Over the years, there has been a familiar television trope: the hot wife with the ugly husband. A tale as old as TV itself, the trend was ushered in by watershed hot wife/ugly husband shows like The Honeymooners, The Flintstones and The Bob Newhart Show. The recurring hot wife/ugly husband motif has become an important piece of our collective unconscious. Some of television’s best shows (The Simpsons, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm) have used this device.
Maybe the hot wife/ugly husband trope is so effective because it’s so relatable. The thing is, more couples probably identify more with Homer and Marge than they do with Sam and Diane. The use of the hot wife/ugly husband trope has usually been to shine a big, hulking stage light on average America. The stories told in this format tend to be familial and upbeat (with a few outliers, of course), they are in some ways a projection of the idea of “The American Dream.” The hot wife/ugly husband television device is thematically very interwoven with American values. It is a way to give voice to “Joe Six-Pack” and to give viewers something to relate to amid the typical storm of star-studded faces, professionally hot (and professionally airbrushed) advert models and luxurious six-speed four-cylinder quad cab dual exhaust sports sedans that typically occupies the airwaves.
The hot wife/ugly husband trope is inherently American, with it’s underwritten themes, and it remains culturally rich and important to this day. Here are the 10 hottest TV wives with ugly husbands.
10. Arrested Development
Tobias Funke and Lindsay Bluth are one of television’s all-time oddest couples. The characters, portrayed by David Cross (a stand-up and sketch comedian most notably known for his work with Bob Odenkirk on the influential 90s HBO sketch show Mr. Show) and Portia De Rossi (an incredibly young actress who you may know as Ellen Degeneres‘ wife) respectively, couldn’t be more different and are clearly bound for disaster.
Tobias is a creepy, bald never-nude (look it up) who at one point was actively trying to join the Blue Man Group. Lindsay, his inordinately hot wife, is the heir to an empire whose matriarch has recently fallen on hard times.
9. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Phil and Vivian “Aunt Viv” Banks are the generous, affluent aunt and uncle who take in Will Smith‘s character on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Phil and Vivian are a perfect example of the hot wife/ugly husband trope. In fact, James Avery, the burly actor who played uncle Phil, had two different wives on the show. After three seasons, the original Aunt Viv, Janet-Hubert Witten, was ousted from the show and replaced with Daphne Maxwell Reid for the remaining three seasons. Most people agree that they preferred the original Aunt Viv and were surprised by her abrupt departure from the incredibly successful TV show. Actress Janet Hubert-Witten still blames Will Smith for her firing.
8. Grounded For Life
Grounded for Life aired for five seasons on Fox in the early 2000s. It was an endearing comic portrayal of a rowdy, unconventional family. Parents Sean (Donal Logue) and Claudia Finnerty (Megyn Price) are simply trying to rein in the madness that is their lives. Megyn Price and Donal Logue are definite examples of the hot wife/ugly husband trope – just look at them. During the show, the Finnerty clan consisted of Sean, Claudia, their three kids (later four) and Sean’s father and brother. A great, often overlooked sitcom of the era, the show ran for 91 episodes before ultimately being cancelled in 2005.
7. According To Jim
According to Jim was an ABC sitcom based on the life of Jim Belushi, John’s less talented younger brother. The show lasted for eight seasons that saw ratings drop progressively lower and lower. Cheryl (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Jim’s wife on the show, is so far out of his league that it’s almost laughable. Belushi plays a particularly oafish, lazy character that is clearly at least semi-autobiographical. Much like Jim, the character likes blues music and local Chicago sports teams. Jim and Cheryl have three children (later five). The show obviously hoped to boost slumping ratings with the introduction of a cute pair of twins and a bunch of inconsequential, ancillary friends and neighbors, but to no avail. Since being cancelled, the show has been syndicated in a ton of foreign countries.
6. The George Lopez Show
This is another ABC sitcom that ran in the early 2000s. It’s also another great example of the hot wife/ugly husband dynamic. George Lopez, the famed Latino comic, plays a character that is based on and named after him. On the show, Lopez’s character works at a factory while raising his two children with his wife, Angie (Constance Marie). The show is a pretty predictable example of the type of multi-cam, studio audience in a soundstage production that used to typify American sitcoms. The show ran from 2001-2007 and, much like According to Jim, enjoyed a great deal of success with syndication.
5. The King of Queens
The King of Queens was a CBS-run, Kevin James vehicle that ran from the late 90s to the early 2000s. James plays Doug Heffernan, mailman and husband to smoking hot wife Carrie (Leah Remini). But the mismatch somehow worked and America grew to love Carrie and Doug as the show enjoyed solid ratings for its entire nine season run.
James was nominated for a Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy for his work during the show’s final season. The show was met with generally favorable reviews that typically lauded the interesting ensemble of James, Remini and wily comedy vet Jerry Stiller, who plays Remini’s widowed father.
4. The Flinstones
The Flinstones had a pivotal role in shaping the hot wife/ugly husband dynamic that was introduced (and reintroduced) to the American psyche. As is the trend with most of these shows, The Flinstones was a prime-time (situational) comedy. It just so happens that The Flinstones was an animated program, produced by the prolific William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The show is centered around a cave dwelling, stone-age family named the Flinstones.
The boorish Fred and his beautiful wife Wilma live with their baby daughter Pebbles and their pet dinosaur, Dino. Next door to them is another hot wife/ugly husband duo, Barney and Betty Rubble. The Rubble’s have an inordinately strong son, who’s adopted, that they have aptly named Bam Bam as well as their pet dino/kangaroo hybrid, Hoppy. The Flinstones is one of our earliest examples of the hot wife/ugly husband trope.
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, decided to step out from his role behind the scenes as a producer to star in his second television effort, Curb Your Enthusiasm. David’s character shares his name and many of his mannerisms and tics. Every episode finds L.D. in some new quandary or jam. At one point in the series, Larry begins to refer to himself as a “social assassin.” That’s a good description for his often inconsiderate and outlandish behavior.
All the while his wife, Cheryl (played by Cheryl Hines) tries to hold things together and not get too upset over Larry’s peculiar behavior. An interesting take on the genre and a must watch for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
2. The Sopranos
Easily one of the greatest shows in television history, The Sopranos is a bit of an outlier on this list as the only drama. Tony (James Gandolfini) and Carmela (Edie Falco) are just your average, everyday New Jersey parents. They have two kids (A.J. and Meadow), a big house in the suburbs, oh, and they’re in the mob. Tony Soprano runs a New Jersey-based crime family with deep ties to New York’s underworld while trying to maintain his family life and mental health. The show was a revelation when it first appeared in 1999 and even since going off the air in 2007, it’s continued to influence American television and culture.
1. The Simpsons
The Simpsons has been an integral part of the American pop culture zeitgeist since 1989. Spanning 26 seasons, The Simpsons is one of the most influential, adored shows in the history of television. In the show, the fat, oafish Homer is married to the beautiful, blue-haired Marge. Homer works at the local nuclear power plant while Marge is a homemaker, constantly crafting or cooking something. Marge and Homer have three children: the precocious, snotty Bart; the brainy, sweet Lisa; and the baby Maggie.
The Simpsons exists because of the hot wife/ugly husband dynamic. If it weren’t for shows like The Flinstones and The Honeymooners, The Simpsons would not be able to exist. Nonetheless, it has now used all of those parts to create this seemingly timeless formula for quality television.