When it comes to TV couples, there is one major rule that almost all shows follow religiously, especially sitcoms: opposites attract… large TV audiences. The constant in all of this is that the woman is always hot. Sometimes she seems shallow or a bit aloof, but she’s gotta be gorgeous. What makes the male opposite usually follows one of two paths: the guy is either highly intelligent and sincere or overweight and lovable. Some shows mix this up a bit, but the foundation is pretty much the same across the board. In the vast majority of the couples on this list, the audience will come to learn that the woman is not as shallow as we first assumed. The men, sadly, will remain nerdy and/or overweight. Over the years, some shows have been able to play with these expectations, but having visual opposites in love has continued to be a mainstay on screen since this trope was first developed and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
We need to address some of the ground rules for this list up front. After all, what’s stopping us from having George Costanza on here 10 different times with his many beautiful dates? Well, we’re focusing on couples who were together for a long period of time or got married or did real relationship things. If nothing else, the couples on this list give hope to the average man. For women, well, it’s less awesome. If you’re super hot and shallow, you get a hot partner. If you’re super hot and seem shallow but are actually deep, you get an unattractive or nerdy partner. If you’re unattractive, you get an unattractive but deep partner. Those seem to be the set-in-stone TV dating rules. Now let’s take a look at the most famous TV couples to follow these guidelines. Here are 15 Characters Whose Partners are Way Out of Their League
15. Ralph and Alice – The Honeymooners
The model set out by The Honeymooners has been followed religiously for years. This blue-collar couple made up of Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Alice (Audrey Meadows) serve as one of the founding members of the physically mismatched TV couple club. Ralph was a slightly rotund bus driver who was always on the lookout for a shortcut to fame and fortune, while Alice was the petite, level-headed, patient and dedicated housewife. Today’s audiences might not see Alice as equal to the model-like women we see on TV currently, but, in those days, she was a real looker, especially when compared to Ralph. Despite Ralph’s constant threats to savagely beat Alice and punch her so hard that she literally travels to the moon, he did love her and was lost without her. Alice, meanwhile, showed male audiences that good-looking women will hang around as long as you admit you were wrong from time to time.
14. Urkel and Laura – Family Matters
Physically mismatched couples took different shapes over the years. We saw overweight men from the very early days of TV matched with slender attractive women and we also saw attractive women see beyond physical deformities and just plain old ugliness to the goodness within men. At some point, one of the most popular TV tropes became the nerd getting the girl. This was a win for nerds everywhere. They were nice, nonviolent and likely on pace to become rich, so everyone wins. Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) and Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) on Family Matters were a perfect example of this. Urkel was in love with Laura from the beginning, but she never saw anything in him. It wasn’t until Urkel found a way to transform into the less-ugly version of himself, Stefan, that Laura’s eyes were opened. In the end, however, Laura chose Steve over Stefan, which proved that even dweebs can find love.
13. Doug and Carrie – King of Queens
Largely based on Ralph and Alice before them, Doug (Kevin James) and Carrie (Leah Remini) are another couple who fits the physical mismatching of TV perfectly. Since King of Queens is essentially the modern retelling of The Honeymooners, even their jobs match up. Doug is the overweight parcel delivery driver to Ralph’s bus driver and Carrie is the secretary to Alice’s housewife (Alice was also a secretary before marrying Ralph). In contrast to Ralph, however, Doug was fully conscious of how Carrie was out of his league. It was a running gag on the show. Doug made up for it by being hilarious and witty, an overweight man’s greatest weapon on television. Doug being so lovable made the viewers actually buy the sexy Carrie sticking with him. This dynamic also provided the winning combination of goofiness and sexiness, two things that can’t seem to exist in the same type of person in the world of television.
12. Leonard and Penny – The Big Bang Theory
As soon as we saw Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) on The Big Bang Theory, we all knew what was going to happen. Instantly, we were transported back to Urkel and Laura from Family Matters, though Leonard is a more modernized nerd. Over the show’s run, Leonard and Penny went back and forth on who was too good for who. Penny thought she wasn’t smart enough for Leonard and Leonard thought, rightfully so, that Penny was out of his league physically. While they did get married in the end, most of the cat and mouse game was based on the amount of effort Leonard put in to the chase. What happens when the overly eager guy becomes less-eager? Well, that’s what fans have in store for them over the next ten seasons of The Big Bang Theory.
11. Drew and Kate – The Drew Carey Show
Even though they don’t end up together in the end, Drew Carey and Kate (Christa Miller) were an on-again-off-again couple for a large chunk of The Drew Carey Show. Like many of the other “everymen” before him, Drew was often punching well above his weight class when it came to women. Unlike most of the guys on this list, however, Drew was a bit of a dork and overweight, the ultimate nice guy combo. For our younger readers, we’re talking about Drew Carey from years ago, before he morphed into the new-age Bob Parker. Kate was always the eye candy on The Drew Cary Show, but our TV-watching expertise trained us to expect that she and Drew would get together and stay that way. It wasn’t meant to be, but the fact that they got together at all shows just how crazy television can get.
10. Ross and Rachel – Friends
As the years wore on, TV writers began to find new ways of mismatching couples. Rather than focus on the purely physical aspects, many shows, Friends included, began to cast better looking characters as nerds. Ross (David Schwimmer) on Friends was one of the new breeds of pseudo-nerds on television. He was somewhat attractive but incredibly nerdy. His passion for dinosaurs was only bested by his undying love for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Since Rachel was blessed with the looks of an angel, Ross had an uphill climb to win her as his prize. Fortunately for him, all hot women on TV shows are suckers for nerds who do nice things for them at any cost. For many seasons, the unconventional relationship between Ross and Rachel was the driving force behind Friends and, in the end, they got together like we all knew they would.
9. Harry and Charlotte – Sex and the City
Compared to her friends in Sex and the City, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is much more modest and much less interested in the physical makeup of her partners. That being said, she’s extremely attractive and well off, so she tends to date men who are in that same bracket. Predictably, they all fall short in one way or another. While going through a divorce, however, Charlotte falls for her divorce lawyer, Harry (Evan Handler), who like most short, bald and unattractive men on television, is incredibly nice and loving. Her interest in Harry surprises Charlotte because he is not what she imagined her life partner to look like. Even though we figured that, if any of the friends on the show were to be with someone for something other than sex, it would be Charlotte, the difference in looks between Harry and Charlotte is still a bit startling.
8. Dan and Serena – Gossip Girl
Even though Dan (Penn Badgley) is an attractive guy, compared to Serena (Blake Lively) he’s a pig. In real life, Lively is like a mythological creature. She doesn’t quite make sense. In Gossip Girl, they make her even more attractive and appealing. Then there’s Dan. The creepy little stuttering weirdo who tries to nice guy his way into Serena’s heart. Amazingly, it works, then doesn’t, then does, then doesn’t again, then does once more. It’s nauseating how many times these two split and then get back together. Then we learn that Dan had been manipulating an entire city all to get with Serena and she’s like, aww, how sweet? No! He’s a pathological stalker. Dan is the modern teen drama version of the nerdy nice guy, which means he’s slightly less attractive and less muscular than the jocks and popular kids. It’s a confusing divide, but it exists.
7. Tobias and Lindsay – Arrested Development
Technically, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) isn’t with Tobias (David Cross) out of love, like many of the couples on this list, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re together even though Lindsay is so far out of Tobias’ league that he can’t even catch a scent of hers. The only reason Lindsay is with Tobias is because she wants to make her parents angry. Tobias is very likely gay, which would make Lindsay his beard in a way. Tobias and Lindsay’s relationship is never very stable. They are hardly ever intimate and Lindsay knows she can do much better. All this awareness is a refreshing change to the standard dynamic we see on television with such physically differing characters.
6. Chuck and Sarah – Chuck
When Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) first met in Chuck, it was the same setup that we’ve seen countless times before on TV. This one had a bit of a twist though. Rather than have the nerdy Chuck win the love of the sexy Sarah by taking care of her and doing everything for her, Sarah was lured by Chuck’s constant need for protection. Sarah was always the strong and capable and Chuck was the incapable, the ever-vulnerable. Things get a little flipped for a while, but that basic premise always lingered at the core of Chuck. Like Leonard in The Big Bang Theory and Ross in Friends before that, Chuck is one of the new-age nerds. More like emotionally accessible guys who are somewhat intelligent and have the odd unconventional interest like comic books or video games.
5. Michael Scott and Jan – The Office
One of the most refreshing things about The Office was Michel Scott (Steve Carrell) and the character’s ability to subvert the typical narrative. Normally, we would see the eccentric nice guy, in this case Michael, win the heart of the sexy, successful woman, Jan (Melora Hardin), through kindness and/or intelligence. But, while Michael is kind, sort of, the way he wins Jan over can’t really be nailed down. Jan first shows interest in Michael when she sees that his unconventional sales methods work, so perhaps she’s attracted to success. Whatever it is, Jan gradually shows herself to be more and more unstable, while Michael is shown to have a method to his madness. It’s a neat inversion to the standard trope. Still, Jan is incredibly hot and Michael is Michael.
4. Robert and Cersei – Game of Thrones
We know why Cersei (Lena Headey) and Robert (Mark Addy) are together in Game of Thrones, so that’s not a secret. Cersei makes it very clear that the marriage was political and nothing more. There was never any love. There could have been, at least that’s what Cersei says, but Robert was in love with Lyanna (Ned’s sister). Love in a pure form in Game of Thrones is rare. It seems that every character has an ulterior motive, so we can’t blame Cersei for marrying for position, even though the decision wasn’t hers either. When you look at this couple, they look no different than any mismatched couple from nearly every sitcom, but this one doesn’t hide the unnaturalness of it. Say what you will, but if a traditionally attractive woman from royalty had her choice between an attractive king or an unattractive king, she would choose the most attractive one. It’s not like Robert was particularly nice or loving, so the whole “nice guy” argument flies right out the window.
3. Jerry and Gayle – Parks and Recreation
Jerry (Jim O’Heir) and Gayle Gergich (Christie Brinkley) from Parks and Recreation are one of the most mismatched couples we’ve seen because we’re never really given an explanation for why they’re together. We see Jerry through the perspective of his colleagues and he’s clumsy, silly, unattractive and entirely forgettable. However, when we finally meet his wife, Gayle, we’re shocked by her beauty. Everyone who meets Gayle is blown away that she would be with Jerry. Many attribute their connection to the fact that Jerry is said to be especially well endowed. It could also be because of his exemplary cooking skills. Or maybe he just treats her right. Whatever it is, it worked.
2. Jay and Gloria – Modern Family
The common idea in both real life and TV and film is that attractive women often go for rich unattractive men or rich older men. Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill) seem to fulfill this expectation, but we learn that Gloria is not in it for the money; she actually loves Jay. Still, many of the episodes deal with Jay’s insecurity thanks to this common train of thought. They are undoubtedly mismatched, no matter how progressive we like to think we are. It’s not only in looks either. Jay looks and seems like your traditional old, set-in-his-ways bigot, but we learn that’s not true either. Sweet Lord Gloria’s attractive.
1. Todd and Melissa – The Last Man on Earth
The show The Last Man on Earth does well to play with the concept of a mismatched couple if the people on Earth were to disappear. In the real world, Todd (Mel Rodriguez) and Melissa (January Jones) getting together would be a bit jarring, but in this post-apocalyptic setting it’s not weird at all. It totally makes sense because Todd is by far the most likable character. Plus, it’s not like Will Forte is winning any world’s sexiest men prizes, so Todd’s not even much of a step down physically. He is overweight and a tad goofy, but, like many before him, he’s nice and sweet and caring. Melissa is wildly attractive and not in an end of the world kind of way. She’s unbearably hot in an overpopulated Earth.
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