No sitcom on television can really survive without some kind of burgeoning romance. It’s possible to keep people interested with the right established couple, but the real gold is when a television show can chart the course of a new relationship. If that coupling is of the “will they, won’t they” variety, all the better. Of course, in the expansive history of the American sitcom, there are more than a fair share of awkward or forced couples who simply don’t work, no matter how much the creative talent behind the scenes wants them to. Join us, won’t you, as we take a look at 15 of these unfortunate mismatched couplings.
15. Penny and Leonard, ‘The Big Bang Theory’
The whole Penny and Leonard dynamic only works because they might be the two most shallow people ever to walk the planet. All he wants is a trophy and all she wants is security. Beyond that, these two people have absolutely nothing in common. They’re only together because he fawned over her obsessively for several seasons and she’s dim-witted and open to suggestion. It makes for good comedy, but these two would never work in real life.
14. Kevin and Winnie, ‘The Wonder Years’
In no way does this have anything to do with the fact that Winnie Cooper was the TV love my young life, but she and Kevin Arnold really stunk as a couple. Sure, your first love is rarely your last love, but was I the only viewer who thought Kevin Arnold was a thoughtless brat? She’s dealing with actual real world problems (her brother was killed in ‘Nam, folks!), and he’s just trying to get some. In short, she was the perfect girl next door and he didn’t know how good he had it. The nerd.
13. Ted and Stella, ‘How I Met Your Mother’
Poor Ted. Poor, poor Ted. At the point he met his dermatologist Stella, the guy was so desperate to get to his happy ending, he was willing to overlook a series of signs that they weren’t meant to be together. For example: her first impression of Ted was that he got drunk and got a butterfly tramp stamp. She turned him down for a date about ten times before agreeing. She basically forced him to move to New Jersey, a place he actively hated. She left him at the alter, then allowed her new husband to write a movie script in which Ted was made to look like the bad guy. In the end it was good that she left him, but it was still rough watching it happen.
12. Ross and Rachel, ‘Friends’
I know, they’re considered one of sitcom history’s shining romances, the ultimate will-they-won’t-they. But, guess what? Ross and Rachel suck together. He’s a whining nerd and she’s a vapid ninny. Sure, they’re hilarious to watch on screen … but only when they’re not together. So much of the show was wasted on the possibility of Ross and Rachel when couples of far more chemistry and far more obvious connections were all but skipped over. Joey and Phoebe were great together. Joey and Rachel worked, too. And yet, time and again, the show’s creators tried to push Ross and Rachel, the relationship equivalent of oil and vinegar. Also, they were totally on a break.
11. Niles and Daphne, ‘Frasier’
Okay, at some point you’re not acknowledging the increasingly obvious glances from your boss’ brother because the little guy creeps you out, not because you just don’t notice. Throughout Frasier, the ever-humble physical therapist/housekeeper Daphne is consistently put off by the Crane brothers’ snobbery. Yet, as soon as Niles’ affection for her are revealed, she somehow finds herself returning the affections. That’s a change of heart only a writer could dream up.
10. Liz and Wesley, ’30 Rock’
Sitcom history’s only settling soulmates, Liz Lemon and Wesley Snipes (no, not that Wesley Snipes) danced around each other for the better part of a season before she traded up for Matt Damon (yeah, that Matt Damon). The fact that they had no chemistry, that their bodies didn’t fit together, that they had nothing in common, and that they actively despised each other didn’t stop Wesley from actively pursuing his lady like. After all, he did need someone to make him look less gay at work functions.
9. Andy and Angela, ‘The Office (U.S.)’
Andy and Angela kind of defy explanation. When most terrible couples collide, you want things to end for the sake of the doomed participants. In the case of Andy and Angela, however, it’s hard to feel bad for either party, because they’re just so individually unpleasant. If you knew these people in real life, you’d likely just sit back and stare open-mouthed at their train wreck of a relationship rather than help either of them. Of course, just because they’re fun to watch doesn’t make their relationship any less terrible.
8. Ann and Tom, ‘Parks and Recreation’
Late in the otherwise flawless fourth season of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, the show’s writers made the extremely ill-advised decision to get Ann Perkins and Tom Haverford together, in spite of the fact that he could set her off by simply breathing in her general vicinity. Their entire relationship (or series of relationships if you kept count of the number of times they broke up and reunited) was one bad idea and one awkward joke after another.
7. Jackie and Fez, ‘That 70’s Show’
The relationship between Jackie and Fez seems more a matter of convenience than chemistry. Sure, he’d spent the whole series lusting after her, but that was hardly special. Fez would lust after anything with boobs. What’s more important is that she began the series hating him and that never really changed until all of her other romantic opportunities dried up. That’s to say nothing of the fact that their courtship was one of the most awkward and chemistry-free in TV history. She should have ended up with Hyde.
6. Rhoda and Joe, ‘Rhoda’
It almost seemed like Rhoda and Joe got married just so the writer’s could dash that relationship on the rocks. A mere eight weeks into Rhoda’s self-titled spin-off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she manages to convince a reluctant Joe that they should be married. While the wedding episode was one of the highest rated single episodes of television in the 1970s, the couple’s resultant relationship was nothing but rocky. As their relationship deteriorated into an eventual divorce, so did the show’s ratings.
5. Sam and Diane, ‘Cheers’
On the level, Sam Malone was an inveterate womanizer. But he still offered Diane Chambers a job when she had literally nothing else. Yet she still constantly treated him like a second class citizen, ultimately following her own interests regardless of how they shredded Sam. Of course, let’s not pretend Sam was a complete victim, here. He was so addicted to chasing tail that the odds of him ever being totally faithful were pretty slim.
4. Burns and Houlihan, ‘M.A.S.H.’
Okay, in all honesty, Frank Burns and Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan certainly work. They’re both slavishly dedicated to their jobs, they both believe in decorum and duty, and they both feel surrounded, excluded, and alone in their Korean War postings. But they really suck as people, so it’s hard to root for their inclusion. Just the thought of them being intimate is so gross it has the potential of ruining the whole war for everybody.
3. Joanie and Chachi, ‘Happy Days’
Let’s start here: fans of Happy Days didn’t want to see Joanie end up with Chachi. They didn’t want to see her end up with anyone, really, because it was hard to watch the world’s best little sister grow up at all. Chachi was a total pipsqueak with near stalker-like tendencies who was an unnecessary addition to Happy Days (also, Scott Baio … not very talented). The fact that these two got their own ill-advised spin-off was shocking. What wasn’t shocking was that the show was cancelled after 17 episodes before the couple was folded back into Happy Days.
2. Jerry and Elaine, ‘Seinfeld’
Exactly how much awful is it possible to squeeze into one relationship? Throughout the nine season run of Seinfeld, the writers occasionally had Jerry and Elaine flirt with (and occasionally commit to) the idea of a relationship. Sure, they’re extremely similar in a vapid, cruel, self-involved kind of way, but does the world really need these two people combining forces? Can you imagine the destruction this pairing would wreak on the world? I shudder at the thought.
1. Ralph and Alice, ‘The Honeymooners’
Watching Audrey Meadows and Jackie Gleason take on a disgruntled blue collar marriage was not only scathingly funny when it premiered in 1955, it was also borderline revolutionary comedy. All that praise aside, if you actually lived next to The Honeymooners, you’d pray for their imminent divorce. Not only was the couple constantly bickering in their dilapidated kitchen, but Gleason routinely threatened his wife with domestic violence. Add to that the fact that Alice Kramden was way too good for Ralph and you’ve got a disaster of a couple just barely scraping by.
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