Prime Time Love: Famous TV Couples

An old-fashioned valentine card with a TV set saying 'You're my valentine on any channel'
Over the past 70 years, prime time television has been inhabited by thousands of loving couples who’ve had to navigate either comedic or dramatic situations in order to stay together. Therefore, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve compiled a list of a few memorable duos who have graced the small screen.

Lucy & Ricky Ricardo: a zany redhead from upstate New York and a Cuban bandleader teamed up to produce and star in I Love Lucy, a half-hour comedy which dominated the ratings from 1951 to 1957. Keith Thibodeaux, who played their son Little Ricky, told me that Lucy and Desi fought like cats and dogs at home, but when the cameras were rolling, all was well with the world.

Rob & Laura Petrie: on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), network censors insisted that this young couple sleep in separate beds, but sparks still flew between them. Dick told me he was so nervous about starting the series, that he showed up on the first day of filming, sporting three cold sores, and had to kiss Mary Tyler Moore. Any marriage that can survive that can survive anything.

Ann Marie & Donald Hollinger: I admit it, I had a crush on Marlo Thomas, so That Girl became a guilty pleasure for me from 1965 to 1971. They were the perfect couple, where one partner was fully supportive of the other. Even so, Marlo wanted to demonstrate that a woman could succeed without being married, so she waited until the last season to let Ann get engaged to Don (played by Ted Bessell).

Bob & Emily Hartley: Since Ann and Don got engaged in 1971, I was free to transfer my affections to Suzanne Pleshette the following year. The Bob Newhart Show provided a perfect format for Bob’s Dr. Hartley, who could counsel his quirky patients by day, and smooch with Emily by night. The series ran from 1972 to 1978, but Bob and Emily remained a couple long afterward, as evidenced by Pleshette’s surprise cameo in the finale of Newhart’s later series, Newhart.

Jim Longworth with Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley of 'The Jeffersons'Louise & George Jefferson: I interviewed Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford back in 1977, and was surprised to find that, unlike the characters they played on The Jeffersons (1975-1985), the couple sort of swapped roles in real life. For example, George did a lot of yelling and screaming in front of the camera, but off-screen, his alter ego was somewhat shy. Louise was the perfect foil for George, and the two were great together.

Jonathan & Jennifer Hart: What could be more romantic than an attractive, wealthy couple solving crimes together? Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers had great chemistry on screen, which explains the enduring popularity of Hart to Hart, first as a weekly show (1979 to 1984), then as a series of TV movies (1993-1996). RJ told me that the biggest problem with their love scenes was staying focused while their dog Freeway’s handler shouted out commands.

Elyse & Steven Keaton: a young Michael J. Fox might have stolen the show, but his Family Ties parents were the coolest former hippies on TV. Meredith Baxter told me she once asked her producer to let Elyse have an affair, and he refused, saying, “Steven could do that, but not Elyse.” Maybe so, but in real life, Michael Gross jokingly told me he was raised not to have sex until he was 30. The show ran from 1982 to 1989, and today Meredith and Michael are still good friends. They even share the same birthday.

Claire & Cliff Huxtable: So long as Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad were together, NBC owned Thursday nights. The Cosby Show aired from 1984 to 1992, and was also strong in re-runs, until the real-life Dr. Cosby was convicted of multiple sexual assaults, and sent to prison. It’s a shame that this groundbreaking comedy has been tainted by Cosby’s personal behavior, but fortunately you can still enjoy the sparks between Claire and Cliff on YouTube.

Dan & Roseanne Conner: speaking of a show tainted by the star’s personal behavior, Rosanne was at the top of its game from 1988-1997, but when ABC staged a return in 2018, Ms. Barr got caught tweeting racial slurs, and she was fired from her own series. Too bad, because Roseanne and John Goodman were blue collar gold together.

Tami & Eric Taylor: Friday Night Lights (2006-2011) might have been a TV show about high school football, but it was really all about relationships, with none stronger than the one between the coach and his wife, played by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton respectively. They often had serious talks in bed at night, but we’re pretty sure that talking is not all that went on.

Anita Van Buren & Frank Gibson: Though S. Epatha Merkerson appeared in Law and Order (1990-2010) for most of its 20 year run, we only got to see her significant other in the last season, when Van Buren was battling cancer. Frank (Ghostbusters’ Ernie Hudson) was supportive and caring, and the two of them were role models for how a couple can love each other for better or worse.

Marge & Homer Simpson: This animated couple has been together since 1989, and they’re still hot for each other. No matter what dumb thing Homer does, Marge always has his back, and always loves him. Homer doesn’t deserve his wife, but then I think most of us old married guys are in the same boat.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
 
 

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