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The best TV couples of all time

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The drawing board on Selection Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Zach Goins)

The following was taken from my article for The Daily Tar Heel. 

By Zach Goins

Ah, love is in the air.

Everywhere you look you see human-sized teddy bears, bouquets of roses and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Unfortunately, not everybody gets these delicious goodies.

It’s not like the good ol’ days in elementary school where everyone got valentines and candy.

Nowadays, you just head to CVS, buy yourself a jumbo pack of Reese’s and hop in bed for a Netflix marathon. Which, to be honest, sounds 10 times better than all of Cupid’s favorite cliches.

But even in the safe haven of your favorite television shows you can’t help but notice all of the adorable couples.

Now, I’m not just talking about any old TV couple — I’m talking about the couples that revolutionized television romance.

Those couples you were so invested in that their future felt like your own.

Those couples who truly define #relationshipgoals.

Using an intense algorithm that takes into account strength of schedule (how many other couples they compete with in the show), length of relationship, whether the couple ends up together, whether they’ve been with someone else on the show and whether they’ve ever broken up, I’ve seeded the top 10 couples and performed a bracket to determine the ultimate television romance.

So, Zach Goins Productions proudly presents “Valentine’s Day Madness: The Best TV Couples of All Time.”

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Lost,” “That ‘70s Show” and “Modern Family.”

The Seeding

(1) Lily and Marshall (“How I Met Your Mother”)

Talk about a power couple. Lily and Marshall are the clear front-runner in the tournament.

It was love at first sight for Lilypad and Marshmallow during their first year of college in 1996. We only saw seven episodes out of the entire 208 where the two weren’t together.

We met them as a unit and that’s how we knew them, pretty much from the pilot until the finale.

Plus, with all of the couples in the series, they remain a constant for viewers, which makes for a great strength of schedule.

(2) Jim and Pam (“The Office”)

Another fan favorite that earned a high seeding, Jim and Pam defined relationship goals in the workplace.

From the first kiss at the end of season two to the impromptu wedding in season six to the relationship struggles in season nine and everything in between, virtually everyone was rooting for Jim and Pam to end up together. Unlike Lily and Marshall, we don’t meet Jim and Pam as a couple, which plays a big role in our investment in them as a couple, as we spend three seasons hoping and praying for them to finally get the timing right and date.

However, there aren’t many other prominent couples in “The Office,” so Jam/Pim have a weak strength of schedule.

(3) Andy and April (“Parks and Recreation”)

I guess it’s true. Opposites really do attract.

Against all odds, Andy and April somehow work together perfectly. Andy’s puppy-like curiosity and excitement for life combined with April’s dark, apathetic personality and hatred for everything combines to make one of the most hilarious and entertaining couples on TV.

However, they’ve both dated other characters on the show and don’t start dating until season three, which puts them at a disadvantage when compared to other couples.

Their strong strength of schedule helps them out though, as there are lots of quality couples in Pawnee.

(4) Coach Taylor and Tami (“Friday Night Lights”)

Texas’ royal family, Coach Eric and Tami Taylor run the town of Dillon.

While Eric coaches the Dillon High School football team, Tami runs things in the front office as the principal and guidance counselor.

The Taylors work together as a team, always giving each other advice and keeping their spouse’s best interest at heart. Tami acts as Eric’s rock while Eric will always stand up for Tami.

Together, the two experience the pressures of big-time Texas high school football while still keeping their family strong, even if it means giving up their own dreams — like when Eric resigns from his job as a college coach to return to his family.

They’ve been together since their early 20s, all five seasons of the show and surpass all of the show’s teenage couples as the true role model relationship.

(5) Leslie and Ben (“Parks and Recreation”)

When you talk about a power couple, you can’t not mention Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt. They truly have the power. Ben ends up in the U.S. House of Representatives while Leslie may or may not be running for president.

Not to mention, they overcome the odds against their workplace relationship and get to live happily ever after. The two start dating in season two and get married in season five, and are still happily married with children in season seven, which is similar to their competition on Pawnee, Andy and April.

They have a strong strength of schedule, but both have been romantically involved with others in the show.

(6) Ted and Tracy (“How I Met Your Mother”)

This couple had serious potential to be a number one seed, but the fact we only get to actually see Ted and Tracy together for one episode dropped them in the rankings.

Sure, the two are literally perfect for each other, as we see “The Mother” throughout season nine and learn all about her quirks that go perfectly with Ted’s.

Yeah, the finale covers like 15 years, so they’re together for a much longer time than we think, but because of how little we see them together, I can’t rank them any higher.

Maybe this is just me being salty about Tracy’s death — you know, how they ripped the one thing Ted ever wanted away from him and broke all of the viewers’ hearts — but I don’t hold grudges.

(7) Eric and Donna (“That ‘70s Show”)

A classic romance in a simpler time. Eric was in love with Donna ever since she moved in next door when he was a little kid.

We get to see their relationship start in the pilot and blossom over the seasons, but it has its ups and downs — the two break up quite a few times as they each want to pursue their own dreams, and those involve moving away from each other.

As a result, they both see other people in the show, which takes away some major points on the Goins Scale.

However, in the end, Eric returns to Point Place and the finale implies that the two get back together to start off the ‘80s. But, because of the uncertainty in their relationship and the fact that pretty much everyone in the show dates/hooks up with each other at some point, Eric and Donna may have trouble in the tournament.

(8) Desmond and Penny (“Lost”)

One of my favorite episodes of television ever revolves around this couple, so I may be a little biased here.

Desmond and Penny fell in love and were always fully committed to each other, despite various obstacles keeping them apart for years at a time.

Penny literally does whatever it takes to track Desmond down and rescue him, as she searches for years after his boat crashes on the island.

Desmond has loved Penny for over 10 years and always wanted to marry her, but kept her best interest at heart when he realized he wasn’t able to provide for her — but that didn’t stop him from caring.

There are lots of other couples on “Lost,” but none of them are as constant as these two (except Rose and Bernard, but they’re in a league of their own).

(9) Mitch and Cam (“Modern Family”)

Again, opposites attract. Mitch and Cam may give Andy and April a run for their money when it comes to couples that are total opposites.

Mitch is cool, calm and collected, while Cam is flamboyant and quite possibly the most extra human being on earth. But together, they form the perfect couple as they’re constantly able to balance each other out.

Cam reminds Mitch to enjoy life and have fun while Mitch helps Cam keep his cool and make level-headed decisions.

Audiences have known them as a couple since day one, and it’s impossible to imagine one without the other.

“Modern Family” is full of strong, committed couples who give Mitch and Cam some tough competition, plus they’ve never broken up.

(10) Sawyer and Juliet (“Lost”)

Another island romance, Sawyer and Juliet were jungle soulmates.

In season five, they are left behind on the island after the others escape and the island is transported back in time, the two assimilate to a peaceful life working for the Dharma Initiative, living together and falling in love.

Everything goes wonderfully until Jack, Kate and the gang show back up and everything gets flipped upside down.

The show makes it clear in the finale that Suliet was meant to be, as Sawyer is absolutely devastated after Juliet’s death.

After they remember their past on the island and “move on” together, it’s quite clear they were soulmates. However, the whole love quadrangle thing between Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Juliet kind of throws off their relationship in addition to the fact that it was only over the course of pretty much one season.

The Bracket

tv couples bracket

The Winner

Lily and Marshall (“How I Met Your Mother”)

There you have it folks, the best TV couples of all time: Lily and Marshall.

They support each other until the end, as Marshall agrees to move to Rome with Lily so she can pursue her dream, and then Lily returns the favor to help Marshall become a judge in Queens.

Even though they had a brief break up, they both realized they weren’t truly happy without the other. They always work through their problems, even if they sometimes require a pause.

As we can see in later seasons and flash forwards, the two live happily ever after with their three children.

It’s official, Lilypad and Marshmallow are #TVRelationshipGoals.

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Zach Goins View All

Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.

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