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 by turning on your TV or firing up a streaming service – our latest survey shows that TV romances can be very inspiring! In fact, 66% of Canadians 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 300 Canadians, 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. One word of caution – there’s a spoiler alert in place for the TV shows below!

Feeling the love? Keep it going with these 12 romantic TV shows!

The top 10 best TV couples according to Canadians

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. Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables)

One of Prince Edward Island’s most beloved exports, the feisty, dreamy Anne Shirley is ever the romantic – whether in a novel, on TV, or on film. However, no adaption is perhaps quite as renowned as CBC Television’s 1985 mini-series (and its 1987 sequel). Here, Megan Follows truly is Anne (with an e!), while the late Jonathan Crombie plays the perfect Gilbert Blythe. Whether these two are bickering in class, begrudgingly becoming friends, or realizing at last that they belong to each other, they have enduring appeal.

In this iconic scene, Anne’s boat has sunk and – of all the people who could rescue her – along comes her academic rival Gilbert. This is possibly the first big clue that real romance might lie at the heart of the sparks that fly between them.

8. 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.1

7. 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 realised 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 falling in love to a song at his sister’s wedding. You can almost see the chemistry.

6. William and Julia (Murdoch Mysteries)

The second Canadian TV couple to make the top 10, William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy) are perfectly matched, both as criminal investigators and as lovers. Yet, that doesn’t mean their relationship has been an easy ride! Despite this couple being beloved by audiences, ‘Jilliam’ (as they are known by fans) have found obstacle after obstacle on their path to love. In recent seasons, they have finally become a married, mystery-solving couple – but given the huge cliff-hanger in the most recent finale, who knows if that will last!

In this clip (much like with Mulder and Scully at #8), a couple is finally kissing as a new century dawns around them. For William and Julia, this season 5 kiss is a signal that, perhaps, they are finally ready to embrace a shared future.

5. Lucy and Ricky (I Love Lucy)

A classic television duo, Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky (Desi Arnaz) have been making best TV couple lists since 1951. Looking at their show now, it’s hard to conceptualize just how revolutionary it once was: here was an interracial couple in love on American TV 16 years before it was even legal in all 50 states. 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. Ricky will forever be the perfect straight-man foil to Lucy’s screwball antics.

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, and this was their way to announce it to the world.

4. Jim and Pam (The Office)

When NBC’s The Office was first adapted for a US audience, many 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 couples on TV. But, over 9 seasons, the US 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 – it’s just a gas station in the rain – but it is a moment that has become TV legend.

3. Sam and Diane (Cheers)

A lot of the ultimate TV couples have one thing in common – the delicious tension of a will-they/won’t-they, on-again/off-again romance. Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) embody 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 interesting thing is that this didn’t put people off. Despite things 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. 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.

1. Ross and Rachel (Friends)

And so we come to best TV couple of all. For those who watched TV in the 90s, it should come as no surprise that number one is from NBC’s ever-iconic Friends – its Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Their love may have had its ups and downs, but it would seem Canadians still think he’s her lobster, even 14 years after Friends went off the air.

As it turns out, their era-defining TV romance may be perennially popular for a reason: it fits several of the relationship templates Canadians like to see on TV. 33% of those surveyed pick will-they/won’t-they as the ultimate type of TV romance, 31% opt instead for a happily-ever-after ending, and 21% think on-again/off-again is number one. In fact, there’s only one mould Ross and Rachel don’t fit: the tragic ending, a favourite for 10%.

In this clip, it’s the moment 90s’ romantics were waiting for with baited 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.

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!

The best TV couples: have your say [poll]

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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]




TV clips and characters are owned by the following networks:

Modern Family: ABC
Anne of Green Gables: CBC Television
The X-Files: Fox
Gilmore Girls: The WB/The CW
Murdoch Mysteries: CBC Television
I Love Lucy: CBS
The Office: NBC
Cheers: NBC
Sex and the City: HBO
Friends: NBC


About the author: Sophie Watson

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