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Seven Romantic Cliches on TV

by Kim Potts, posted Feb 11th 2011 4:30PM
Moonlighting With Valentine's Day almost upon us, we're turning to -- where else? -- the tube for inspiration on all things romantic.

Oh sure, love in prime time has always been littered with cliché after cliché, but you have to admit -- TV land's couples also have a whole lot of happy endings under their belts.

So here, from odd couples and shrewish women to love triangles and TV jerks and the women who love them, TV's most enduring love clichés:

'The Taming of the Shrew' Couples
Let's say this upfront: No one exemplifies this romantic TV cliché more than 'Moonlighting' duo Maddie and David, who even starred in 'Atomic Shakespeare,' a classic episode of the '80s dramedy that cleverly spoofed both their relationship and 'The Taming of the Shrew.'

But Maddie's hardly the only haughty leading boob-tube lady who's been brought down to earth by a more down-to-earth guy. Among our other faves: scholarly Diane and bartender / former jock Sam on 'Cheers'; uptight detective Beckett, who is committed to appearing unimpressed by the titular confident, handsome, successful crime author she's forced to work with on 'Castle'; advertising exec Angela and her male housekeeper-turned lover Tony on 'Who's the Boss?'; by-the-book CTU head Michelle and her underling (and eventual hubby) Tony on '24'; P.I. agency owner Laura and rogue con man-turned-private eye Remington on 'Remington Steele'; uber-serious Lilith and Frasier Crane on 'Cheers'; rigid Britta and self-obsessed Jeff on 'Community'; and, during one brief, but memorable hook-up, crabby nurse Hot Lips and irreverent doc Hawkeye on 'M*A*S*H.'



Is He/She Really Going Out With Her/Him?
You know the couples, the ones who appear to be a mismatch, at least from a physical point of view, and by the usual societal standards. Husky guys with hot wives, like Doug and Carrie on 'The King of Queens,' Jim and Cheryl on 'According to Jim,' Ralph and Alice on 'The Honeymooners,' Homer and Marge Simpson and Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Larry and CherylOr the doofy-looking guy with the hot wife, like Ray and Debra on 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' Meathead and Gloria on 'All in the Family,' Larry and Cheryl on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' Charlotte and Harry on 'Sex and the City,' Tobias and Lindsay on 'Arrested Development,' Bob with Emily on 'The Bob Newhart Show' and Joanna on 'Newhart,' Al and Peg on 'Married ... with Children,' and, in a reverse of the cliché, Al and Peg's neighbors, Marcy and her hunky hubby Jefferson.

And, one of our favorite clichés, the one that's a sub-cliché of "Is He/She Really Going Out With Her/Him?": the "I Totally Get Why He/She Is Going Out With Her/Him," wherein the unlikely couples aren't really so unlikely when you dig a little deeper. Doug and Carrie, for instance? He's super funny and endearing, and she's, well, kinda super-nasty and alienating. Ditto geek/babe couples like Seth and Summer on 'The O.C.' and Chuck and Sarah on 'Chuck'; we can almost guarantee that there are just as many fans who will vouch for the adorkableness of those fellas as there are those who drool over Seth and Chuck's TV ladies.



Jim and Pam, The OfficeThe "Just Tell Her/Him Already!" Couples
If Jim had only given Pam that letter he wrote her with his Secret Santa gift! If only Pam had admitted her feelings for him when he worked up the courage to plant a killer smooch on her during 'Casino Night'! Alas, one of our most favorite ever TV couples would have been together a lot sooner, though, admittedly, we would have missed out on some delicious build-up to their eventual coupledom on 'The Office.' Kudos, 'Office' writers, though, man, did we want to hurl things at the TV on several occasions.

And that's been the case for many a great TV twosome, whether it's the years of engagements, other spouses and plain old stubbornness that stood between 'Gilmore Girls' couple Luke and Lorelai, 'Frasier's' Niles and Daphne and 'Friends' supercouple Ross and Rachel.



Buffy and AngelOpposites Attract ...
Just look at 'The Big Bang Theory' geek Leonard with slightly daffy aspiring actress Penny, wrong side of the tracks Ryan with rich chick Marissa on 'The O.C.,' vampire slayer Buffy with vampires Angel and Spike and human healer Dr. Tara with bad boy biker/killer Jax on 'Sons of Anarchy,' to name just a few.



... But So Do Like-Minded Dorks
Nothing warms the couch potato heart like a pair of TV misfits joining together to make one endearing duo of dorkiness. Examples: Chandler and Monica on 'Friends,' a couple that started out as a one-time plot point but made such perfect sense that they eventually stole the coupledom thunder from Ross and Rachel; on-again/off-again dating docs J.D. and Elliott, the 'Scrubs' pair so hilariously neurotic that they couldn't possibly end up with anyone else; kindly, geekly, cutely perfect together Henry and Betty on 'Ugly Betty' (until that show's writers took Henry's story in a bad direction); and perfectionist chef Sookie and her vegetable man Jackson on 'Gilmore Girls.'

And, if 'The Office' writers want to make it up to those of us who shed more than a tear or two while waiting for the aforementioned hook-up of the Halperts, 'Office' geeks Michael Scott and his HR heroine Holly will ride off into the TV land sunset together before Steve Carell bids the series adieu at the end of the current season. Because those two crazy, Yoda-imitating, Jon Lovitz-loving kids belong together.




The Love Triangle
The main appeal of the love triangle for TV writers? They don't have to commit to a couple without first learning which pairing viewers like best. The main appeal of the love triangle for TV viewers? It turns tube romance into a pseudo sporting event, where we pick sides and argue, sometimes bitterly, with one another on the Interwebs about which two fictional lov-ahs are meant to be.

Lost Jack kate SawyerWhich couple did you root for in the Dawson/Joey/Pacey affair on 'Dawson's Creek'? The Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle on 'Lost'? 'Beverly Hills 90210's' Brenda/Dylan/Kelly and Dylan/Kelly/Brandon dramas? Ally/Billy/Georgia on 'Ally McBeal'? 'Gilmore Girls' triangles Dean/Rory/Jess and Luke/Lorelai/Christopher?

There are also the triangles that exist purely for the drama, of course. Did anyone really want Vaughn to be with Lauren instead of Sydney on 'Alias'? Or Mr. Big to stay with his "idiot stick figure with no soul" Natasha, instead of Carrie, on 'Sex and the City'? Or for Carrie to end up Aleksandr Petrovsky? Dr. Addison instead of Meredith for Dr. McDreamy on 'Grey's Anatomy'? And, though everyone involved has been unlikable at some point, is there anyone who really thought prickly Angela should be with Andy instead of her bobblehead babe Dwight on 'The Office'?

And let's not forget TV's current triangles, namely Stefan/Elena/Damon on 'The Vampire Dairies,' the Rachel/Finn/Quinn triangle that threatens to pop up once again and, one of the most unusual TV triangles ever, Livia/Peter/Fauxlivia on 'Fringe.'



The Bad Boy With a Heart of Gold and the Woman Who Loves Him
Ladies, who among us has not had a little thing for a bad boy at one time or another? They're jerks, but they're also fun, funny, smart or just plain interesting, and TV writers know it's a sure thing when a well-written, layered bad boy character meets with a great actor to portray him.

Burn NoticeLike 'Burn Notice's' Michael Westen, a hero by any measure, but also a guy who can be insensitive to the ladies who love him, from girlfriend Fiona to mama Maddie; 'Californication''s Hank Moody, a brilliant writer, funny guy and, we're assuming from the string of women he's bedded, pretty talented in the boudoir, but, to shorthand it, kind of a d-bag; '24's' Jack Bauer, a character so brave and committed to his anti-terrorist job that even his fictional presence made the real world feel just a little bit safer, but who, to his friends, family and the usually ill-fated women who fell in love with him, could be emotionally unavailable and obsessed with work above all else.

We can keep going: There's 'True Blood's' Eric, who would sacrifice himself for Sookie, but who, well, hates humans; Ari from 'Entourage,' a devoted family man and friend to clients like Vinnie Chase, but also a loud-mouthed lout who is intentionally insulting and demeaning to those in his employ, male and female; and Tommy from 'Rescue Me,' one of the most heroic fireman in the fictional NYFD, but a guy who can't keep his pants zipped or a whiskey bottle out of his hand, even if his life depends on it.

And, of course, the gold standard of TV jerks who managed to be, in their own ways, lovable: Archie Bunker, the 'All in the Family' dad who was a hard worker, devoted family man and patriotic American, but whose racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic spoutings were so outrageous that he likely made those who shared his opinions reconsider their philosophies.




And what are your favorite and least favorite TV romance clichés?

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lanoir19

How could you forget the MOST EPIC couple of all time???? CHUCK AND BLAIR!!!!! they fit into like esch category cuz theyre THAT good!!! love them!

April 08 2011 at 6:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rtc316

I always liked the monica/chandler coupling much better than ross/rachel. And the Diane/Sam pairing was awesome...one of my favorite tv couples was cliff and claire huxtable...they always stuck together, laughed alot, and always seemed hot for each other, even after all those kids. I also liked roseanne and dan connor...they seemed like a real couple couple, exept with a lot more laughs.

February 12 2011 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
broca387

Olivia/Peter/Fauxlivia and Rachel/Finn/Quinn are vomit-inducing. After this week's Fringe and Glee, Peter and Finn need to get the stupid slapped out of them. The 2 most unnecessary love triangles on TV.

February 11 2011 at 10:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to broca387's comment
noseless_wonder

I'm confused. Do you mean tonight's Fringe? Or last week? Peter wasn't in tonight's episode at all - and they majorly complicated things even more than they were.

February 12 2011 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
noseless_wonder

It's interesting that you mentioned Jack/Kate/Sawyer in Lost because I just finished watching the series from beginning to end. As much as I loved the series, even the ending, I never got hooked by the love triangle. My reaction was an indifferent shrug every time Kate switched between Jack and Sawyer. I guess it's a good thing they didn't rely on that element alone to drive the show.

On the other hand, the Olivia/Peter/Fauxlivia triangle on Fringe is weird, but it's driving me crazy! It's one of those situations that has no winner, and I feel bad for each character.

February 11 2011 at 5:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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