Marriage has been the foundation of sitcoms since the early days of television, and it remains a cornerstone of many shows. Married couples on sitcoms can be loving and contentious, sarcastic and warm, harmonious and fractured. The best, however, get through all of it with a smile and a quip. Here’s a look at the 10 best sitcom marriages throughout the years.
Ralph and Alice Kramden, 'The Honeymooners'
The Kramdens are the original squabbling sitcom married couple: Ralph’s threats to send Alice “to the moon” presage all frustrated husbands, and Alice’s exasperations set the tone for future long-suffering wives. Ralph (Jackie Gleason) might have a short temper, and Alice (Audrey Meadows) might mock her husband, but their arguing is only a thin cover for their deep love for each other.
Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, 'I Love Lucy'
Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Ricky (Desi Arnaz) are possibly the most famous sitcom married couple of all time, and for good reason: Their relationship is an endless source of comedy, with its conflict between Lucy’s hare-brained schemes and Ricky’s stern disapproval. The arrival of son Little Ricky, in the first high-profile TV pregnancy, provided even more potential for both wacky misunderstandings and heartfelt familial bonding.
Rob and Laura Petrie, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'
TV writer Rob (Dick Van Dyke) spends his days bantering with his fellow comedy writers, but when he comes home at night, he’s still evenly matched by his beautiful, smart wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore). Rob and Laura work through their problems with logic and good humor rather than insults, but their interactions are still funny and very real. This marriage of intellectual equals marks a transition from one style of sitcom couples to a more modern version.
Darrin and Samantha Stephens, 'Bewitched'
There’s a bit of a power imbalance in the marriage between a witch and a mortal man, but Darrin (Dick York, later Dick Sargent) and Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) always make it work. Sure, Samantha’s powers sometimes get Darrin in trouble, and Darrin sometimes gets exasperated with his witchy wife. But their love is strong enough to withstand pressures both familial and magical, a test that very few marriages would be able to pass.
Archie and Edith Bunker, 'All in the Family'
One of the most outspoken characters in sitcom history, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) is never afraid to offer his opinion, whether he knows something about a subject or not. Archie is prejudiced and closed-minded and proud of it, and Edith (Jean Stapleton) usually quietly supports him, even if she doesn’t agree with everything he says. While Archie often berates his wife, he does love her and respect her ability to keep their home together.
George and Louise Jefferson, 'The Jeffersons'
After “movin’ on up” to a fancy Manhattan apartment, George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise (Isabel Sanford) maintain their strong relationship forged before they had any money, a bond that carries them through any and all troubles. With neighbors and a housekeeper who challenge them constantly, the Jeffersons grow closer with the more they have to endure.
The Huxtables are the parents everyone wishes they had: Warm, friendly and loving, doctor Cliff (Bill Cosby) and lawyer Clair (Phylicia Rashad) raise their kids with care, giving them every encouragement they need to succeed in life. Cliff and Clair are just as nurturing with each other, and their joking over household duties is always good-natured and well-intentioned. The Huxtable household is a welcoming refuge for a whole range of characters, all thanks to the goodness of Cliff and Clair.
The blue-collar Connors always struggle to make ends meet, and sometimes that puts a strain on their relationship. But no matter how tough things get, Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan (John Goodman) always stand by each other, equal partners in raising their kids and supporting the family. They always delight in each other’s company, which gets them through the most difficult times.
Inspired by the real-life relationships of star Ray Romano and show creator Phil Rosenthal, Ray (Romano) and Debra (Patricia Heaton) are ensconced among Ray’s extended family, with his parents and brother all living across the street. The family scrutiny puts pressure on Ray and Debra, but even with judgmental relatives constantly breathing down their necks, they remain solid partners in their marriage and in raising their three kids.
There are multiple couples on Modern Family, but the Dunphys represent the most symbiotic marriage, with the practical and sometimes exasperated Claire (Julie Bowen) keeping things on track while the goofy Phil (Ty Burr) tries to act cool and be a friend to their three kids. Even though they sometimes work at cross purposes, Claire and Phil both want the best for their children and each other, and accomplish that in the best way they know how.