Love can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Love is a very fickle emotion, hard to explain or describe but scientifically proven to be present in all human beings. It seems like the more you want love in your life, the harder love can be to find, and sometimes, you blindly stumble onto love, and it’s suddenly all that matters in your life. Discovering love is honestly one of the biggest reasons we all watch TV shows; sure, sexual intrigue is hot and a great action story can attract viewers, but so much of what we call drama and intrigue center around our understanding of love.
We all enjoy watching people discover love. However, with that said, sometimes it’s not as cool and sexy and adorable as we’d hoped it would be. While it’s awesome to watch a couple of young people spend a television series falling in love (like Ted and Robin did in How I Met Your Mother, or like Michonne and Rick have in The Walking Dead), it can be a little less awesome when the couple isn’t exactly picture perfect.
We make a lot of assumptions when the age gap in a couple is significant. Is she after his money? Is he clinging to his younger days? Is she rich? Is she gold-digging? It’s rare that we immediately think, “Ah, how cute that they’re in love!” We always wonder what’s wrong with the picture. In many cases, that’s absolutely unfair — we should be celebrating a genuine love that was found in an odd place.
So let’s talk about the whipper-snappers and the curmudgeons that we’ve seen shaking up our favorite TV shows. Here are the 15 most uncomfortable age gaps on television:
15. Modern Family: Jay and Gloria
When Modern Family launched in 2009, it tried to appeal to every version of the household family of today: houses with typically difficult marriages and lots of kids, houses with same-sex parents and the challenges they face, and houses with remarriages that are fraught with their own unique challenges. They were right; second marriages are tough — especially when that second marriage includes a new son and an ethnic wife that’s half your age. Jay Pritchett is 61 years old in the first season, while his new wife Gloria is only 30. The couple has a second kid as the show progresses, and they seem utterly in love and happy with each other for the purest and most innocent of reasons. Jay loves Gloria for keeping him sprite and active, while Gloria loves Jay for being supportive, mature, and a seasoned father. Somehow, the marriage works out perfectly.
14. Friends: Frank and Alice
Anyone who watched Friends watched the episode where Frank introduced his new wife and gasped thinking, “Oh, wow, this won’t end well.” Frank Jr., Phoebe Buffay’s half-brother, becomes close to Phoebe when they connect in adulthood — well, sort of… at the time, Frank is a teen soon to graduate high school. Turns out, he meets the love of his life in home economics class: the teacher. Frank and Alice hit it off big time and get married quickly, and even ask Phoebe to be their surrogate mother so that they can have kids since Carol is too old to be a fit mother for pregnancy. They have triplets and the two actually work out in the end, though they’re downright exhausted raising their kiddos and even ask Phoebe for a time if she wants to adopt one of the kids back from the couple. They’re one of the only true examples on this list that prove age doesn’t matter in the end (even if it’s kind of really gross) — love matters.
13. Two and a Half Men: Alan and Kandi
As far as Two and a Half Men go, we could have an entire article dedicated to all the girlfriends of Charlie that were way too young, hot, or intelligent to be dating him or sleeping with him. (Actually, that’s not a half-bad idea…) Hilariously enough, Kandi is actually one of those girlfriends — until she meets his brother Alan, and the two start dating, leading to their eventual marriage. There are a lot of problems with this marriage: Kandi doesn’t seem to care about Alan’s money, or about when his little bit of savings dwindles; Alan doesn’t seem to care that Kandi is dumber than a bag of rocks, and neither of them seem to think their age matters in terms of their love for one another. But unfortunately, in this case, it absolutely does! Kandi has the mental maturity of an eight-year-old, while Alan is a naive 50-year-old at heart. The two should have never paired up.
12. Friends: Monica and Richard
Even if you rarely watch television shows, you likely at least know about the relationship between Monica Geller and Richard Burke on the famous show Friends. Monica is eager to find a boyfriend that treats her well, someone who acts with maturity and dignity — so she stops seeking partners her age and starts dating her father’s friend, Richard. The two love each other immensely and are, without a doubt, a wonderful example that age doesn’t matter in relationships (despite her friends constantly teasing her about his age); however, they’re also a great example of how love isn’t always enough in a relationship. Despite the two loving each other immensely, their life goals are totally mismatched. Monica wants a family, while Richard wants to retire in peace. Their differences drive them to split on amicable terms, but inklings of feelings between them remain throughout the duration of the show — even after she marries Chandler.
11. The O.C.: Julie and Luke
We told you we weren’t done with high schooler/cougar relationships, and we’re true to our word! The O.C., which is kind of just a mash-up of every other rich kid drama you’ve ever seen, was great at copying trends from other shows. Basically, if you know what a trope is, this show pandered to each and every single one in order to maintain a high viewership and following — including the trope of the sexy older woman being seduced by the young, attractive teen. Julie Cooper is no teacher, but she definitely schooled Luke in the ways of love. Luke started dating Julie after her daughter, Marissa, breaks up with him for someone else. When Marissa discovers the affair, Luke becomes depressed and eventually skips town — partially out of embarrassment, partially out of angst, but definitely out of a need to distance himself from his odd relationship with Julie as much as possible.
10. Sex and the City: Carrie and Aleksandr
Out of all of Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriends, one of the most iconic has to be Aleksandr Petrovsky. Though Carrie ends up dating and marrying a man eleven years her senior (the iconic Mr. Big), her relationship with Mr. Petrosky is much weirder. When the two begin dating, she’s only in her twenties while Aleksandr is in his fifties. The established Russian artist pampers her and makes her feel like royalty. For a while, they’re a lasting example of how love between a younger woman and an older man can seem like it’s based on finances but isn’t truly. The relationship doesn’t fail because Carrie can’t get more money or lavish treatment out of him; it fails because he acts as if he owns her. His disrespectful nature and narcissistic tendencies are major turn-offs, definitely enough to eclipse any riches or aplomb. It just goes to show that even surface level “gold-diggers” have standards of human decency.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy and Angel
Since we just led up to this list with such a wonderful introduction, leading you to believe that you’re about to stumble on relationships between old geezers and young hooligans, you’re probably a little stumped by this entry. “This isn’t that big an age gap,” you’re probably thinking. Eh… you’d be thinking wrong. Buffy, the vampire butt-kicking protagonist, is 16 years old — she’s still in high school, still has homework, and won’t be legally allowed to be taken out for a drink for five more years. Angel, on the other hand, is over 200 years old. We know that he’s immortal and blah blah blah, but for real! A 200-year-old man who is experienced in the behaviors of humans should have a more refined palate and should know that 16-year-olds are, have been, and will always be whining, immature, frustrating people. Buffy was not nearly mature enough for that relationship, and Angel should have known better.
8. Once Upon a Time: Belle and Rumple
We get that most of you people out there reading right now probably don’t watch a whole lot of Once Upon a Time. The television show is definitely meant for adults who don’t like to admit they’re still addicted to childhood classics and fairy tales like Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, and Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile, our readership consists of a lot of young dudes. So you may not know what we’re talking about. Well, in the show, which is like a grown-up, fanfiction, fairy tale-gone-awry series, Belle is not taken captive by a “beast” but by Rumpelstiltskin. Just like in the fairy tale, they fall in love and are torn apart and reunited time and time again. But it’s kind of gross, not just because Rumple is a bit of a villain. In the tale, he’s at least 100 years older than, and there’s a weird caretaker/invalid dynamic to their relationship.
7. Northern Exposure: Shelly and Holling
If you never watched Northern Exposure, we genuinely feel bad for you. The series about a young doctor forced to practice in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska is wonderfully written and has plot intricacies other sitcoms will forever envy and mimic. A lot of the characters are precious and iconic in nature, but none quite parallel the adorable quirks of the couple Shelly and Holling. The two are just dating when the show starts, and together, they run The Brick bar in the center of the small town. The two are an adorable couple and gradually prove, throughout the course of the series, that love has nothing to do with age or experience. If two people love each other, don’t interfere with such a precious and perfect thing. The couple eventually gets married and even has two kids before the close of the show. Their stories were the best parts of the show, and we miss them terribly!
6. Glee: Puck and Shelby
Flipping up the dynamic a bit, we turn to Glee, where the most troubling relationship was not between a young girl and an older man, but a teenage boy and an older woman. Idina Menzel joined the series to play Shelby Corcoran, Rachel’s biological mother and the adoptive mother to Puck and Quinn’s daughter, Beth. Already, this dynamic is super weird. It got even more messed up when Shelby starts hooking up with Puck (yeah, the dad of her adopted daughter who is, by the way, still a teenager). Shelby realizes it was a mistake pretty much immediately afterward and breaks things off with Puck, thus the horribly named relationship “Shuck” came to an abrupt conclusion. Idina Menzel didn’t hang around the show a whole lot longer after that either. Perhaps the actress wasn’t nuts about playing the older romantic interest, or maybe the idea of hanging out with teens all the time just wasn’t appealing anymore.
5. Dawson’s Creek: Pacey and Tamara
Storylines wherein male students get hot for their teachers and mentors is no new addition to Hollywood (if Glee thought it was being original, it was very wrong). In fact, Dawson’s Creek beat them to this storyline a long time ago with the relationship between Pacey and Miss Jacobs. Miss Tamara Jacobs comes to Capeside as a recent divorcee to teach English class to the stunning high schoolers. She quickly falls for Pacey, who is one of the more mature and attractive of her students. Once their relationship is realized by faculty, she’s taken to court where Pacey lies and says he’d just spread the rumor to make himself look cool. The two parted ways afterward, which is probably for the better — teacher/student relationships are all too real these days to be trivialized by the media. However, we’re not done yet as far as these relationships go…
4. One Tree Hill: Dan and Rachel
If you were a fan of One Tree Hill, you know Rachel Gatina really well — and it’s very likely that you don’t care for her one bit. Rachel was a product of lazy and generally absent parents who spent most of their time worried about their careers and accruing wealth. Thus, she is a child of many privileges and intends to maintain such a status. At one point in the series, when Rachel is busy recovering and relapsing from drug addiction, she meets a broken down and depressed Dan Scott, who pays her for her company. The two decide to seek out redemption together and quickly build a relationship, though Rachel was never invested in it. In this case, she’s both a gold-digger as well as a co-dependent addict in need of a crutch, and Dan acts as both. Though, being a bigger man, he breaks off the marriage as soon as he realizes Rachel’s feelings for him are forced. Good thing, too… seeing Rachel with Lucas’s dad was weeeeird.
3. Desperate Housewives: Gabrielle and John
It’s hard to imagine Eva Longoria as ever being desperate for any form of affection. The gorgeous woman is known for her time on Desperate Housewives, but we never really bought into the notion that she was lacking in any form of admiration or affection. Her character, Gabrielle, has an elaborate affair with her gardener, John Rowland — a dashing young man who spends almost all of his time on the show pursuing Gabrielle. The relationship is a great plot device — honestly, any time we get to see Eva Longoria in a steamy scene, we’re thankful. But it’s kind of weird that the two start seeing each other when John is merely a teen, while Gabrielle is a married woman nearing thirty. Sure, the age gap isn’t crazy big — but the maturity gap certainly is. A lot of important maturation milestones occur during the formation of early adulthood years, milestones John hasn’t hit. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons John and Gabrielle never have a shot from the start.
2. Dexter: Deb and Lundy
When you think about the TV show Dexter, you rarely think about the interesting relationships on the show or intricacies of interaction; you’re thinking about all the murders and murder investigations! However, you should give one relationship in particular careful attention when remembering the show: that relationship is the one between Deb and Lundy. Honestly, this is one of the creepiest relationships we’ve ever seen because Lundy isn’t exactly a rugged type or horribly romantic or anything. The ex-FBI agent turned serial killer detective looks and acts like Deb’s dad, which is mega weird. Of course, the relationship isn’t permanent or long term, but it definitely seems like a cry for help on both of their parts: both need to be seeing therapists for their odd sexual interests, especially Deb after Lundy’s unfortunate and awful demise. Instead, Deb just goes on being the badass detective that she’s always been!
1. Empire: Hakeem and Camilla
To be honest, the age gap between Hakeem and Camilla isn’t all that upsetting or weird. They’re honestly kind of cute together (clearly). That isn’t the weird part; the really messed up stuff comes when we get a glimpse of them being intimate together. Camilla asks what Hakeem calls her and he answers, “Momma.”
EEK. That’s beyond weird; it’s straight up gross. We know that some people think it’s sexy to refer to their sexual partners as “momma” or “daddy,” but we think that’s some messed up stuff that’s utterly deserving of therapy, or at least, acknowledgment. This is a very unhealthy relationship for Hakeem, especially since Camilla is so malicious and intent on tearing apart Lucious’s empire — perhaps he maybe even lucked out a little bit by things not panning out well for Camilla in season two, though we were all a bit sad to see her go. (She was the source of a lot of great stories!)