show, as it’s hard to imagine two characters who hail from more different worlds. Dwayne is a native New Yorker from a working-class family, while Whitley is a Southern belle with a snobbish attitude and expensive taste. The two first meet at Hillman College when Dwayne tries to date Whitley’s then-roommate Denise, and their unlikely but beautiful relationship develops from there.
Personal growth and development are key to this on-screen duo’s love story. In Seasons One and Two, Whitley’s haughty upbringing has her focused on acquiring a wealthy husband. Over the course of the show, this unlikely pair develops a strong friendship and their chemistry as more than pals practically jumps off the screen.
Dwayne and Whitley are among the best TV couples of all-time because of how much they learn from each other. Dr. Tykeia N. Robinson sums it up best in ESSENCE writing, “Dwayne helped Whitley to see that she had more to offer the world than her beauty and social standing. Similarly, Whitley taught Dwayne that real love requires time, patience, perseverance, sacrifice, and compromise.”
Cory Matthews and Topanga Matthews from “Boy Meets World”
Ask any Millennial who grew up watching “TGIF,” and Cory and Topanga were probably one of the first couples they shipped. Like any middle school sweethearts, these two started off with a playful distaste for each other. Topanga was the lovable weirdo who certainly marched the beat of her own drum, while Cory desperately wanted to be cool. That all changed when Topanga memorably pinned Cory against a locker and kissed him. Topanga’s take-charge approach would continue to buck against tired relationship tropes of women’s subservience.
Audiences watched as this duo grew up and realized that their feelings for each other weren’t just platonic. We screamed at the TV when Cory kissed Lauren during their high school ski trip. When Topanga discovered a letter Lauren wrote to Cory confessing her feelings, Topanga pinned Cory against the locker for some answers.
By each going on a date with other people, this best TV couple realizes that they can’t live without each other. They get back together just in time for their prom. Topanga once again bucks tradition when she proposes to Cory at their high school graduation at the end of Season Five. Happily ever after? Not quite. The couple endures the real-life challenges of college, and Topanga’s parents divorce. This leads them to couples counseling that strengthens their long time-bond before eventually tying the knot in Season Seven.
David Rose & Patrick Brewer on “Schitt’s Creek”
Any fan of “Schitt’s Creek” may say that David and Patrick’s relationship is simply the best in TV history. David’s bad luck in love and neurotic tendencies have been well-documented by the time he meets Patrick midway through Season Three. After a series of awkward voicemails from David, Patrick shows he has the patience to find the charm in David’s passion-driven behavior. Patrick becomes David’s business partner, and it’s soon clear that the two are destined for more than just a professional partnership.
While their first kiss left us swooning, most fans will challenge anyone to stay dry-eyed during Patrick’s acoustic performance of “Simply The Best” that he dedicates to David in the sixth episode of Season Four. In this episode, we see Patrick’s vulnerability soften David’s tough exterior. The warmth between these two continues to grow as they tackle the challenges of moving in together, getting engaged, planning a wedding, and continuing to run a business together. May we all dream of someone telling us, “You’re my Mariah Carey.”
Cameron Hamilton & Lauren Speed from “Love is Blind”
“The Bachelor” franchise has certainly produced more successful Instagram influencers than it has bred happy and lasting relationships, but not all reality romances are doomed.
From the moment Netflix debuted “Love Is Blind,” the concept seemed too wacky to work. Viewers grabbed their popcorn and buckled in for another wild ride of reality TV dating shenanigans—and we got them with villain Jessica and the epic fight between Diamond and Carlton. But the show also had its share of heartwarming success stories, not the least of which is Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed (who may just be one of the best TV couples to come from the reality sector
The sparks flew between Lauren and Cameron quickly. Their conversations flowed naturally and it was clear that they were at similar stages in life, both ready to commit to the right partner. And now that they’re married, they continue to display the same maturity and openness that drew them together in the first place.
The couple, now authors of a book on unconventional love, say that weekly marriage meetings keep their communication smooth and their goals aligned. With humor and lightheartedness, the couple discusses appointments for the week, plans, deadlines, and upcoming content for their YouTube channel. The Hamiltons’ love may have been blind, but their commitment to healthy communication is certainly 20/20.
Overton Jones and Synclaire James of “Living Single”
If there’s anything Synclaire loves more than her troll dolls, it’s her Obie. “Living Single” fans can’t help but find Synclaire’s wide-eyed optimism endearing, especially alongside her more cynical co-stars. The person who could just eat Synclaire’s eternal cheer up with a spoon? Overton, of course.
As the brownstone’s handyman and Kyle’s long-time best friend, Overton starts as more of a secondary character alongside the show’s four single protagonist women. As the show goes on and Overton’s admiration for Synclaire grows, the audience is certainly rooting for Synclaire to be “living married” to Overton.
These two kind-hearted goofy characters shine because of their ability to let each other be themselves. Rather than ever trying to change each other, they celebrate their individuality and sometimes quirky interests. Their unique combination of positivity and grounded sensibility make them one of the best TV couples to come out of the 90s sitcom era.
Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt from “Parks and Recreation”
People watching the first few episodes of “Parks and Recreation” may have thought the chances of Leslie Knope being part of one of the best TV couples had a likelihood of NOPE. When Ben Wyatt joins the show in Season Two, it’s clear the clash between him and Leslie could turn into an “opposites attract” situation.
Leslie’s passion softens Ben’s somewhat rigid adherence to structure and practicality. As their relationship grows from strictly professional to “The Bubble,” we begin to see more of Ben’s fun side. The two are forced to keep their romantic relationship private. When that is no longer possible, Ben resigns to save Leslie’s job. This selfless act recognizes Leslie’s love and commitment to the work that she does in Pawnee. It seems only fitting that the two would later wed in the Parks Department.
Which couples should we add to our list for future editions? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know! Oh, and while you’re at it, sign up for early access to the forthcoming Keepler dating app here.