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Relationship role models: 11 TV couples that made us believe in love

Many of TV’s most popular pairings aren’t exactly good examples of healthy romantic relationships. While we all love watching the Buffy and Angels and the Ross and Rachels of the world, I doubt many of us strive to be part of a couple with so many ups and downs.

Here, the EW Community takes a look at the best relationship role models on TV. While their journeys may not be too tumultuous, they all helped us believe in love—in a medium that often draws entertainment from excessive relationship drama.

Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt, Parks and Recreation

For a couple that started out as adversaries, Leslie and Ben grew to have one of the most supportive, progressive, equal relationships I’ve ever seen on TV—so equal that, in the end, it was believable that either one of them could have become president of the United States. What’s so inspirational about Leslie and Ben is the impressive work-life balance they always managed to find, even once they were married with triplets.


They never sacrificed their ambitions for the sake of their relationship, and never sacrificed their relationship for the sake of their ambitions (at least, never permanently). I mean, what other TV husband has opted to step away from his own chance to run for governor so his wife could follow the dreams in her childhood dream journal? Leslie supported Ben’s creative endeavors, no matter how questionable (claymation, anyone?), and he had such faith in her run for city council that he only wrote her a victory speech. I love them, I like them, and I miss them. Erin Conley

Zoe and Hoban “Wash” Washburne, Firefly

FoxHoban and Zoe Alleyne Washburne not only get my vote here, but they are one of my real-life relationship models. Both of them are extremely good at what they do, and they’re partners both in work and in love. Sure, there are times they disagree or get worried about the other, but the mission is the mission and the marriage is the marriage. They also love each other deeply, respect one another, and know when to take some much needed downtime together. They listen to each other, they fight for each other, and, barring a certain Joss Whedon event that I’m still sad about, they would have been one of those couples that would be celebrating anniversaries for decades to come. Geek Girl Diva

Kristina and Adam Braverman, Parenthood

NBCOf all the Braverman siblings, oldest brother Adam was the only one who was able to navigate the ups and downs of relationship woes (i.e., normal life) without ever needing to call for a life preserver. With faithful, loving, always optimistic, and overachieving wife Kristina by his side, these two Bravermans braved (heh) a very angsty teenage daughter, a battle with cancer, job and financial stresses, a mayoral run, the development of their own charter school, and the frustrations of raising a child with Asperger’s—without ever losing sight of each other. This rock-solid Braverman couple is a true example of how to weather the storms of life together: with patience, understanding, friendship, love, and, most important, a great sense of humor. Michelle Newman

Elyse and Steven Keaton, Family TiesFamily Ties

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect match than Family Ties‘ Elyse and Steven Keaton. In a world where there always needed to be a mismatch or unusual circumstance for romantic pairings (aka the ’80s), the Keatons kept it simple and effortless. They were former hippies who swapped the flowers and peace signs for marriage and family. Elyse and Steven managed to instill their values of love and acceptance to all three—okay, four—children (including the money/Nixon/small government–loving Alex P. Keaton). And at the root of it all was their affection and respect for each other. Elyse and Steven were honest, supportive, and still hot for each other (hence the fourth child). Sha-la-la-la … the theme song says it all. Joanna Skrabala

Lena and Stef Adams-Foster, The Fosters

ABC FamilyThe Foster kids tend to have a lot of drama in their lives, so it’s a good thing they can turn to their reliable and ever-supportive mothers, Lena and Stef, for help—be it questioning their sexuality or a possible pregnancy scare. But the duo doesn’t just work well together as parents. Lena and Stef also bring out the best in each other, doing their best to actively listen and respect the other, while trying to communicate openly as best they can. So when any problems actually do crop up between the two very different women, we get to see them work with each other to try to solve it, even if it does take time sometimes … Nivea Serrao

Tami and Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights

NBCWWTTD: What would Tami Taylor do? This is a question that I assume all wives ask themselves regularly, because there is no woman in the history of television who has ever done a better job balancing her own needs with her husband’s, while being as loving and supportive as humanly possible (I’m actually not sure it is humanly possible). And Eric supports and loves her right back. These two communicate like grown-ups, they fight with dignity, they make up with kindness, and they share their lives truly and completely. Without question, their marriage is the one we should all be using as our guide. Tamar Barbash

April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation

NBCAndy Dwyer and April Ludgate were Pawnee, Indiana’s first power couple. Sure, Parks and Recreation is home to some of the best television couples ever, but it was Andy and April who started it all. From their surprise wedding—where Andy wore a Colts jersey and April did not care—to finally starting a family of their own, Andy and April have formed a strong and supportive partnership. What I always loved about Andy and April is that their love for one another was strong enough to allow the other to explore their own world and dreams. Whether Andy was in England or April was in Washington, D.C., the two were always able to come back to one another. You don’t find a quirky, beautiful, real, and almost drama-free love like Andy and April’s every day, so make sure to hold on to it—or at least watch the series over and over again. Kait Calabrò

Monica Geller and Chandler Bing, Friends

NBCMonica and Chandler may not be the couple most synonymous with Friends, but for a pairing that took many fans by surprise when they first hooked up in London at the end of season four, they grew into the most stable and loving couple on the show. A classic example of the old adage “opposites attract,” type-A Monica and constant jokester Chandler complement each other perfectly. Their willingness to compromise enabled their bond to withstand every test. When Chandler was prepared to spend his life savings to give Monica the storybook wedding of her dreams, she realized saving for their future was more important than her childhood fantasies. When they faced their toughest obstacle yet and learned their fertility problems would make it impossible to conceive a child together, Chandler’s heartfelt plea ultimately convinced expectant mother Erica to choose them as adoptive parents. Somewhere in the universe of Friends, I’m confident they’re still living happily in Westchester with their twins—probably with Joey living over the garage. Erin Conley

Lily Aldrin and Marshall Eriksen, How I Met Your Mother

CBSHIMYM‘s lasting legacy might always be its series finale, but the show also provided us with one of the best examples of the many stages of evolution a young couple goes through. Fans watched as Lily and Marshall slowly graduated from fiancées to newlyweds, and eventually working parents. And while the pair often proved adorable and hilarious, they were also great at handling the tough stuff that came up in their relationship. This allowed them to grow not only as a couple, but also as individuals, as they tried to balance their personal goals and desires (working in environmental law, becoming an artist) with what they felt was best for them and their growing family. So while the show’s final hour may leave a bitter taste in a lot of fans’ mouths, Marshall and Lily’s nine-season romance does a lot to reduce it. Nivea Serrao

Burt and Virginia Chance, Raising Hope

FoxRaising Hope had four delightful seasons on Fox. While the show was really about Jimmy Chance and his newfound fatherhood with baby Hope, the veritable stars were Jimmy’s totally cool, totally loving parents: Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virginia (Martha Plimpton). They may not be the brightest and their parenting methods may be a bit wonky, but this duo rocked at life and marriage. Casting two typical dramatic actors—Dillahunt and Plimpton (GOONIES!)—gave the show a fun edge. They had goofball charm and chemistry that you bought into. And while their son navigated his own complicated courtship, he always looked to his parents as the relationship touchstone. It’s only fitting that the series ended with Burt and Virginia renewing their vows, where Burt tells her, “If anyone ever hurts you, I will punch them in the face.” Romance! Spoiler: Burt later punches someone in the face. Joanna Skrabala

Pam and Jim Halpert, The Office

NBCThe Office positioned Jim and Pam as an epic will-they-or-won’t-they duo for three seasons, but they’re among a handful of onscreen couples who were even better together. Team Halpert is so strong because they’re partners: in it together for the long haul, for better or worse, from pranks and long-distance love to an unplanned pregnancy and a few pre-wedding hiccups. They faced their biggest challenge when Jim took a job in Philly, leaving Pam at home with the kids and a flirtatious audio guy. But they got back on track with a simple, silent hug that showed fans these two will be passing notes and having roof dates until they’re old and gray. Wendy Hathaway


This is only a sampling of the many relationship role models TV has given us. So let us know which ones are your own favorites!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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