TV  |  Lists

The 35 Greatest TV Duos of All Time

January 8, 2012  |  8:15am

Friendship drives so much of the emotional core of a TV show that scores of shows have led with it in the title: Think Starsky and Hutch, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Will & Grace, Cagney & Lacey. None of those pairs made our list, but we have both staples in television history and some new characters that have already surpassed expectations. Take a look and see if you have a relationship similar to any of these.

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35. Ren & Stimpy
(Billy West)

The Ren & Stimpy Show, Nickelodeon, 1991-1996
Who would have thought a violently psychotic Chihuahua and a stupid, fat cat would have made such a terrific duo? The pair made children laugh at jokes they didn’t truly understand and adults sometimes wish their young ones weren’t watching. By today’s standards their toilet humor is tame, but in a weird way, Ren and Stimpy brought families closer together.

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34. Avon Barksdale & Stringer Bell
(Wood Harris & Idris Elba)

The Wire, HBO, 2002-2008
A drug dealer and his second-in-command aren’t great role models, but they do make for great television. Avon Barksdale and Russell “Stringer” Bell were friends since childhood and remained that way to the end…well almost.

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33. Will Smith and Carlton Banks
(Will Smith &Alfonso Ribeiro)

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, NBC, 1990-1996
One is the freshest of them all. The other…not so much. These cousins butted heads, but became a dynamic duo. They didn’t mix all of the time, but when they did, they almost became one person. Both had blind spots to their own flaws but were willing to point them out to each other.

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32. Olivia Benson & Elliot Stabler
(Mariska Hargitay & Christopher Meloni)

Law & Order: SVU, NBC, 1999-2011
Though a lot of the focus in Law & Order is one the case at hand, the detectives’ relationship gets explored in subtle ways. The platonic relationship had plenty of underlying sexual tension.

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31. The Spartan Cheerleaders
(Will Ferrell & Cheri O’Teri)

Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1995-1999
Arianna and Craig first appeared in 1995 and stole our hearts with their awkward, self-absorbed cheerleading routines. Their “perfect cheer” to cap off their routines never went as smoothly or well-received as planned, but they only cared if they pleased each other.

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30. Zack Morris & Screech Powers
(Mark-Paul Gosselaar & Dustin Diamond)

Saved By the Bell, NBC, 1989-1993
The cool kid/nerd combo rarely happens in reality, but it seemed so natural with them. Though Screech seemingly just tagged along, did Zack’s homework and was roped into Zack’s schemes, they were equal on more levels than not.

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29. Beavis and Butt-head
(Mike Judge)

Beavis and Butt-head, MTV, 1993-1997, 2011-present
These guys were MTV—part of the revolution that accepted socially-awkward, rock-loving teens. Though they were best friends, they riffed on each other harder than most enemies. It’s wasn’t necessarily a love/hate relationship, but did have its share of hate.

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28. Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson
(Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman)

Sherlock, BBC, 2010-present
The friendship of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson predates all of the duos on this list, but BBC breathed fresh air back into it by adding a contemporary twist to the classic detective story.

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27. Kevin Arnold & Paul Pfeiffer
(Fred Savage & Josh Saviano)

The Wonder Years, ABC, 1988-1993
The nostalgia these two popularity-striving teens provided helped catapult them into the hearts of millions. As we watched Kevin and Paul grow up, not even Winnie Cooper could pull them apart.

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26. Laverne De Fazio & Shirley Feeney
(Penny Marshall & Cindy Williams)

Laverne & Shirley, CBS, 1976-1983
They were just a couple of gals trying to make it in the 1960s. The cynic tomboy and the perky, perfect lady lived together harmoniously in a basement apartment. Through thick and thin, they bottled beer and played hopscotch and did it their way to make all their dreams come true.

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25. Michael Scott & Dwight Shrute
(Steve Carrell & Rainn Wilson)

The Office, NBC, 2005-2011
If Michael didn’t hate Dwight so much, they’d be one of the greatest pairs of best friends of all time. Unfortunately Michael spent so much time trying to befriend Jim and Ryan that Dwight’s desperate attempts to be more than assistant to the manager of the Scranton branch went unnoticed.

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24. Karen Walker & Jack McFarland
(Megan Mullally & Sean Hayes)

Will & Grace, CBS, 1998-2006
That’s right: the better pairing in this show wasn’t the titular one. Karen and Jack were one of the last slapstick duos who were larger than life without ever bringing the other down to earth.

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23. Tom & Jerry
(John Stephenson)

The Tom & Jerry Show, ABC, 1975
Originally created to be shown before films, the cat-and-mouse chase was promoted to its own series. They’re not friends, but when it came down to it, they’re much closer than enemies. In some ways they were the archetype for many sitcom relationships—and, of course, that other famous duo, Itchy and Scratchy.

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22. Sam Weir & Neal Schweiber
(John Francis Daley & Samm Levine)

Freaks and Geeks, NBC, 1999-2000
These two geeks never really got their chance to become classic characters, but they stole our hearts in just one season. There was nothing cool about Sam or Neal, and they knew it, too. But they’d have never have made it out of their freshman year alive without the other, dealing with first crushes, parental infidelity and sibling betrayal right beside each other.

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21. J.D. Dorian & Christopher Turk
(Zach Braff & Donald Faison)

Scrubs, NBC/ABC, 2001-2010
A lot of these duos could fall under the title of “bromace,” but none quite defined the word as much as J.D. and Turk. Their love for each often surpassed that of Turk’s marriage and made for the some of the show’s funniest gags.

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