Unusual duos are always a blast — there's something exciting about two very different people who manage to have a deep friendship. It's also the foundation for a lot of friction, which is the heart of good storytelling. Over the years there have been dozens of television odd couples. One series, "The Odd Couple," took the trope to extremes in 1970, following the adventures of Felix and Oscar, two recently divorced men forced to live together.
The HBO series "Succession" has given us a new terrible twosome to love and loathe in Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew MacFayden), two outsiders sucked into the horrifying family dynamics of the Roys. The season 3 scene where Tom tells Greg "I'd castrate and marry you in a heartbeat" cemented their place in the Odd Couple Hall of Fame and got me thinking the best of TV's strange pairs, from Lucy and Ethel to Jesse and Walt. Few of these couples are romantic couples in the traditional sense, but instead their relationships transcend the usual boundaries of friendship.
Read on for the top 15 TV odd couples of all time (excluding "The Odd Couple" itself, because that's a little too on-the-nose, even for me.)
Tom And Greg
The Couple: Tom Wambsgans (Matthew MacFayden) and Greg Hirsch (Nicolas Braun)
The Show: Succession
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Tom and Greg are both wildly insecure, but they show it in very different ways. Tom is an old-school bully, prone to launching insults and projectiles when he's upset. Greg crumples in on himself like a kicked puppy, which makes him the perfect target for Tom. Sure, the two share a common bond, but they're also both willing to throw each other to the wolves immediately when things go wrong. When Greg first betrays Tom by keeping some of the secret documents Tom gave him to shred, Tom is a little hurt but also commends Greg for being sneaky. These two bring out the worst competitive nature in one another, and they tend to cheer on each others worst impulses.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: When Cousin Greg first showed up in the Roys world, he was a naïve young man who had no idea what he was getting into. Tom married into the family, but he was also woefully unprepared for the madness of the Roy family. They are both outsiders forced to deal with the roller-coaster lives of the Roys while also trying to carve out places for themselves. They have strange kind of understanding because they're both trying to survive despite being in way, way over their heads. These two attempted social-climbers deserve one another. They should grab Tom's dog Mondale, take Greg's secret documents to the Feds, and run away together in witness protection.
Lucy And Ethel
The Couple: Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance)
The Show: I Love Lucy
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Lucy and Ethel tend to encourage one another to behave badly. They're both tough women trying to make it in a man's world, and when they get together, trouble's bound to be around the corner. That's what led them to failing spectacularly at their jobs at the candy factory, regularly put stress on both of their marriages, and got them arrested, after all.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Lucy and Ethel support each other in everything. Sure, Ethel might be a bit older than Lucy, and she may be Lucy's landlady, but the two have the shared understanding of beleaguered housewives. While Lucy's marriage to Ricky (Desi Arnaz) was significantly less rocky than Ethel's marriage to Fred (William Frawley), they both bonded over their shared dissatisfaction in marriage. Their friendship became the strongest bond they had, and they were both the better for it.
Charlie And Frank
The Couple: Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) and Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito)
The Show: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Frank might be Charlie's dad, though no one's entirely sure. At some point Frank and Charlie's mom had an affair and Charlie's mom became pregnant, but Frank denies that Charlie is his. The two of them live in squalor in a one-bedroom apartment with no toilet, cooking "Grilled Charlies" on hot plates and eating cat food to go to sleep. They encourage one another's depravity and constantly up the ante on bad ideas.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Charlie and Frank love one another like no one else ever will. They play nightcrawlers together, pretending to be worms and crawling around in the dark. They got married when Charlie needed health insurance and realized he could get on Frank's as a spouse, only to annul the marriage when they realized that they weren't cut out for that kind of domestic partnership. They have been through everything together, from hanging out under bridges boiling denim to swinging with a couple of hot Eastern European girls. Their love for one another is unconditional, which is just as well, given how horrible they both are.
Buster And Lucille
The Couple: Buster Bluth (Tony Hale) and Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter)
The Show: Arrested Development
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Buster spent 11 months inside of Lucille's womb, and in that time he grew completely dependent on her. The two are inseparable, and Lucille's constant coddling of her youngest son has left Buster a neurotic, childish mess of a man. Lucille belittles and bosses Buster around at every turn, but he stays loyal to her no matter what. He's her closest companion and does whatever she asks, which is just not healthy for a mother and son.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Lucille has alienated all of her other children and grandchildren, and the only other person Buster's ever been close to is his mother's worst rival, Lucille 2 (Liza Minelli). Who else is going to be there for either of them?
Kirk And Spock
The Couple: James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Dr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy)
The Show: Star Trek: The Original Series
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: James Tiberius Kirk is a hot-headed ladies man who acts first and deals with the repercussions later. S'chn T'gai Spock is a half-human, half-Vulcan who tries to live up to his Vulcan culture's ideals of logic and serenity. The two are almost always at odds, with Spock frustrated with Jim's foolhardy emotionality or Jim frustrated with Spock's constant rationality. It's amazing they manage to run a starship together at all.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Even though they rarely agree, Kirk and Spock help make each other better people. Spock forces Kirk to think about the consequences of his actions instead of just flying by the seat of his pants, while Kirk helps Spock reconcile his confusing human emotions with his Vulcan need to put everything into neatly defined boxes. The human versions of love and friendship are alien to stoic Vulcans, so when Spock sacrifices himself to save Kirk and the rest of the crew in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" and tells Kirk "I have been — and always shall be — your friend," it's pure emotional devastation. There are plenty of amazing odd couples in "Star Trek," like Garak and Bashir on "Deep Space Nine" or Picard and Q on "The Next Generation," but nothing does it quite like the original space bromance.
Karen And Jack
The Couple: Jack MacFarland (Sean Hayes) and Karen Walker (Megan Mullally)
The Show: Will & Grace
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Will (Eric McCormick) and Grace (Debra Messing) are a gay man and straight woman whose friendship transcends traditional boundaries. They're neurotic and ego-driven, striving for success at the cost of their individuality. Enter the chaos to their order: Jack and Karen. These two march to the beat of their own drummer, and are the kind of sassy, fun-loving besties we all long to be. Even when they fight, they're still offering one another compliments and love. There's actually nothing about their friendship that makes them terrible for one another, though they do spell trouble for everyone else.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Karen and Jack are just a perfectly weird match. When they first meet, Jack asks Karen if they can touch stomachs. She calls him a freak and then does it anyway, because they're instantly on the same wavelength. Whether they're trying to dance, getting way too real with one another, or just laughing at how ridiculous everyone else is, Jack and Karen are friendship goals.
J.D. And Turk
The Couple: John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff) and Christopher Turk (Donald Faison)
The Show: Scrubs
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Some of the other odd couples on this list are co-dependent, but nobody holds a candle to J.D. and Turk. The two went to medical school together and then do their residencies at the same hospital. J.D. can't live without his Chocolate Bear and Turk can't live without his Vanilla Bear, to the point that their own romantic relationships are often put to the test because of their intense co-dependency. When Turk gets married to Carla (Judy Reyes), J.D. is forced to live without his Turkleton, and he doesn't handle it particularly well.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: J.D. is a neurotic mess, while Turk is about as chill as chill can be. The two help one another balance out, and often provide needed context when one of them gets too wrapped up in their own nonsense. While J.D. has Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and Turk has Carla to help them grow into more mature adults, they'll always have each other to stay young at heart.
Mulder And Scully
The Couple: Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson)
The Show: The X-Files
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: First, Mulder and Scully are co-workers with serious sexual tension, which is never good for anyone. Second, Mulder is a goofy conspiracy theorist who believes in all kinds of wild stories, while Scully is a tough cynic trying to prove herself in a male-dominated field. They eventually grow to trust one another, but they often undermine one another's work, which isn't exactly helpful when they're supposed to be partners working a case. Mulder's imagination often gets the best of him, while Scully's need for proof sometimes makes her miss the big picture. They butt heads all the time, and it's amazing they get any cases solved at all. They're at their worst when they actually do give in to their romantic urges, because they make an even worse couple than they do co-workers.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Even when faced with the worst existential and extraterrestrial threats, Mulder and Scully have each other's backs. Sure, they have a habit of going behind each other's backs and doing all kinds of sneaky nonsense in order to prove that they're the correct one on any particular case, but they are always there for one another when things go bad. The very best example of their unique partnership is in the first season, in the episode "Ice," which riffs on the same short story as John Carpenter's "The Thing." When paranoia makes even old friends go at each other's throats, the fairly newly paired Mulder and Scully still manage to come to an understanding. Now if they could just do that all the time instead of just when things get out of hand…
Nandor And Guillermo
The Couple: Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) and Guillermo De La Cruz (Harvey Guillen)
The Show: What We Do in the Shadows
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Nandor the Relentless is a centuries-old vampire, and Guillermo is his human familiar. Nandor has promised that he would turn Guillermo into a vampire for his services, but poor Guillermo has been working as a familiar for over a decade. Nandor keeps leading him on with his promises, while Gullermo realizes that Nandor may not actually care about him all that much. Nandor treats poor Guillermo as disposable most of the time, even when the handsome familiar-turned-vampire-hunter proves that he's essential to Nandor's survival repeatedly.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Guillermo loves Nandor with all of his heart, even if the vampire tends to treat him terribly. No matter how many times Guillermo tries to move on or how many stupid situations he has to rescue Nandor from, he just can't quit the gorgeous bearded vampire. (Who could blame him?) Nandor, for his part, clearly cares for Guillermo, but he doesn't know how to process those feelings. After all, the closest relationship Nandor has ever had with anyone was with his horse, Jahan, so he's just not very good at expressing himself. The end of season 3 saw the duo getting split up, but hopefully they'll one day be the adorable vampire couple they're clearly destined to be.
Bert And Ernie
The Couple: Bert (Frank Oz) and Ernie (Jim Henson)
The Show: Sesame Street
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Bert and Ernie were created to show that two people with very different personalities could still be close friends, and sometimes those differences are very apparent. Bert is a no-nonsense cynic, while Ernie is an empathetic dreamer. Ernie gets on Bert's nerves a lot with his childlike whimsy. Bert tends to be very grumpy with Ernie as a result, which hurts the soft little puppet man. Their differences are many, and sometimes they seem insurmountable.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: They're freaking Bert and Ernie! The two characters are so close that many have questioned whether they're actually a gay couple, though officially they're only buddies. They've been inseparable for decades, and their friendship was modelled on the friendship between Oz and Henson, who were an awful lot like the characters they voiced. Oz and Henson remained close friends until Henson's death in 1990, and Bert and Ernie are still bffs to this day.
Troy And Abed
The Couple: Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) and Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi)
The Show: Community
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Troy and Abed sometimes get a little too wrapped up in their imaginations. They have a ton of silly bits, like the fake TV show "Troy & Abed in the Morning," or going on adventures in the Dreamatorium, but they're often out of touch with reality. When Annie (Alison Brie) moves in with the duo, she quickly realizes that what's charming in short spurts can be downright frustrating when it's a constant. They keep one another in a state of permanent adolescence, which sounds like a lot of fun but isn't exactly healthy.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Even though Troy and Abed both have a hard time maturing, eventually they help one another become better people. Troy helps Abed understand other people, while Abed helps Troy get past his own insecurities. When Troy is given the chance of a lifetime to sail around the world with his hero, Levar Burton, it's Abed who helps him drum up enough courage to do it. Their friendship is eternal, and strong enough to survive even oceans between them. Now fans just want to see Troy and Abed in a Movie. We were promised!
Janet And Jason
The Couple: Janet Della-Denunzio (D'Arcy Carden) and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto)
The Show: The Good Place
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Janet is a timeless, genderless, nearly infinitely-powerful being with access to all knowledge. Jason is an amateur DJ from Florida who died when he crawled into a safe during a botched restaurant heist. They are about as poorly matched as possible, and yet…
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: The love between Jason and Janet is probably the most pure love in the history of television. Janet was created by whoever the heck is in charge of it all, and she serves a very specific purpose in the afterlife. Jason is sort of like if those same creators just spilled a person. His answer to everything is to just throw a Molotov cocktail at it, but somehow he manages to grow as a person and become someone worthy of Janet. By the time their relationship reaches the end of the series, it's a truly beautiful romance that's sure to bring audiences to tears.
Will And Hannibal
The Couple: Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen)
The Show: Hannibal
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Hannibal is not only a cannibal who murders people and eats the rude, but he also manipulates Will at every turn. Because of Hannibal, Will loses everything he loves multiple times. Well, not everything, because he still has Hannibal, but I digress. Hannibal even keeps Will's encephalitis a secret from him, which I'm pretty sure is the exact opposite of what doctors are supposed to do for their patients. Will really isn't all that bad for Hannibal, except that the cannibal loves him so much that he gets a little sloppy in his work because of it.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: There's a reason the fandom, or "Fannibals," call Will and Hannibal "murder husbands." The two have a deep connection that goes beyond their cat-and-mouse games. Together they have a murder daughter, Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), whom they both try to mentor after Will kills her serial killer father to save her life. In Hannibal's dream world, the three of them would travel the planet, turning rude people into fine dining. While that's probably not great for the rest of the world, the three of them would have a strange kind of happiness. Will is an empath, capable of feeling other people's emotions as his own, and Hannibal is very close to being a sociopath, unable to relate to others in any way. Together, they're almost a whole man.
Walt And Jesse
The Couple: Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston)
The Show: Breaking Bad
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: Without Jesse, Walt would have never been able to get into the meth game. Without Walt, Jesse would have probably always been a low-level criminal sitting around talking about "Star Wars" with Badger and Skinny Pete. While they're both bad for one another, Walt is much worse for Jesse than the other way around. Walt is an immoral, power-hungry madman who kills the love of Jesse's life, fails to protect him from skinheads, and basically treats Jesse as disposable at every turn. Sure, working with Walt gave Jesse an opportunity to grow, but it also traumatized him for life.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Jesse and Walt are the perfect criminal duo. Walt is the brains of the operation, while Jesse is the heart and soul. Whenever a situation requires ruthless cunning, Walt is the man, but whenever it requires thinking outside the box, Jesse is who you want. They balance one another out and somehow manage to create a meth empire that makes them both ridiculously wealthy. The partnership falters several times throughout the series, and each time their empire nearly crumbles. Walt and Jesse are perfect criminal partners, even if they're horribly matched in every other way.
Arya And The Hound
The Couple: Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann)
The Show: Game of Thrones
Why They're Terrible For Each Other: One is a murderous former Kingsguard. One is a murderous former nobleman's daughter. Both are strong-willed, bull-headed, and so stubborn that it's impressive anyone can ever get through to them at all. They tend to bring out each other's homicidal tendencies, encouraging more bloodshed when other options might be possible. Then again, both Arya and the Hound are driven by revenge, so they're probably already lost causes without egging one another on.
Why They're Perfect For Each Other: Arya is an orphaned child from a noble family who becomes a face-changing assassin; the Hound was tortured by his older brother and mistreated by every noble he worked for. They both are fiercely independent survivors who have become bitter nihilists in the face of their repeated trauma. Their friendship, as unusual and unhealthy as it may be, is one between two wounded animals forgotten by the rest of the world, and that makes it something special.
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