When determining what makes a great couple to watch on the TV, I consider two main factors: how good the relationship is for the characters themselves and how entertaining it is to watch the couple be together.  In the rest of my Best TV coverage, I’ve made it a point to note the possibly great shows that I didn’t watch.  I’m not as worried about that with this list, because the good shows I don’t watch (i.e., most of the prestige dramas) aren’t usually known for their healthy relationships.  (Although, one possible exception that comes to mind is Amy and Rory from Doctor Who.  And then there’s also Don and Megan on Mad Men, whose relationship doesn’t seem the most stable but certainly appears to have a fair degree of energy to it.)  Before we get to the top ten, first let’s take a look at the all-time Hall of Shame:

And the Badge of Dishonor goes to Gossip Girl.  For most of its time on the air, GG has been ridiculous, but it has had romances that have actually been worth getting invested in.  Then in its final season, all the romances became disgusting (or at best, pointless).  I was originally a Chair supporter, and then I was shocked to see myself switch to Team Dair.  But I understood those who clinged to the belief that Chuck-Blair ought to remain the endgame romance.  But the two of them getting back together was just not acceptable after Blair ended things with Dan in the shittiest way possible, and then Dan and Serena got back together despite not ever actually really clearing things up.  I enjoyed the series finale in a twisted sort of way, but I essentially had no emotional attachment at that point.

1. Suburgatory – Tessa Altman and Ryan Shay (Jane Levy and Parker Young)

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This coupling still seems to be in the ship tease stage, but it is ever so wonderfully closer to becoming an actual coupling, as demonstrated in one of the best scenes of television of the year, in which Tessa admitted that she might actually be able to requite Ryan’s feelings for her.  And then they kissed.  (And she used tongue!)  Tessa’s arc of letting down her snark shield and allowing herself to have feelings for someone so simple (and so sweet) as Ryan was one of the most heartwarming pieces of television in 2012.

2. Bob’s Burgers – Bob and Linda Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin and John Roberts)

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The conventional wisdom seems to be to avoid happily long-married couples because they’re boring. But when it comes to the Belchers, that notion is about as incorrect as it can possibly be.

3. Happy Endings – Brad Williams and Jane Kerkovich-Williams (Damon Wayans, Jr. and Eliza Coupe)
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A couple in which the wife often plays the traditional male role, and the husband often plays the traditional female role – and they’re both generally okay with it. An interracial couple who call attention to that fact – but never in a way that could legitimately be considered offensive. This is a 21st century couple – but this is hardly a matter of social awareness when they are above all just so silly.

4. Community – Jeff Winger and Annie Edison (Joel McHale and Alison Brie)
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When Jeff and Annie won E! Online’s 2011 Top TV Couple Award, Joel McHale was gracious but made sure to say, “I hate to point this out, but Jeff and Annie are not a couple.”  True, Jeff and Annie technically are not, and have never been an actual couple.  But their complements-attract chemistry has always been and remains undeniable.  Their romance, or potential thereof, wasn’t as prominent as it could have been in 2012, but we still had these moments:

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5. Parenthood – Adam and Kristina Braverman (Peter Krause and Monica Potter)
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Parenthood is all about couples who definitely love each other, but with day-to-day life, they have fights, they get busy – you know, all those parts of life that make it difficult for couples to say and show that they love each other. But when things really go to pot, that love often becomes quite clear, as it did when Adam jumped into action to take of his Kristina during the course of her breast cancer treatment, allowing Peter Krause and Monica Potter to flex their acting muscles and show how love shines through in life’s crises.

6. Girls – Hannah Horvath and Adam Sackler (Lena Dunham and Adam Driver)
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When we first met Adam, there didn’t seem to be anything redeemable about him. But then it turned out that we just hadn’t seen things from his perspective, and he actually had significant depth. And then Hannah and Adam’s relationship morphed into the ultimate one in which the guy is driven crazy by the girl who doesn’t realize how awesome she is.

7. Fringe – Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham (Joshua Jackson and Anna Torv)
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The scene in which Olivia convinces Peter to remove the Observer tech from his head and come back to being the human Peter she has known and loved is all you need to watch to know how deserving they are of making the list of great TV couples this year.

8. Suburgatory – Lisa Shay and Malik (Allie Grant and Maestro Harrell)
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Here’s hoping that Lisa and Malik’s breakup that came at the end of the year isn’t permanent, because these two were clearly made for each other. They are comfortable with being their odd selves in a town that favors conformity without feeling the need to make a big deal about it.

9. Portlandia – Peter and Nance (Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein)
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In a town populated by oddballs, Peter and Nance do have their own oddball characteristics, but they are not as at ease with that part of their life as the other Portlanders are. Thus, the new adventures they go on together – motorcycling, eating out at the popular brunch place, giving up pasta – usually go bizarrely awry, but at least they are there for each other to go through them together.

10. 30 Rock – Liz Lemon and Criss Chros
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Criss Chros never seemed like the ideal partner for Liz Lemon (he was no dealbreaker, but hardly any more than good enough), that is, until they got married, and Chris proved just how well he knew his bride and just how willing he was to make their relationship work. And the coupling of Liz and Chris ultimately demonstrated just how important effort is when it comes to romance.

Honorable Mentions
Liz and Criss just edged out, also from 30 Rock, the appreciably odd but relatively underused Jenna and Paul, as well as three couples from Parks and Recreation: the unsurprisingly obviously happy Ben and Leslie, the screentime-lacking (at least as a couple) April and Andy, and the promising, but presently uncertain, Ron and Diane.

(Thanks to fishsticktheatre.com for the Community screencaps.)

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