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ten best!: Classic television couples

by Keith Barber

George and Louise Jefferson, “The Jeffersons”

Valentine’s Day makes me think about love, and love makes me think about… television? Yes — pretty much everything makes me think of TV, because I’ve watched so much of it over the years. And I’ve always loved me some Jeffersons, possibly because George and Weezy reminded me of my grandparents: Both were tiny, bickering couples who had risen to financial success from blue-collar backgrounds. My grandparents, however, opted for a brick house in Morristown, NJ as opposed to a de-luxe apartment in the sky, and they didn’t have a wisecracking, insubordinate maid. Also, for what it’s worth, my grandparents aren’t black.

Ralph and Alice Kramden, “The Honeymooners”

Things were different in the 1950s, when Jackie Gleason made his mark as a fat schlub from the Outer Boroughs. For one, bus drivers and city sewer workers could still afford decent apartments in Brooklyn while their wives — childless, mind you — still stayed home and kept house. Also, apparently back then you could show on television men threatening their wives with physical beatings, which is what that “Right to the moon!” business was all about.

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, “I Love Lucy”

Though “I Love Lucy” ran concurrently with “The Honeymooners” in the late ’50s, I’m pretty sure I never heard Ricky threaten Lucy with an ass-whoopin’, though certainly neighbor Fred Mertz was guilty of occasional bouts of misogyny. I seem to remember scripts peppered with jokes about women drivers, women with jobs and even an episode dedicated to the hilarity of the concept of women playing golf — remember the “mashie”?

Peter and Lois Griffin, “Family Guy”

Peter and Lois get the nod over Homer and Marge Simpson, “The Simpsons,” in the animated category in a tough call. Both are fat, drunk chuckleheads who married way above their stations, with terrible work and personal habits — in short, I identify with them completely. The difference is this: Lois Griffin is way hotter than Marge Simpson. I’m just not into the blue hair thing, plus Lois has a bit of a kinky streak.

Arthur Fonzarelli and Pinky Tuscadero, “Happy Days”

There were lots of couples on “Happy Days,” which was one of my favorite shows even after it literally jumped the shark — literally! There were the Cunninghams, Mr. And Mrs. C; Richie and his wife Laurie, who carried on even after he left for Korea with the Army (read: Ron Howard left the show); Joanie and Chachi, who inspired their own short-lived spin-off; and even a real relationship for the womanizing Fonz, which happened after he grew a beard and began teaching auto shop and, which was right around the time I started losing interest. But nobody beats Pinky Tuscadero, not even the Malachi brothers.

Thurston (III) and Eunice “Lovey” Wentworth Howell, “Gilligan’s Island”

Never mind the question of why a millionaire and his wife would go on a threehour Hawaiian tour with three total strangers on The Minnow, a 38-foot inshore vessel, according to Wikipedia, crewed by two total morons. Why didn’t they have their own boat? Why did they bring so much luggage? Why did they bring so much cash? How can they spend so much time on that island and still live like millionaires? Questions like these are why I had to stop watching the show — that, and I turned 12.

Herman and Lily Munster, “The Munsters”

It’s hard to look at this show with fresh eyes because it’s been with us so long, but “The Munsters” is one of the most creative things ever put on television. Yeah, monsters were pretty hot back then, but the idea of making a comedy about a family of monsters is about as far out there as making a comedy about a prison camp — which, of course was the basis of “Hogan’s Heroes.” And Fred Gwynnne’s decision to play Frankenstein’s Monster gay was, in my opinion, inspired. Just one lingering question here: How could a monster and a vampire produce a werewolf?

Gabe and Julie Kotter, “Welcome Back Kotter”

Man, I used to love this show when I was a kid. But a recent re-viewing proved the old maxim: Comedy does not age well. The situations and dialogue are patently ridiculous, the Sweathogs made me physically cringe when they engaged in their respective schticks and the only thing I laughed at was Woodman, the angry little principal, though he, too was quite awful. But the absolute worst part was the little joke that Gabe Kaplan as Kotter would tell his wife each night, usually about a family member. Kaplan is now a professional poker player, and he is even less funny than he used to be.

Major Tony Nelson and Jeannie, “I Dream of Jeannie”

It’s a cute story: astronaut lands on a secluded beach after a space flight, finds a lamp on the shore, gives it a rub and then — Whammo! — a totally hot, semi-naked blonde appears ready to grant him any and all of his wishes. Sigh. When I was a kid, I thought life could actually be like that.

Bert and Ernie, “Sesame Street”

I am one of those who believe that Bert and Ernie were television’s first gay couple — not counting Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly, because I don’t think they ever lived together. But Bert and Ernie did, sharing a bedroom and a bathtub and all of life’s little pleasures and disagreements. And then they’d sing and dance about it. Grow up people.

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