The romantic relationships that we build in our lives are the most crucial we will form. When we fall in love, go through relationship problems, get married, and even when we breakup, we experience myriad difference feelings and emotions. We have to make choices, some of which aren’t easy, and we have to try and figure out how our life changes to incorporate another person. Relationships are complicated, messy, wonderful, irritating– and every emotion in between.
You would think that the above would be fertile ground for fiction; that TV shows would be able to depict romantic relationships in a believable, realistic way– yet somehow… it doesn’t happen. Some of the most celebrated TV show couples just outright wouldn’t work in real life; their relationship is forced by writer choice, not a genuine connection.
Let’s delve deeper into the TV show couples that wouldn’t have a chance of making it together in the real world…
Note: spoilers for Friends, Parks & Recreation, Gossip Girl, and Modern Family ahead.
Ross and Rachel
The final episode of Friends united Ross and Rachel for the last time, leaving viewers with the belief that this time those crazy kids would finally work it out forever.
However… there’s no way this relationship would work in real life.
- They are so different. We know that opposites are meant to attract, but this is really pushing it. They have completely different perspectives on pretty much everything that crosses their path, which makes for fun comedic situations, but doesn’t build a good relationship.
- Ross fundamentally devalues Rachel throughout their relationship; she’s “just a waitress”, then he mocks the fashion industry that she has dedicated her career to (Jurassic Parka!), and — at the conclusion of the series — he seems to have no issue with the fact she abandons her future career goals in Paris to stay with him. He argues he can’t move to Paris because of his son, which sounds legit, until you remember if Rachel did move to Paris, he’d be losing Emma and the purported love of his life. Shouldn’t he at least have wondered if Rachel might be better off going to Paris, and then figuring it out long-distance?
- They have a history of being spiteful to one another, both in and out of their relationship.
The only reason that Ross and Rachel make sense is because the writers wanted to conclude their “will they, won’t they” relationship– but for our money, we reckon Rachel would have been better off with Joey.
Phil and Claire Dunphy
Phil and Claire are the central relationship in Modern Family, despite the fact that are plainly unsuited to one another. The show seems to acknowledge this at times, pointing out how they manage to make it work despite their differences, but when you break it down, this is one couple who would be heading for divorce attorneys such as Maley & Nicholas within a year of their nuptials.
- Claire’s father, Jay, undermines and outright dislikes his son-in-law. This is rarely fodder for a good relationship, and it’s telling that Claire doesn’t particularly try to convince Jay that her choice of husband was a good one– maybe she has doubts, too.
- In fact, there are even canonical hints that Claire only married Phil as she knew that Jay hated him, and he was part of her rebellion. That’s realistic, but a 20-year-marriage rarely results from such a decision.
- They approach everything in very different ways. This might mean that they “balance one another out”; Claire is analytical and Phil seeks the fun… but the truth is, they’d tire of one another very quickly. No couple can survive endless debates about small issues; there has to be some consensus about how you view the world!
- Phil would drive Claire up the wall. It’s one thing to want to be lighthearted and positive, but when you can’t follow basic instructions for the safety of their home (fixing the step on the staircase or securing a piece of furniture to a wall in case of earthquakes, for example), then there’s no way her type-A personality would be able to handle him long-term.
- In the same way, it’s hard to see how Phil wouldn’t find a relationship with Claire stifling to his more relaxed attitude to life. Who wants to be married to someone who is constantly ordering you to do things you don’t want to do?
While Phil and Claire may be depicted as the ultimate couple on Modern Family, in the real world, they would likely just make one another miserable.
April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer
The show Parks and Recreation sells April and Andy as fundamental opposites who somehow manage to make it work. Some relationships do work under these circumstances, but in most cases, opposites definitely do not attract— and these two are polar opposites on virtually everything.
- Andy is excitable; April is laconic… how would they not argue about every single facet of their lives? How would April not snap and want Andy to calm down on occasion; how would Andy not sometimes feel that April’s natural reserve was holding him back from enjoyment?
- Andy shouldn’t really be married to anyone; he’s a fun character and inherently lovable, but he’s also… kind of a mess, and lucks into most good things that happen to him. Marrying an immature guy tends to be a ticket to misery, but would be even more likely in this situation due to the fact Andy is at least five years older than April– the show is rarely overly specific on ages, though we know April is meant to be 19 in season one, and Andy is referred to being in his 30s by season five. Why should someone in their early 20s have to be the “grown up” for a man in his 30s?
- A great physical chemistry and a whimsy enjoyment of the other person is great for a fling, but a marriage tends to need more depth– depth that this enjoyable, but ultimately doomed, couple don’t seem to have.
It’s easy to see why Andy and April could have a lot of fun together, but it’s pushing the boundaries of reality to think they could truly make a marriage work given their very different temperaments.
Serena and Dan
Yes, Gossip Girl concluded years ago, but this is one couple that have transcended time to still be absolutely mystifying. In the series finale, they married, which may be one of the most “WHAT?” confusing moments in the history of TV.
- Dan spent years stalking and ruining Serena’s life as the eponymous Gossip Girl. Years. He reported on her drug use, got her boyfriends into trouble, damaged her most important female friendship… and she’s just kind of… okay with that? Admittedly, the “Dan is Gossip Girl” conclusion made no sense anyway, but that Serena still wants to acknowledge Dan’s existence — never mind marry him! — in the wake of it is all the more bizarre.
- Throughout the series, Dan seems to outright dislike everything Serena represents. He hates her wealth, her lifestyle, her choices… but hey, she’s gorgeous, so… he should still marry her? How could he make a relationship work with someone who genuinely seems to infuriate him with her every decision?
- This wouldn’t be a good decision for Serena, either. We know she has self-esteem problems, but why would she want to marry someone who is outright condescending and rude to her on most occasions than it’s possible to list?
- The show made it clear, over and over again, that these two didn’t really make sense as a couple. They had an attraction and they liked the idea of one another, but it just didn’t work. Somehow, they manage to overcome their absolute mismatch of character and priority in time for the finale? Why? It’s never made clear. If anything, by the end of the series the traits that so pulled them apart are even more defined than they ever were– so they should have been further from one another, rather than closer.
- It’s made clear throughout the show’s run that Dan has a tendency to idolize Serena, and is perpetually disappointed when she doesn’t quite live up to the romantic expectations he has for her. A lifetime of this — him experiencing that disappointment and her having to deal with being a disappointment — would lead to resentment and, ultimately, the end of their marriage. There’s no sign by the end of the show that either of them have fundamentally changed their characters in a way that would make this relationship viable.
Gossip Girl got a lot wrong with its finale, and brought together a number of couples who would not have been able to maintain a marriage, but this one was by far the most confusing.
Despite the fact that romantic relationships should be strong fodder for fiction, it seems that show writers fall into the same clichés when they create couples. Opposites don’t attract; resentment is rarely overcome; and a history of being downright unpleasant to one another does not bode well for the future.
Do you agree with the conclusions above, or do you think some of these couples would be able to make a go of it in real life?