Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Did We Draft the Best TV Couples?

We've grown to love these silly little drafts at How Blank after picking our top sports cities and our favorite Golden Globe nominees. This time, we drafted our favorite TV couples ever. 

FranT: Kerry and I just came in from the obligatory Valentine's Day Dinner, where we saw a bunch of couples enjoying each other's company, or at least pretending to do so. So here's the next draft idea: The Greatest Television Couples. Five picks each; no further guidelines are needed. You have the first pick since you're the away team in this one.

Kavanaugh:  Yeah, Caitlin and I saw a lot of the same. This will be a good draft. My first pick is Jim Halpert and Pam Beasley. They are funny throughout The Office's lifespan, as a couple and individually. And seasons 1-3 -- watching Jim flirt with her and give that pining look over to her --were heartbreaking but so great to watch. The "Dinner Party" episode is one of my favorites because of its focus on the couples dynamic, and how Jim and Pam act in a terrible situation is something every couple can aspire to.

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FranT: Excellent first pick! I love "The Dundies" episode when Pam gets hammered and kisses Jim. Also, the wedding episode is perfect.

With my own first selection, I'll take Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski. They're the qunitessential high school power couple, the too-cool-for-school ladies' man and the hot cheerleader. Some Internet sleuthing revealed to me that Zack and Kelly got married in a made-for-TV movie. It doesn't matter, though; they'll always just be the Bayside prom* king and queen to me.

*How many Bayside proms were there, anyways? Twelve per year?

One of the best things about having off from work during the week is the assurance that you'll catch at least four episodes of Saved by the Bell. Even all these years later, Zack and Kelly can still make hearts melt.

Kavanaugh: First off, the Zack and Kelly made-for-TV wedding movie is great, so you should check it out on the unlikely occasion it ever resurfaces.

Second, I feel like you could create a timeline for guys our age of couples we watched through the years. The most obvious would be Zack/Kelly > Cory/Topanga > Jim/Pam.

For my second pick, I'm taking Jay and Gloria Pritchett. Jay is the coolest older guy I've ever seen with great snarky one liners. He's the kind of guy who -- if he was real and you met him -- you'd want nothing more than to gain his approval, even though that's ridiculous. And the contrast between that and Gloria's overly-loving Colombian ways is hilarious. Their respective interactions with Manny and the other characters are also great. Finally, Gloria is...Gloria.

I love Jay and Gloria, but Modern Family is also great because I'm not sure if they're the best, or even second-best, couple on the show.

FranT: My second couple, the fourth overall pick, is Homer and Marge Simpson. Their relationship is constantly in peril, like when Marge gets addicted to gambling or when Homer becomes a gun fanatic. They also sometimes get into trouble with outside factors, like when they end up naked in the middle of a football field. But things always work out, partly because everything on The Simpsons resets at the end of each episode.

Homer has some great lines about marriage:
--"Their problem is communication...too much communication."
--"Marge, I'm going to miss you so much. And it's not just the sex. It's also the food preparation."
--"Your mother seems really upset about something. I better go have a talk with her... during the commercial."

Kerry is mad at me for taking a cartoon couple with my second selection, but anyone who's ever read How Blank knows I can't pass up Homer and Marge.

Kavanaugh: Haha, I almost took Marge and Homer just to make you mad, knowing they'd be on your list.

My third pick is Elaine Benes and Jerry Seinfeld. While they were technically never a couple in an episode, they were a couple in the world of Seinfeld. And that shapes so much of the show throughout, whether it's being comfortable flirting and talking about other people ("The Pony"), when it comes to light that Elaine was faking ("The Mango"), or when Jerry's girlfriend can't grasp how he and Elaine could stay friends ("The Letter"). Also, let's not forget one of my favorite episodes, "The Deal," when Jerry and Elaine attempt to successfully navigate the friends-with-benefits situation, but she ultimately wants "this, that, and the other."

FranT: Good one. I'm going to follow suit and take another non-traditional couple -- Michael and Jan on The Office.

While Michael and Holly ultimately end up together, Michael and Jan provide some of the show's funniest moments. Their "relationship" gets off to a rocky start when Michael accidentally emails around an erotic photo from their trip to Jamaica. Their time as a hilarious, painful-to-watch couple climaxes in the aforementioned "Dinner Party." In that episode, Michael discusses his multiple vasectomies ("Snip! Snap! Snip! Snap!"), and Jan throws a Dundie through his prized flat-screen TV. Also, this:

This draft couldn't have been complete without the best TV character ever and one of his significant others.

Kavanaugh: I need to go serious on my fourth pick: Don and Betty Draper on Mad Men. As the audience, we know all of Don's secrets, so watching him effortlessly lie and evade Betty's suspicions through four seasons is heartbreaking but also such compelling TV.

It's also great because, on the surface, their relationship is the picture of the "American Dream" of the early '60s. They play that card well at fancy dinners with clients when Don needs Betty to be hot and charming on his arm. But underneath, they are both tortured and miserable.

FranT: Mad Men is on my shows-to-watch list. As of now, though, all I know about Don Draper is that Jon Hamm is fighting the modern-day version of the Battle of the Bulge.

With my fourth pick, I'm taking Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. These two were the pre-cursors to so many other husband-wife pairings that followed. How many times did Lucy and Ricky get into stupid fights before making up during a sweet scene at the end of the 30-minute episode? There never could have been Al and Peg Bundy, Tim and Jill Taylor, Doug and Carrie Heffernan, or Ray and Deb Romano if I Love Lucy hadn't first blazed the trail. As far as I know, Lucy and Ricky were also the first couple that had neighbors who were equally as funny and crucial to the show as them. In that way, Fred and Ethel portended other hilarious neighbors like Ed Norton, Ned Flanders, and Cosmo Kramer.

I Love Lucy was a classic show, and Lucy and Ricky remain one of television's classic couples. Still a bunch of good ones left... Which lucky pair of sweethearts is your last pick?

Kavanaugh: My last pick could go any number of ways in terms of husband-and-wife couples that fall into the dynamic you just described. Husband has an oblivious misstep, wife gets mad, everybody laughs, then husband makes up for it and they're reconciled, everybody laughs again. All in about 22 minutes!

I have to go with Tim and Jill Taylor. For such a supposed numskull, Tim was always pretty quick with a joke. He also wasn't curmudgeonly like Red Foreman or my No. 2 pick, Jay Pritchett. His humor combined with his projects and "guyish naivete" made him the frequent subject of Jill's ire, usually to the delight of the audience. And Jill had an underrated amount of sass herself, always dealing with Tim and the three boys' antics. She carries her end of this couple deal far better than some other TV wives I can think of. Also, growing up watching this show, Jill on the right day was kind of a hot mom?

P.S. My sleeper, who I couldn't pull the trigger on but had to mention, was Bill and Judy from Still Standing.

FranT: Tim the Toolman was awesome, and Jill was indeed hot for a season or two.

With my last pick, I'm matching your Jay/Gloria selection with Frank and Marie Barone. I needed an old couple to complete my draft, and the constantly dueling parents from Everybody Loves Raymond fit the bill.

Frank and Marie represent everything we find funny about old people, albeit with some exaggeration. Frank is* the hilarious patriarch who's not afraid to say what's on his mind. ("You want to know the meaning of life? You're born, you go to school, you go to work, you die.") He can't stand his wife, and he plays the stodgy grandpa years before Jay Pritchett arrives on the scene. Marie, meanwhile, brings comedy to the mother-in-law role like no other character that I know of. She's a straight-up bitch to Debra in almost every episode.

*I'll use the present tense here, even though Peter Boyle has sadly joined Jackie Gleason and the rest of his kindred spirits in the afterlife. 

Like I said, there's plenty of exaggeration in the characters of Frank and Marie. However, I think many people see some of their own elderly parents and/or grandparents in the Barones.

Kavanaugh: Nice one. One of my favorite scenes in the Barone house is this one:

So many couples are still on the board, but a lot of the remaining good ones kind of blend together for me, so there's no need to go any further.

FranT: Agreed. Good draft! You're the home team for the next one...

The final tally:

Kavanaugh: Jim and Pam; Jay and Gloria; Jerry and Elaine; Don and Betty; Tim and Jill
FranT: Zack and Kelly; Homer and Marge; Michael and Jan; Ricky and Lucy; Frank and Marie

Others Mentioned: Cory and Topanga; Michael and Holly; Al and Peg; Doug and Carrie; Ray and Debra; Fred and Ethel; Bill and Judy

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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