22 of TV’s most memorable “will they/won’t they” couples
Why is it that TV couples who are clearly perfect for one another don’t just instantly get it on like we want them to? Is it because the writers behind our favourite shows are evil geniuses seeking to frustrate the heck out of us with that wonderful TV trope of unresolved sexual tension? Perhaps. Could it be that their relationship ups and downs give us hope about love not returned in our own lives? Quite possibly. Or, maybe, it’s because it’s that much more rewarding to follow a couple of potential lovers skirting around one another, burning with unrequited passion, and bristling under the pressure of those oh so confusing feelings, for more than a few episodes (or, preferably, seasons). We like to call these hurry-up-and-hook-up lovers the ‘will they won’t they couples’ (WT/WT for short), and judging by how fondly we feel towards their stories, this writers’ ploy is a pretty solid one when done correctly. So just in time for Valentine’s Day fever, here are 22 of TV’s most memorable “will they/won’t they” couples. Can you guess who’s at number 1?
#22. Mindy and Danny – The Mindy Project
These guys are at the bottom of our esteemed list because, as lovable as they are, their constantly-in-question relationship played out in a way that was ultimately pretty unsatisfying. They’re also not our favourite medical co-workers who take ages to get it on (more on that later!). So, while things started out antagonistically between Minny/Dandy, we were always aware of their underlying affection for one another, especially as Danny seemed to have an unhealthy investment in Mindy’s outfits, choice of men, and behaviour in general. After years of ups and downs, Mindy and Danny are engaged and expecting a child together by the end of the show’s fourth season premiere, which is kind of what we always expected from this downright predictable rom com series.
#21. George Michael and Maeby – Arrested Development
“Maeby they will, Maeby they won’t” was a pun frequently on our minds as cousins George Michael Bluth and Maeby Fünke appeared to edge ever closer towards potential romance. As we would learn throughout the seasons to come, Arrested Development isn’t one to shy away from incest, and although these guys did make it to second base together, they ultimately weren’t meant to be. Sad face.
#20. Barry and Iris – The Flash
Not quite incest but close enough, The Flash comics would suggest that adoptive siblings Barry Allen and Iris West will eventually get together. So far the show has teased us with flash-forwards and alternate universes that suggest Biris/Irarry will eventually become a thing, but Barry’s superhero status and attendant responsibilities stand in the way of these two childhood sweethearts becoming beloveds. For now…
#19. Castle and Beckett – Castle
Dilahunt: “Can’t a guy and a girl just be friends?” Castle: “Please”.
Dilahunt: “Are you [and Beckett] together?” Castle: “Not yet”.
Actors Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have always been confident that their characters – who boast the amazing relationship portmanteau of Caskett – would end up together eventually. Seven whole seasons in, the two finally get hitched. Hoorah! But could our long awaited happiness be ripped from under our feet as the dangerous nature of Beckett’s latest case finds them headed towards Splitsville?
#18. Jack and Kate – Lost
Thrown together by some rather unlikely circumstances, island pair Jate brought us epic thrills as they they navigated all sorts of paranormal peril and that Skate/Suliet/Jacket love quadrangle with Sawyer and Juliet. Nothing like some weird purgatory universe disaster mixed with daddy issues and murderous guilt when it comes to muddying the relationship waters! We nevertheless let out little yelps of joy when these two ‘moved in together’ and got engaged, even though the pairing wouldn’t exactly have a happy ending…
#17. Daphne and Niles – Frasier
We always hoped that this cute-as-a-button duo would become a couple, and although it was a true exercise in patience, we were not disappointed when a nervous and besotted Niles Crane finally made his move after years of infatuation with the British live-in housekeeper/physio. And we literally mean years as, despite falling in love with Daphne in the show’s third ever episode, Niles’s feelings were only accidentally revealed by Frasier in season SEVEN. It took another three seasons for the couple to finally marry, culminating in the birth of their first child David, who was touchingly named after the show’s co-creator David Angell, who died in the September 11th attacks. Beautiful.
#16. Joey and Pacey – Dawson’s Creek
Controversial of us to go for Joey and Pacey over Joey and Dawson, but whatever. Deal with it. These uniquely potato-faced youngsters warmed our hearts when they finally found fulfilment in one another at the show’s conclusion, even though about half of DC‘s viewership still hates the writers for not pairing up Joey and Dawson. The show’s creator Kevin Williamson even admitted “Guys, my mother hates me” when the news was announced, while also stating that all three of the cute teens were each other’s soul mates in one way or another. Life can be so complicated!
#15. Eric and Donna – That ’70s Show
It seemed like everyone in Eric and Donna’s lives was against these guys getting married, even though their failure to end up in a happy union was the main reason seasons 7 and 8 of That ’70s Show were totally weak. Obviously childhood next door neighbours who’ve been best friends forever need to grow old together, right? It would’ve been so beautiful. Instead, there was all that weird ‘what if they’d never kissed’ stuff in Season 4, which seemed to plant the seeds of doubt between them, culminating in a called-off wedding and Eric ditching the whole thing and moving to Africa for no reason. We still hold on to the happy memories, though.
#14. Nick and Jess – New Girl
That kiss, you guys. THAT KISS. So every straight single woman in the house was wishing she could be in Jess’s place, and that if she and Nick didn’t end up a proper couple then the whole world was on its head. There’s no going back from that kind of passion! There have been so many amazing moments between these two in love and in friendship that we desperately hope they’ll eventually find happiness together, and yet ultimately the show’s achieved that difficult balance where, if Nick and Jess do end up just being best friends, we’d understand it was the right thing for both of them. So deep.
#13. Blair and Chuck – Gossip Girl
The one element of the show even more predictable than the identity of Gossip Girl himself was that Chair were going to end up together. They’d always been the ‘complicated couple’, tricking and manipulating one another like crazy, but obviously this came from a place of insecurity as they both just loved each other so damn much. I mean, Blair literally saved Chuck’s life, and you don’t get much bigger than that. It’s also not too often that we get a flash-forward confirming that a couple remains happily married in the future. Cue hearts melting.
#12. Ryan and Marissa – The O.C.
“Whoever you want me to be”… God, this is just bringing up too many memories! It was definitely love at first sight when the bad boy from Chino first laid eyes on the troubled princess of Orange County, but the couple had to overcome an overwhelming number of obstacles in order to be together, from an illegitimate child to rape and a distressing almost-fratricide. Their moments of happiness together were sheer bliss, before the whole maelstrom culminated in her dying in his arms. It was truly drama at its most affecting, and our adolescent hearts are still not over it.
#11. Rory and Jess – Gilmore Girls
Still the subject of pages and pages of fan fiction, everyone knows that Jess and Rory were always so much better than Dean and Rory in the ‘shipper wars. Sure, Jess’s chip-on-his-shoulder broody thing was kind of testing, but the couple’s shared love of Ginsberg, punk rock, and delivery food from Luke’s Diner was so blatantly superior to Dean’s insane car-building thing and regrettable 18-year-old marriage before crawling back to Rory. We’re relentlessly optimistic that Jory will find their way back to each other in the upcoming Netflix reboot (although that might be awkward as they totally dated in real life).
#10. Elliot and J.D. – Scrubs
We rejoiced when besties and co-workers Elliot and J.D. finally got together after two seasons of will they/won’t they, then hated it when they broke up in excruciating fashion and cooled off for a few years, before picking it back up very briefly, and dropping it yet again. In the end they finally sorted themselves out and lived happily ever after, by which point we were just downright exhausted by the crazy rollercoaster ride.
#9. Lorelai and Luke – Gilmore Girls
We were witness to their flirtatious bickering – that telltale sign that two people are clearly meant for each other – for years. Then, when Loreluke finally got together, the writers cruelly ripped them apart, giving Luke a long-lost daughter and bringing Christopher back into the picture. Why??? Let’s hope the reboot can set this one right once and for all. In fact, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were the whole purpose of bringing the show back in the first place.
#8. Brennan and Booth – Bones
After several seasons of repressed emotions, unresolved sexual tension, and even dry humping, the last instalment of Bones ended with the marriage of Brooth – despite obsessive Pelant’s attempts to sabotage the nuptials. It was a long and complicated journey to this point, and one that seriously tested viewer loyalty, but we could never get enough of the couple’s delicious WT/WT intensity (*sob*).
#7. Jim and Pam – The Office U.S.
There was never really any doubt that Jam would be an official thing, so maybe the most interesting WT/WT situation in The Office was between Dwight and Angela… Anyway, Jim and Pam were so obviously perfect for one another from the offset, but she had the small setback of being in a long engagement with just-kick-him-to-the-curb-already Roy. Once he was out of the way, there was the whole issue of Jim’s transfer to Stamford, and once they sorted that out/got married/had some kids he got up and left again, throwing the marriage onto the rocks. And remember Pam’s temptation by Brian, the boom mic operator from the documentary crew?! Regardless of the obstacles, after some depressing couples counselling, Jam are back on lovey dovey mode by the show’s conclusion, and we all clap and cheer.
#6. Carrie and Mr. Big – Sex and the City
These two had to overcome a somewhat considerable age difference, Big’s emotional pessimism acquired from multiple failed marriages, and some major competition (ahem, AIDAN). The show’s creator Darren Star revealed that he didn’t want Carrie to run off happily into the future with Mr Big, which explains the uncertainty with which her character approaches her relationship with the complicated dude. Nevertheless, as we saw from the movies, Big was perfectly named from the offset, not only for his physical size, but because he was destined to become Carrie’s ‘Big love’. Aww.
#5. Madelyn and David – Moonlighting
This one pretty much made the WT/WT TV trope, although fans of the ’80s action/comedy seemed to lose interest in the show almost immediately after Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd’s characters went ahead and, well, “did it” after ages of things being up in the air. It’s kind of a matter of historiography, though, as Moonlighting was also sabotaged by a writers’ strike and its stars’ disagreeing personalities and schedules. By its final season, the two weren’t even shooting scenes together (Bruce was doing Diehard and Cybill was having twins); rather spoils the sexual tension when a couple aren’t even in the same room…
#4. Ted and Robin – How I Met Your Mother
Even though we thought we knew fairly certainly from the first episode that these two wouldn’t ultimately end up together, those sneaky writers went and made it so. If only it hadn’t been such a royal mess getting them to that stage, with Robin marrying and later divorcing Barney, and the Mother dying, making Ted available to scoop Robin up in 2030, after Ted’s children call him out as they suddenly realise the story has actually been about her, and not their mum. Whew!
#3. Sam and Diane – Cheers
He’s a womanising bar owner, she’s an over-educated waitress. It’s no surprise that these two ‘social opposites’ didn’t get along like a house on fire at first, which is exactly how we love our WT/WT couples to start things off! In spite of their constant bickering and insult slinging, Sam and Diane did become an official couple before they got engaged, cancelled the wedding, reunited, got engaged again, broke up again, and realised they were never meant to be together after all. So much for your happily ever after!
#2. Mulder and Scully – The X Files
Kind of a will they/won’t they/have they?, the resolution of these guys’ sexual tension has been mostly implied (we do see them kiss in Season 7), leading some fans to believe that their relationship is still platonic. Obviously, said fans are pretty stupid, as the couple have totally had a son together, so… something must’ve happened. Series creator Chris Carter teases that the now ex-couple will “become closer” over the course of the six-episode revival, although this is apparently a result of their renewed professional partnership, and not their romantic history. We’ll have to see about that.
#1. Ross and Rachel – F.R.I.E.N.D.S
I mean, who did you think it was gonna be?! The unresolved romantic fiah between Ross and Rachel – a couple literally synonymous with the ‘will they won’t they’ device – was introduced in the first five minutes of the show’s pilot episode, and wasn’t properly resolved until the last five minutes of the final series finale, meaning this relationship was literally dragged out for the entire time that F.R.I.E.N.D.S was on our screens. Not that we’re complaining, as this TV romance to end all TV romances kept us squealing and sighing to the very last moment.