We all know them: the Stoneses, the Andersons or the Stephenses. For some, they may be a guilty pleasure, for others a mere necessity to get a story told. For me, they are the cherry on top of any tale: fictional couples and their personal stories. On the fringes of drama, comedy and mayhem, romantic innuendo has always been my favorite treat. From Date with the Angels and Family Ties to Murder She Wrote or Babylon 5, I have a weakness for double entendre paired with a healthy sense of humor, smarts and mutual respect.
1) Perry Mason and Della Street, for example, have been my favorite couple for more years than I care to admit. On paper, radio and screen, the lawyer and his secretary know how to put a smile on my face. Committed to their work as much as to each other, the true nature of their relationship has always remained a mystery. For some fans, they are the best of friends while others suspect some hanky-panky behind closed doors. For me, they have long been married, the epitomized working couple who combines independence with traditional values. And that’s the beauty of those characters and their story. They ignite your imagination and tease you to the point of sizzling frustration with a simple look, remark or smitten smile. It is a tradition Erle Stanley Gardner himself started in The Velvet Claws in 1933 and lasted until 1994 when the last Perry Mason TV movie aired on NBC. Perfected by its signature cast, Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale, Perry and Della have since lived on in the hearts of many fans, the flame of their romance burning more and more brightly towards the series’ end.
2) The second couple I have loved for as long as I can remember are Jennifer and Jonathan Hart. Sophisticated, rich and charming, the Harts had everything including a mutually executed interest in solving mysteries. Following in the footsteps of TV’s Mr. and Mrs. North, they dug up trouble where it’s usually hard to find but their love for each other made their cases stand out from others. Together, they were invincible and (much like Della and Perry) have stood the test of time. A mere decade after Hart to Hart was canceled on ABC, the couple returned to television in 1993, matured, refined, and every bit as committed to each other as they had always been. Today, the Harts are still a dream couple for their fans, a twosome who showed their audience the ingredients of true love and how it beautiful life can be even if you are denied to have your desired offspring.
3) Clair and Cliff Huxtable are next on my list, a married couple of equals who always stood up to their kids. Clair, the lawyer, and her doctor-husband Heathcliff knew how to keep the balance between their family, career and romance. Every episode made no bones about it, this couple put their love first and then took care of everything else. No matter how selfish this may sound to kids today, the Huxtables were the exact opposite. Devoted to their offspring as much as to their parents, Clair and Cliff walked the fine line of nurturing their loved ones without forgetting about themselves. Like the Harts, they served as a good example and showed their audience how a marriage can handle the ups and downs of everyday life. Far from perfect, Clair never failed to address what ticked her off, nor did Cliff act like the perfect husband. But their little flaws, disputes and misunderstandings were exactly what made them strong, on The Cosby Show and beyond. The respect they demonstrated for each other resonated with their fictional children, as much as with their audience. With TV parents like that, it was hard not to believe in the power of marriage.
4) Amanda King and Lee Stetson come next to mind, the demure housewife and the flirty spy. Although Scarecrow and Mrs. King was far from realistic, the protagonists and their relationship kept the show fresh beyond TV’s usual expiration date. Charming, funny and diverting, their storyline may have been a formula romance but it blossomed and grew thanks to the chemistry of Bruce Boxleitner and Kate Jackson. Lovely by nature, Amanda complemented Lee on a level that soon blurred the lines between the personal and professional. Their careers, though not equally validated in the beginning, shaped a romance based on a hunger for adventure, humor and respect. Together, they grew stronger from one season to the next and what could have been a weakness in their professional demeanor actually improved their mutual success.
5) Now, finally, Nick and Nora Charles – the couple of sleuths no mystery lover can do without. Completely different in nature and style, the gentleman snoop and his socialite wife are two of Hollywood’s most legendary couples. And rightly so because what would film history be without the perfect banter between Myrna Loy and William Powell? Created by Dashiell Hammett in 1934, The Thin Man and his better half have influenced more crime-fighting couples than most people are aware of today. Sharp, witty and clearly in love, Nora was dedicated to Nick as much as she was to herself. Nick, on the other hand, made no bones about how much he cared for his independence without wishing to return to it. Together, they laughed and fought and, en passent, also solved the looniest crimes. In the 1930s and 40s, they made for the perfect couple with a dark sense of humor and one foot always on the gas.
6) As I’m looking at ideal couples, what list would it be without Laura and Rob Petrie? Loving, kind and dedicate to each other, the Petries combined the best of two worlds. Working as a writer for a variety program on TV, Rob knew how to handle the ballyhoo of show business on camera and behind the scenes. At home, Laura held it all together: his schedule, their friends and the everyday chaos created by their son Ritchie. Although this assignment of roles and duties may sound traditional and smells like a remake of I Love Lucy, the Petries stuck it out together like a pair of equals. Much like the Huxtables or Harts mentioned above, they enjoyed a lively discussion but also put great emphasis on celebrating their love. No matter if they were singing together or dancing, Rob and Laura let the sparks fly for their own benefit and that of their audience. An unforgettable lesson in how things could be.
7) Last but not least, Minnie Mouse and Mickey may be the most unusual couple on my list. As cartoon characters, they first graced the screen together in 1928 and have stayed together since. Always clearly in love, Walt Disney’s mice believe in courtship, courtesy and taking one step at a time. Together, they have survived many trends and changing styles, but 85 years after their first shared adventure, they are still every bit as dedicated to each other as they have always been – dances, flowers and flirting included. And that’s probably the secret behind their animated relationship. I mean, who could resist the charm and effort Mickey puts into wooing his Minnie? After all, good manners and a fancy dinner never went out of style completely.