Sometimes, it happens from the very beginning: a series based around a slow burn relationship that you can root for or not care about at all. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a later season addition that catches you off guard: maybe it was written for May Sweeps, or maybe the writers just wanted to shake things up. And sometimes, it even happens with those secondary characters who used to be tolerable, but then they were paired together, and suddenly, they’re that annoying couple who does and says everything in sync, and there you go, reaching for your remote control.
Admit it: you’ve had the experience before where you were watching a show, totally invested, and then a couple came out of nowhere that left a bad taste in your mouth. The show would be so much better off without it, in fact, so you try to ignore it and keep watching for what drew you in in the first place. If you’re lucky, it works; and if not, it’s another abandoned series you cut from your DVR list or Netflix queue.
While couples aren’t always the center of attention on most TV shows, there’s no denying that a particularly bad couple can make watching something you once loved really hard to do. And in the case of these 16 TV Couples That RUINED Amazing Shows, they pretty much made watching impossible.
16. Clark and Lana (Smallville)
In recent years, it’s become a lot more common for comic book shows and movies to diverge from their source material. However, when Smallville did just that, what resulted was one of TV’s worst, most drawn out, and incompatible couples to date.
In most versions of the comics, Clark Kent and Lana Lang are childhood friends. Lana is sometimes even in on Clark’s secret. Occasionally, there’s an unrequited love or attraction on one side of the relationship, but nothing ever comes of it.
In Smallville, however, what viewers were force to endure was eight seasons of back and forth soap opera dramatics. Lana and Clark were each other’s first loves, yet the sheer amount of lying and betrayal that occurred—not to mention the fact that Clark’s father Jonathan had to die in order to bring Lana back to life—made their story unbearable from start to finish.
15. Barney and Robin (How I Met Your Mother)
There’s no denying that, as amusing as Barney Stinson could be for most of How I Met Your Mother‘s run, he’s kind of a trash person. No disrespect to Neil Patrick Harris, who delivered every bizarre and often offensive line with the utmost charisma and charm, but Barney is a raging sleazebag. And at the end of the day, someone as great as Robin Scherbatsky deserves a whole lot better than someone who rarely developed as a human being–if he did at all.
You don’t have to want Robin with Ted to see that, either. No matter how divisive the show’s series finale may have been (and may still be, and may always be…), it shows two things: Robin has come a whole lot farther than most of the characters on the show have during its nine season run, and Barney has probably changed the absolute least. They may have loved one another, but in the end, that’s not enough to forgive bad characterization and regressive dynamics.
14. David and Maddie (Moonlighting)
Perhaps the first example of a couple truly leading to the downfall of a series, Moonlighting is a cautionary tale that still gets its name thrown around whenever a once great show starts to lose steam when a “will they, won’t they” couple gets together. Starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd as detectives David Addison and Maddie Hayes, the dramedy revolved around the cases they solved, but viewers really tuned in for their sparking banter and unresolved sexual tension.
Yet once the tension became resolved, it was quickly clear that the show didn’t actually know what to do with them—and that viewers, in turn, were more interested in the buildup than the payoff. Add to it the fact that the season following their coupling had them barely interact due to conflicts with Shepherd’s and Willis’ personal lives and careers, and Moonlighting was as good as over as soon as the deed was done.
13. Jackson and April (Grey’s Anatomy)
Grey’s Anatomy has had a lot of different couplings over the years, yet it’s perhaps the pairing of Jackson Avery and April Kepner that’s truly done the series far more harm than good.
A bad boy with a heart of gold meets a prim and proper girl who’s scared to let loose. It’s how a lot of great love stories start, but this…is definitely not one of them. Their first time as a couple, which was also April’s first time ever, was quickly ruined by April overcompensating with internalized guilt, ruining an important first source of happiness for them and foreshadowing the worst that was yet to come.
Years later, they’ve suffered unthinkable misery together (most notably, the loss of their first child), and sometimes because of each other (restraining orders, interrupted weddings, sabotaged relationships). It’s unclear whether Japril will get their happy ending, but with a newborn daughter now, it’s possible their rocky waters could smooth out soon.
12. Sayid and Shannon (Lost)
The Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle waged on for much longer than it needed to, dividing fans left and right. Charlie and Claire were the sweetheart couple with the tragic ending. And speaking of devastating couples, don’t even get us started on Desmond and Penny. Or Sun and Jin. It’s been more than ten years since some of these things aired, and yet it’s still too soon.
And then…there’s Sayid and Shannon. Who…are just kind of there. With no chemistry. Or story. Or interest. Or development. Spoiled rich girl Shannon dies tragically early on, and Sayid goes on just fine without her. But then hey, they get a happy ending reunion in the finale!
11. Brooke and Lucas (One Tree Hill)
For nine seasons from 2004-2012, One Tree Hill was a heartwarming coming of age story about family, friendship, basketball, music, and love. Yet for its first (at least) four seasons, the show was plagued by one of its worst decisions: the pairing of popular cheerleader Brooke Davis and soulful basketball star Lucas Scott.
Known to fans as Brucas, the couple presents perhaps one of the most blatant examples of pairing two characters together purely because the actors were (briefly) involved. Brooke and Lucas had absolutely nothing in common, other than finding each other attractive. When they’re not dating, they talk (about Brooke’s problems, but never Lucas’) and when they’re together, all they do is make out or fight, usually about Brooke’s so-called best friend Peyton, who’s always had feelings for Lucas. If only Brooke had known Peyton had those feelings before she went after Lucas…
Oh wait. She did.
10. Tom and Ann (Parks and Recreation)
Opposites attract, especially on TV, because it makes for good storytelling, and character development, and defying assumptions, and…
Yeah, no. Literally none of that happened on Parks and Recreation when it came to the horrible decision to pair Aziz Ansari’s Tom Haverford with Rashida Jones’ Ann Perkins. None of those reasons could explain it or excuse it away either.
Tom was one of the show’s quirkiest and wildest cards, a ball of frenetic energy, joy, and “treat yo self!” brought to life by Ansari’s hilarious comedic timing. Ann was…Ann, the opposite of Tom in every way, but more than that, devoid of any real personality that would explain why she would see anything in Tom, or why Tom could possibly see a suitable romantic partner in her.
9. Olivia and Jake (Scandal)
Olivia Pope has never had the best taste in men. After all, the entire plot of Scandal is based on the fact that she’s a problem solver who can’t solve her own problem—namely, being in love with the President.
But somehow, one messy, years-spanning relationship wasn’t enough to fill her relationship drama quota.
No, Olivia had to go on and date Jake Ballard, a highly volatile operative who works for her mass-murdering father’s spy agency. Jake’s greatest hits include stalking Olivia’s every move, assaulting her to the point that she winds up in the hospital, choking her, killing thousands of people, being considered by her father as the son he always wished he had, and taking part in a sham marriage to please his quasi-father-slash-boss.
8. Haley and Andy (Modern Family)
For eight seasons, ABC’s Modern Family has redefined what relationships can be, and treated them all equally. Whether it’s reliable average parents Phil and Claire, groundbreaking gay couple Cameron and Mitchell, or the age defying relationship between Jay and Gloria, Modern Family makes love and family relatable through truly zany antics, as only sitcoms can.
Yet when eldest Dunphy daughter Haley aged out of dating her adorably dumb high school sweetheart Dylan, the show decided to try and find her a suitable match in Jay and Gloria’s new “manny,” Andy. Yet what they succeeded in doing was giving her a love interest who was somehow even dumber than affable dim bulb Dylan, and played charmlessly and without any spark with Haley’s spitfire personality.
7. Leonard and Penny / Sheldon and Amy (The Big Bang Theory)
While The Big Bang Theory might excel at satirizing nerd culture, one thing they’re nowhere near as good at is writing couples.
There’s nothing wrong with the geek getting the girl, but Leonard and Penny have never worked, and the show seems to know it. Leonard has never fully trusted Penny: he feels superior to her (intellectually) and inferior to her (appearance and popularity-wise). Likewise, Penny looks down on him and his friends. Add a rushed wedding, hidden cheating, and constant fighting, and you’ve got a dysfunctional sitcom couple.
Similarly, Sheldon and Amy’s relationship has destroyed what once made Sheldon a unique character. Previously driven by intellect and devoid of romantic interest, Sheldon is now in a fully sexual and romantic relationship with Amy, even using innuendos and flirting, which he never understood. It’s no coincidence that Jim Parsons won four Emmys for Sheldon between 2009-2014; and yet since the Shamy ship has really taken off and become indistinguishable from other couples, he hasn’t been so much as nominated once.
6. Aidan and Carrie (Sex and the City)
As a show about the ups and downs of dating in New York City, Sex and the City inevitably featured more downs than ups. Yet all these years later, the endgame relationship for main character Carrie Bradshaw is still a hot topic for debate. And sure, the relationship between Carrie and Mr. Big isn’t for everyone.
But perhaps even truer than that is this: Aidan Shaw was absolutely, unequivocally the wrong guy for Carrie.
No matter how much they may have loved one another, their fundamental incompatibility comes down to one simple fact: Aidan would never stop trying to make her the woman he wanted her to be, and would never actually trust or be happy with the woman she always will be. As Carrie herself puts it in season 4, “I love you, but I can’t marry you to make you trust me.”
5. Cersei and Jaime (Game of Thrones)
Even the highest quality shows can fall prey to terrible couples. Look no further than Game of Thrones‘ terrible twin twosome for proof.
Cersei and Jaime Lannister have been involved in an incestuous sexual relationship for much of their lives, producing the three illegitimate Baratheon heirs as a result. As if the twincest weren’t repulsive enough, one of those illegitimate heirs included the truly psychopathic Joffrey Baratheon, whose reign of terror led to many of the show’s most violent and harrowing deaths.
The television adaptation also took a consensual love scene from the books and turned it into a highly controversial, yet clearly non-consensual rape scene. True, it took place beside their son’s dead body in either case, but the revisionist message of the show’s version still makes things so much worse.
In the season 7 finale, Jaime seems to finally realize his sister is past the point of no return, fleeing King’s Landing soon after. Here’s to hoping that sticks, if only so we never have to see these two go at it again.
4. Rory and Logan (Gilmore Girls)
It’s the central conflict at the heart of Gilmore Girls: mom Lorelai was born into wealth, but chose to live independently in the middle class, while daughter Rory was raised in the middle class, but wishes she had the wealth that her mother once took for granted.
So it was only a matter of time before Rory dated a rich guy. Unfortunately, she just happened to pick the worst rich boy of them all. Flanked by two of the most insipid frat boy friends imaginable, Logan Huntzberger is a walking, talking ad campaign for what not to look for in a boyfriend. Having slept with his sister’s entire bridal party, gotten Rory arrested, and led her into a spoiled life of debauchery, Logan is arguably one of the series’ central antagonists.
In the revival, Rory allows herself to be strung along as Logan’s mistress, only to wind up pregnant. By the revival’s end, she seems determined that it would be best to raise her child without Logan’s help. Hopefully, that open ending sticks.
3. House and Cuddy (House)
To put it simply, House is an addict and Cuddy is his enabler. For six long seasons, House abused their combative boss-employee power imbalance dynamic and packaged it as a spark: they fight each other because they’re meant to be together, you see.
Yet when season 7 arrived, and the show finally cashed in its chips with the six years worth of enabling and fighting, their relationship made the season all but impossible to watch. Given House’s series long struggle with sobriety and his mental health, he was really not in the place to be in a relationship with anyone, especially after starting season 6 in a mental institution.
And in case you had forgotten about that fact, the show chooses to end their involvement forever in a particularly clear way: with a jealous House ramming his car into Cuddy’s home, and Lisa Edelstein’s departure from the series immediately thereafter.
2. Oliver and Felicity (Arrow)
Unfortunately, fan service is an all too common phenomenon in television today, especially with the easy access to content creators across social media.
Yet there is no denying that one of the most flagrant cases of fan service can be found in The CW’s Arrow. Felicity Smoak was brought onto the series in season 1 as a random minor character; and five seasons later, thanks to fan uproar, she’s become the female lead of the show, and Oliver Queen’s romantic partner.
And all of this is before you account for the lack of chemistry, constant trust issues and fighting, and the total sidelining and replacement of the iconic Green Arrow/Black Canary couple (making it the second DC TV propery to replace the Canary with a blonde investigator in Oliver’s heart). Arrow was never the strongest superhero series to begin with, but once it catered to Olicity, there was no coming back.
1. Joey and Rachel (Friends)
As we’ve seen so far, sitcoms are the worst offenders when it comes to pairing incompatible characters for no apparent reason. Yet nothing can be considered worse than the decision to pair Joey and Rachel in seasons 9 and 10 of Friends.
Sure, the first time Joey fell for Rachel when she was pregnant, it was sweet. He was always the superficial one, and so it meant something that this was the time he would fall for this girl he’s known for so long. He fell for her because of who she is, not because he just wanted to get in her pants like with every other girl he’d been paired with.
Yet when they were given a real shot as a couple, it was uncomfortable, attraction-based, and the entire point of their relationship was to highlight the fact that they never worked to begin with. So we have to wonder: why did the show bother giving it a go at all?
What other couples have totally ruined shows for you? Let us know in the comments!
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