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A man and a woman hug in a restaurant in this image from Warner Bros. Television.
Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) from “Friends” are prime examples of a bad TV couple. (Image: Warner Bros. Television)

We've all been there — sitting on our cozy couches, innocently munching on our favorite snacks until we watch the inevitable happen and start shouting at the TV screen in frustration. Yup, two characters on your favorite show just hooked up or started dating, even though it's painfully obvious that they're the worst possible match.

Here's the twist, though: Sometimes, these terrible TV couples are the best thing that could have happened to the show. They bring the drama, cringe, and chaos, and we secretly (or not so secretly) love every excruciating moment of it. Whether you love to hate-watch or hate to watch their love, here are nine of the worst TV couples that, surprisingly, were great for their respective shows.

Author’s Note: I’ll try to avoid it, but there will be some romance-related show spoilers.

No time to read the article? Watch the video version instead:

Joey and Rachel — ‘Friends’ (1994 to 2004)

A man and a woman hug in a hospital room in this image from Warner Bros. Television.
While Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) weren’t meant to be, at least they spent a lot of time together as individuals. (Image: Warner Bros. Television)

I can already hear the collective groan of “Friends” fans everywhere. Yes, we're talking about the infamous and fleeting Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) romance. Rachel is the show’s it-girl and Joey is its playboy — if it wasn’t for the show’s obsession with forcing Rachel and Ross (David Schwimmer) to be each other’s lobster, we would have seen this pairing coming a mile away.

Rachel and Joey’s relationship was purely motivated by playing into the Ross-Rachel saga. But you know what? I can’t say I hated being able to see different sides of these beloved characters. Even though they were poorly matched, we discovered that Joey could be emotionally vulnerable and Rachel could be emotionally mature. Got to see it to believe it? “Friends” is available on Max.

Spike and Buffy — ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (1997 to 2003)

A man and a woman under a blanket in this image from 20th Century Fox Television
The pairing of Spike (James Marsters) and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) isn’t your ideal relationship. (Image: 20th Century Fox Television)

If you’re in the mood for something horrifying, watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Hulu. No, I’m not talking about the vampires or the Hellmouths — it’s something much, much scarier. That’s right; it’s Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) romance with Spike (James Marsters).

As far as on-screen romances go, there are few as inherently wrong as Buffy and Spike, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers storyline, no matter how cliche it is. Their coupling was filled with twisted passion, morally ambiguous choices, and a level of steaminess that was as enticing as it was unsettling. I’m also not one to complain about Spike getting more screen time — he has had some historically great one-liners.

Robin and Ted — ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (2005 to 2014)

A woman and a man lean in for a kiss in this image from 20th Century Fox Television
Some couples, like Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted (Josh Radnor), seem good on the surface, but that’s as far as it goes. (Image: 20th Century Fox Television)

If there's one show that kept us guessing about its endgame couple, it's “How I Met Your Mother” (available to stream on Hulu). For the majority of the series, it seemed like Ted (Josh Radnor) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) were supposed to be together; however, as viewers, we couldn't help but notice how Ted was more in love with the idea of Robin than with the real Robin herself.

Their tumultuous relationship had its highs and lows, but it was the constant push and pull that kept us glued to the screen. We may not have loved them together, but we couldn't look away, and we didn’t stop rooting for them as individuals.

Kelly and Ryan — ‘The Office’ (2005 to 2013)

A woman in a skeleton shirt and a man in a yellow jacket in this image from Deedle-Dee Productions
If you’re looking for a toxic couple, Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) and Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) are it. (Image: Deedle-Dee Productions)

“The Office” has had more than its fair share of truly terrible romances: Michael and Jan, Andy and Erin, Angela or Oscar and the Senator — the list of pairs that made us say “Yikes” goes on and on. But perhaps the most successful of all the show’s doomed relationships is the toxic romance of Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling) and Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak).

These two lovebirds made oil and water seem like a good match. Their on-again, off-again relationship was an emotional rollercoaster that left us all shaking our heads. But you know what? Their ridiculous dynamic injected a heavy dose of comedy into the show all the way to the end. Catch up on some classic Kelly-Ryan hijinks and stream super-fan episodes on Peacock.

Jimmy and Fiona — ‘Shameless’ (2011 to 2021)

A man and a woman exchange a painful-looking kiss in this image from Bonanza Productions.
Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) and Fiona (Emmy Rossum) (Image: Bonanza Productions)

Anyone who’s streamed this show on Paramount Plus knows that in the world of “Shameless,” chaos reigns supreme. While we’re cheering for nearly every member of the Gallagher family, eldest sister Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is someone we really root for — especially in regard to her love life.

The pilot episode introduces Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) as Fiona’s first love interest, and we can see that this is going to be a trainwreck right away. Their relationship was a rollercoaster of betrayal, lies, and manipulation. Unfortunately, her relationship with Jimmy is the first of plenty that ends in disaster — and that’s putting it nicely. Jimmy personifies a vicious cycle for Fiona, and it’s one we never stop hoping that she’ll get out of.

Alex and Piper — ‘Orange Is the New Black’ (2013 to 2019)

Two women in a prison yard in this image from Tilted Productions
Alex (Laura Prepon) and Piper (Taylor Schilling) are bad for each other. (Image: Tilted Productions)

Set in a women's prison, “Orange Is the New Black” is a Netflix series that’s never short on drama. One of the central couples, Alex (Laura Prepon) and Piper (Taylor Schilling), had a relationship that was anything but smooth sailing. They lied, cheated, and betrayed each other more times than we can count. Alex is partly why Piper is in prison to begin with. So, what’s my defense for them?

It’s simple, honestly — the story wouldn’t exist without them. No matter how terrible and toxic they were for each other, we always rooted for them, proving that we as viewers were as addicted to their love story as they were.

Rosa and Jocelyn — ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (2013 to 2021)

Two women look at each other in this image from Universal Television
Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) and Jocelyn (Cameron Esposito) aren’t the worst couple on this list. (Image: Universal Television)

Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) is known for her tough exterior, and it’s not too often we get to see what’s going on in her private life, particularly in regard to her relationships. One relationship it seemed like no one could really get behind was her romance with Jocelyn (Cameron Esposito). Jocelyn is a cosmetologist who likes to change up Rosa’s hair, and Rosa is reluctant to introduce Jocelyn to her team because she thinks they may not like her. Rosa even hired an actor to play Jocelyn at a dinner with Captain Holt (Andre Braugher).

So what did this pair bring to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine?” After watching the insanity that was her romance with Adrian Pimento (Jason Mantzoukas), it was nice to know how Rosa would fare in a less chaotic relationship, even if she and Jocelyn were pretty underwhelming together. Catch up on these episodes on Peacock.

One thought on “7 Bad TV Couples That Were Great for the Show

  1. Taylor Richfield says:

    agree about buffy and spike!!!

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