One of the reasons we love to watch TV, is to watch the chemistry between the characters. The interaction between fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, and friends drive just about every show we watch. But it’s the interplay between couples in both dramas and sitcoms that usually has the winning formula for any great show. The foundation that male and female leads build can propel a series to the stratosphere for a few good years.
No matter the status of the couple (dating, married, newlyweds, complicated, friends, rich, poor, etc.), if their chemistry isn’t liked by fans, you can more or less forget about the show. Mulder + Scully = ratings; Dogget + Scully = not so much, and The X-Files didn’t last too long after that. Sometimes couples make fans long for a lasting, loving relationship even with all of the good and bad (Roseanne), some fans enjoy all kinds of fun witty banter or schmaltzy romance stuff.
Sometimes the “will they or won’t they” chemistry can completely and utterly backfire once the couple gets together (Moonlighting). Sometimes, it’s just the spark the show has been waiting for. The sitcoms of the nineties started to break the mold and completely devote from the tried and true wholesome family sitcoms of the eighties to have all kinds of situations besides familial ones.
Whether they were already established, or fans yearned for them to get together, here are 15 Couples That Hurt Iconic 90s Sitcoms (And 15 That Saved Them)
30 Hurt: George And Susan (Seinfeld)
Seinfeld has been dubbed by many fans and critics alike as the “greatest sitcom ever.” It broke down the barriers of what a sitcom could do – “the show about nothing.” For a series that had little to no dangling plot elements, they did try to inject some during the show’s seventh season.
Hapless loser George decided it would be a good idea to try and get married. He proposed to Susan, an old girlfriend. The engagement was doomed from the start and did provide some funny moments to the show. In reality, Susan ruined the dynamic of the core four; there was no way this story was going to (or meant to) last.
29 Saved: Hyde And Jackie (That '70s Show)
Debuting in 1998, That 70’s Show was Fox’s last great sitcom of the decade. The story of six friends growing up in Wisconsin circa the seventies. Jackie was certainly the vainest of all of the kids, and Hyde was the most laid back. Clearly, these two belonged together.
It was teased several times over the years, but Jackie and Hyde finally got together in the season five opener. They had their ups and downs, but what teenage relationship didn’t. As far as TV couples go, actors Danny Masterson and Mila Kunis had a chemistry that seemed real, which made their coupling one of the more popular in the series.
28 Hurt: Jefferson And Marcy (Married...With Children)
To be honest, Ted McGinley is widely known as the signal that a TV show has jumped the shark. But Married…With Children played off this concept beautifully. As Jefferson D’Arcy, every so often a stranger would wander by and accuse him of being on Happy Days or The Love Boat.
The show was still classic for the seven more years of the show’s run. But the yuppie sarcasm of David Garrison’s Steve and Marcy was sorely missed, traded in for the outright silliness of Jefferson and all of his ridiculous antics.
27 Saved: Ross And Rachel (Friends)
Besides Seinfeld, Friends was THE sitcom of the nineties. The pair of shows cemented the “Must-See TV” of NBC. All of our favorite friends had some marquee moments over the years and some fun significant other (sometimes each other), but none were more symbolic of the show than Ross and Rachel.
The couple had known each other since they were kids and had an on-again-off-again relationship all throughout the series. It made for great comedy and drama. The pair ending up together was the only way to end the series.
26 Hurt: Joey And Rachel (Friends)
Every good TV relationship needs a few good roadblocks to ramp potential drama. Friends was no different. But sometimes the roadblocks seem genuine and therefore fit the story. Other times, it’s very contrived. One such obstacle in front of Ross and Rachel was Joey and Rachel.
Perhaps the one hookup nobody asked for more than this one would be Ross and Monica! But when Joey and Rachel were living together, some writers got it their head that these two should try some pair-bonding. Maybe that writer was just a tad overzealous?
25 Saved: Zack And Kelly (Saved By The Bell)
If you grew up in the nineties, more likely than not, Saved By The Bell was the jam. The antics of Zack Morris endeared himself to a generation of kids. For the kid who just about everyone either wanted to be or hang out with, he needed to have the perfect girlfriend.
Kelly was the epitome of the girl next door. Beautiful and kind with a smile that could melt the icecaps. The series began with Zack in Indiana, hanging out with Screech, Lisa, Mikey, and Nikki. But the show most fans remember and love fondly really took off once they moved to California and introduced Kelly.
24 Hurt – Stefan And Laura (Family Matters)
The world was a very different place when Family Matters was popular. The annoying neighbor Steve Urkel was a series’ sensation. The Winslows knew he had a heart of gold and didn’t even seem to mind him constantly ogling and fawning over their daughter Laura.
Steve made himself into a suave and smooth clone, Stefan. Laura was instantly smitten. It was all played for laughs. But it made Laura seem completely superficial, basically falling for the kid who was head over heels for her, just the fake version of him.
23 Saved: Cory And Topanga (Boy Meets World)
Some of the entries on this list are what young love is all about. That “puppy dog” kind of love that everyone wants to exist and tries to make it so. In reality, it’s all a Disney movie fantasy.
But Cory and Topanga showed even the most cynical Boy Meets World fan that puppy love was just pitch perfect. Even when Cory made fun of his little friend, it was apparent that it was only because “girls are icky.” They were made for each other from the start. The instant Cory realized that, the show was off to the races.
22 Hurt: Drew And Kellie (The Drew Carey Show)
Drew Carey might be the most likable guy in recent sitcom history. He was safe and knew how to poke fun at himself. That’s why The Drew Carey Show lasted nine years. But it was also his sweet crush on his friend, Kate. Then she left for Guam.
For the last few years of the show, Cynthia Watros joined the show as Kellie Newmark. While there was nothing inherently wrong with Kellie or their relationship; the writers had to shoehorn it into the show when Christa Miller left the series.
21 Saved: Jesse And Becky (Full House)
We all wanted to be part of the Tanner family, admit it. All that saccharine gooeyness was just what the doctor ordered. Everyone wanted to have someone as cool and as caring as Uncle Jesse in their lives. Since the name of the show was Full House, the writers needed to make the house fuller.
Uncle Jesse married Becky and the couple stayed in the Tanner house and had a set of twins to continue the theme of the show. But their marriage was also the only stable relationship on the show.
20 Hurt: Maxwell And Fran (The Nanny)
The well-off Maxwell Sheffield hired a hairdresser from Flushing, Queens; Fran Fine, to take care of his children. He was instantly smitten and so was she, but they both consistently readily denied their affections for one another.
Like a lot of shows though, once you get past the wish fulfillment of seeing this couple together after so many years of flirting, it’s hard to keep the romance (and comedy) alive. Even series creator, Fran Drescher knew that it changed the dynamic of the series.
19 Saved: Paul And Jamie (Mad About You)
He might have played a real jerk in Aliens, but Paul Reiser was extremely likable as Paul Buchman. Mad About You focused on the marriage of newlyweds Paul and Jamie; who was played by Helen Hunt. Despite a few episodes where a separation was teased, the couple was perfect together.
Their chemistry is what the show was based around. For it not work would have meant that the series would have never lasted. Hopefully, Reiser and Hunt will still have that chemistry when the series returns later this year.
18 Hurt: Zack And Tori (Saved By The Bell)
While new people show up at school and at work all throughout our lives, on a sitcom new people showing up could feel forced. When Tiffani Theisen and Elizabeth Berkeley decided to leave Saved By The Bell, the producers split the final season to have those two in some of the shows and Leanna Creel in the other half.
Creel as Tori might have some fans, but there aren’t much since she’s seldom brought up during any of the show’s reunions. She was introduced as the tough girl with a heart of gold and even dated Zack, but it was strange watching essentially two different versions of the same show at the same time.
17 Saved: Big And Carrie ([Love] And The City)
[Love] And The City was one of the shows that debuted and took the world by storm. Women from all over seemed to enjoy watching the exploits of New York debutantes, with Carrie Bradshaw as their fearless leader.
From the moment Mr. Big bumped into Carrie and helped her with her stuff, it was apparent these two would be a big arc for the show. I took a while and they burned a few relationships and marriages off to be with each other, but Big and Carrie became the iconic couple for the series.
16 Hurt: Jackie And Prince Carlos (Roseanne)
To be fair, the entire final season of Roseanne hurt the series. No amount of finale narration from Roseanne about how winning the lottery was a fantasy could account for the 22 episodes prior that the series went completely off the rails in its final season.
But Jackie getting courted by a Prince was leftist of left fields the show could go. Actually, having the guy be played by “Ernest” Jim Varney might be the biggest left turn the series could take.
15 Saved: Chandler And Monica (Friends)
It happens all of the time. You hang out with the same group of friends enough, that eventually you realize you like one of the other members of your squad. They like you too. Throughout the first few seasons of Friends, Chandler and Monica were very close and confided several secrets in one another that they hadn’t told the rest of their group.
But watching the two get together was fun to watch them keep it from the rest of the group and a great relief from watching Ross and Rachel pine for each other. By the time they have twins in the series’ finale, they became the quintessential couple for the show. Proof that even two goofy people can make it work.
14 Hurt: Tony And Angela (Who’s The Boss?)
Tony Danza and Judith Light didn’t necessarily invent the “will they or won’t they” dynamic, but they certainly rewrote the mold on how to play such chemistry. Who’s The Boss? became a phenomenon because of classic sitcom tropes like inadvertently seeing each other in the buff.
Over the course of seven seasons, it was apparent that Tony and Angela deeply cared for each other. During the final year, they did the tried and never true thing of getting together; proving yet again that a show originally based around tension probably shouldn’t have the leads crossing a certain line.
13 Saved: Larry And Ally (Ally McBeal)
Ally McBeal was groundbreaking. It was a quirky and funny workplace comedy that masqueraded around like a TV drama. One of the first dramedies on TV as we know it, Calista Flockhart was fetching as the series lead.
But the guy who came in and really gave Flockhart a run for her money was Mr. Iron Man himself – Robert Downey Jr. He played Larry Paul, Ally’s boyfriend. The performance was so good, that it earned the future face of Marvel a Golden Globe, and a standing ovation.
12 Hurt: Kelso And Jackie (That '70s Show)
Besides the parents, the only relationship that was going on when That '70s Show started was between vapid Jackie and Kelso. While they did stay together for the first few years of the show, the off and on of it all and just how poorly they treated each other really started to wain.
The show hit its stride when these two actually broke up for real. She found solace in Hyde and matured. Even Kelso grew up, although still a bit spacey. Not only would staying together hurt the show, breaking up made it even better.
11 Saved: Doug And Carrie (The King Of Queens)
The chemistry between Kevin James and Leah Remini was so palpable that a lot of people might have confused them for a real-life couple who is also playing one on TV. The Heffernans were as relatable as plenty of people you’d meet in Queens.
That chemistry allowed The King Of Queens to be the last show from the nineties to go off the air in 2007. The very same that again worked when Remini was invited to join the cast of Kevin Can’t Wait.
10 Hurt: Randy And Donna (That '70s Show)
There could be an entire column solely devoted to shows that continue well past their glory days. The final season of That '70s Show would be included if not right at the top of the list. With series star, Topher Grace out and new character Randy introduced, it was bad taste personified. Yes you want to continue so people keep working and trying to entertain.
But at the expense of the series is just ridiculous. To top it off, trying to pair Randy and Donna off ] leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths and the show exits.
9 Saved: Will And Lisa (The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air)
Plenty of men would be lucky to have their lives turned upside down if it meant getting to hang out with Lisa. The couple had a fun courtship and, on several attempts, almost got married. The couple ultimately decided against it.
But Lisa gave Will the spark he needed. Instead of just being a silly guy, Lisa made him a man of commitment. Will Smith the character had matured into a man during his time with her.
8 Hurt: Mike And Kate (Growing Pains)
Growing Pains was one of the iconic sitcoms of the eighties and early nineties. Series star and teen heartthrob, Kirk Cameron played oldest kid and biggest troublemaker, Mike Seaver. He had fallen for a girl named Julie, and fans did too. But she left him the ol’ “Dear John” letter and broke Mike’s heart.
Behind the scenes, by many accounts had become very difficult to deal with. He wanted more and more wholesome stories that focused on him being a good guy instead of a delinquent. His relationship with Kate wasn’t nearly as memorable.
7 Saved: Jerry And Elaine (Seinfeld)
There is an episode of Seinfeld where after going on a tirade about not trying to be funny and asks, “is this funny,” Elaine looks at Jerry and says “a little.” The way that Elaine looks at Jerry at that moment says about 1000 things about love all in a millisecond. You can’t buy that kind of chemistry.
Writers Larry David and Seinfeld himself did the smart thing, despite what executives wanted. They kept the couple apart instead of doing what plenty of shows on this list did (put them together).
6 Hurt: Niles And Daphne (Frasier)
From the earliest of episodes of Frasier, Niles Crane had pined for his father’s physical therapist, Daphne Moon. His brother Frasier would on several occasions try to prevent Niles from revealing his true feelings for Daphne.
They finally got together during the show’s final seasons. Giving the fans and the characters what they wanted ultimately. But once they got together, the super smart writers of the series seemed to forget that much of the comedy of their chemistry came from Niles pining for her, not winning her.
5 Saved: Kevin And Winnie (The Wonder Years)
Nostalgia for days gone by is not uncommon in a TV show or a movie. The Wonder Years perfected this art form by not just telling their story during the tumultuous sixties, but also the tumultuous time in all of our lives – growing up.
For fans of the show, we got to grow up with Kevin and have a crush on his best friend Winnie. Their friendship was the backbone of the series, but they actually never ended up together. But all of the firsts that they shared together made for classic moments on the series.
4 Hurt: Fez And Jackie (That '70s Show)
For seven and a half years on That 70’s Show, pretty much all Fez did was bother and pine for Jackie. He was the first character to note how poorly Kelso treated her. But despite coming to her rescue on several occasions, Jackie couldn’t stand the little guy.
Like many random things that happened in the final season, Jackie finally realized that she did, in fact, love Fez. After practically running from the guy for so long and clearly wanted nothing to do with him – one more reason that last season is a bad season.
3 Saved: Homer And Marge (The Simpsons)
If the marriage between Homer and Marge doesn’t work, then there is nothing right in the world at all. The Simpsons hasn’t been on for eight-hundred years because people DON’T want to see them.
Despite being cartoons, Marge might be the perfect TV mom. Homer’s an oaf, but he works hard and minus a few choke-outs and disappointments, really loves his kids and family. Homer and Marge might just be the most realistic depiction of a married couple in love on TV.
2 Hurt: Ross And Emily (Friends)
Ross getting married to Emily was a huge curveball Friends pitched its fans. They collectively screamed, “he’s supposed to be with Rachel!” They met and married quickly. But Ross only had eyes for Rachel – and accidentally called his new wife Rachel on their wedding night.
Thankfully, Emily was smarter than most sitcom girls and demanded Ross to stop seeing Rachel if he wanted her to move to New York. When Ross declined since he couldn’t do that, the marriage ended and he was able to resume his longing for Rachel.
1 Saved – Urkel And Myra (Family Matters)
Since Urkel was never going to leave Laura and her boyfriend Ted alone, they set him up with Ted’s cousin, Myra. He thought for sure that the date would be pointless until he realized that Myra was smart and beautiful.
She was a female version of Steve in a lot of crazy ways, but it gave Urkel someone to play off and realize some of his own faults through Myra’s. She was sweet in nature just like Steve, which helped this couple be a winning combination.