Just because we love someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is a healthy one. And it’s not just romances. Sometimes, your closest friends can be absolute stars when it comes to encouraging you to let down your hair, but as soon as things get serious and you’re in need of emotional support, your problems fall on deaf ears. Other friendships we take great pride in are nothing but a pain in the ass to the rest of the world. If you want to loudly discuss every gory detail of your sex life and how it affects your genitals over breakfast, or insult joggers in the park after a lengthy lunch, that’s awesome—but don’t expect people to find it charming, or for them to line up for an application to turn your gruesome twosome into a threesome.
As complicated as they may be, these relationships tend to make for some brilliant, honest TV. They are the characters and flawed bonds many of us can connect with. Here are our picks for the 25 most gruesome twosomes on TV.
Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke), Orange County’s most notorious gold-digger, was famous for saying “This town’s only really big enough for one manipulative bitch.” But she found her male equivalent in Caleb Nichol (Alan Dale). His motives for the relationship may not have had anything to do with money—after all, he was rolling in his own—but he was just as skilled a puppet-master as Julie, and when the two tied the knot, the entire Orange County community had to suffer the consequences. In fact, “The Gruesome Twosome” was actually a term Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) coined for the pair.
At first, many of us were rooting for Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) to become a full-on couple. But after getting to know them both better, we quickly realized they did the world a favor by remaining friends. Although Jeff hid it better, he was just as worried about making a cool, smart impression on everyone as Britta. But where Britta tended to get sucked up in her own charades, Jeff started to recognize who he needed to be. They’re the perfect example of two people who could be right for each other were it not for the fact that they are stubbornly clinging to their fake principles and unable to relax into something honest.
Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) may be a successful OB-GYN with a stylish wardrobe and her own fertility clinic, but behind the independent-woman exterior she’s nothing but an overgrown high school girl whose head is filled with the latest celebrity gossip. She’s self-absorbed, blissfully oblivious to what’s going on in the world, fun-loving and a devoted schemer, but she still manages to keep up a relatively adult lifestyle. Unless Peter (Adam Pally) is in town—leave those two to their own devices for more than five minutes and chaos will ensue. You can bet your sweet ass that whatever they’re plotting, the only one who’ll benefit from the disastrous outcome of their master plan will be… well, usually no one.
Cartman (voiced by Trey Parker) really is a special kind of kid—and not exactly in a good way. He has a whole list of pet peeves (including hippies), a serious junk food addiction and an evil mind capable of pulling off the most absurd stunts on a global scale. His friends Stan and Kyle are long over his shenanigans and no longer fall for his cunning plans and manipulations as much as they used to, but Cartman often finds a willing partner in crime in Butters (voiced by Matt Stone). His gullible and kind-hearted nature makes Butters the perfect sidekick for Cartman: He knows how to talk Butters into anything, even when Butters is suspicious of Cartman’s true intentions. Butters then suffers the consequences at the hands of his ultra-strict parents.
We all want that one friend who supports our craziest obsessions, the type that would commit felonies for you and sees nothing weird in owning a pair of night-vision goggles. But when these seemingly quirky fixations threaten to spiral completely and utterly out of control, we would want that friend to become the voice of reason. In its second season, it looks as though Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) has finally come to understand that encouraging Rebecca’s (Rachel Bloom) mania isn’t doing anyone any favors. Rebecca’s excitement over Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) was contagious and a welcome distraction from Paula’s own issues. And although it didn’t leave much room for Paula’s personal problems and triumphs, “Mission Josh” turned into a joint venture, bringing excitement to a life stifled by routine.
There’s a new boss at Litchfield’s penitentiary, and we’re not talking about Piscatella (Brad William Henke): Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel) clearly runs the show during OITNB’s fourth season. She’s reluctant to join in the race wars at first, having always resented her father’s fake sense of pride for la raza. But as the climate among the inmates changes, she begins to understand Blanca’s eagerness to win back respect. With Blanca at her side, she quickly establishes her own turf and a notorious reputation, often at the cost of others. Having reached a point of no return, both Blanca and Maria find incredible strength and endurance to keep fighting no matter how ugly the situation gets. If the Litchfield staff insists on treating them like animals, well, they might as well start acting like it, right?
The Zooniverse is a mad, colorful world inhabited by many a strange, musical character, and Vince (Noel Fielding) and Howard (Julian Barratt) are at the center of it. Both stubborn and driven by the need to become successful in their chosen media—as King of the Mods and pioneer of the Jazzercise movement, respectively—Vince and Howard constantly find themselves in sticky situations. And while they always come to one another’s rescue, their competitive streaks and vanity is what lands them in Merman Greg’s grotto and in the arms of the Cockney Hitchhiker in the first place.
Initially, it looked as though some kind of a father-son relationship between Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Walter (Bryan Cranston) was entirely feasible. Their story isn’t exactly conventional, but in the early seasons of Breaking Bad it had all the hallmarks of an unlikely friendship. Jesse’s street smarts and understanding of meth use, paired with Walter’s business and chemistry expertise, make for an unbeatable combo. But while their bickering banter often recalls typical father-son quarrels, their bond never flourishes into something genuine. Jaded by the riches and power he acquires in the cold-blooded drug world, Walter merely uses Jesse for his own benefit.
Lock a few unknowing people up in a room with Elijah (Andrew Rannelis) and Hannah (Lena Dunham) for a night and you can rest assured someone will walk out crying. It’s not that they’re horrible people, but in each other’s company their unapologetically blunt, dramatic and narcissistic personalities truly begin to shine. Depending on the day, they can offer a whole library of unfiltered insults, a sniffling parade of self-pity or an unhealthy portion of pettiness geared at all those closest to them. While their support for one another is endearing—as is the closeness of their physical relationship—they’re not exactly skilled at bringing out the best in each other.
At times, it’s hard to comprehend just how it’s possible for Stimpy (voiced by Billy West) to be sporting a smile for the majority of his days. Sure, he’s not the brightest tool in the shed, and oblivion may have a lot to do with his seemingly constant state of bliss, but under the tyranny of psychotic asthma-hound Ren (John Kricfalusi), even the chirpiest of characters would crumble sooner or later. Not Stimpy. He takes the abuse and comes back for more, knowing that, beneath it all, Ren loves his old pal. Ren may be quick to call Stimpy an idiot, loathes having him around and has plotted his death on more than one occasion, but the truth is, it’s Ren who falls to pieces whenever they’re apart.
Josh (Jay Duplass) shares a special connection with his sister Ali (Gaby Hoffman), the youngest of the Pfefferman tribe. In their presence, outsiders might feel as though they’re left out of an inside joke, unable to understand the language Ali and Josh communicate with. A particularly intimate scene in “Just the Facts; shows Josh bringing Ali breakfast in bed just as her girlfriend, Leslie (Cherry Jones), exits. Leslie is quick to remark on the fact that Joshy is a “considerate dude,” but she also lets it be known that she feels Josh and Ali’s relationship mirrors that of an old married couple, more than it does a healthy brother-sister dynamic. This is not jealousy speaking. Leslie has a point. Ali and Josh are so dependent on each other, so wrapped up in one another’s business, that it’s hard for them to see through the bubble of comfort they’ve created for themselves.
Often, when we find ourselves going through some kind of personal crisis, we reach out to the people from our past in a nostalgic effort to reconcile with our former selves. This can be therapeutic if the person you choose to reconnect with is standing strong in life and can offer valuable insight and support. However, if your chosen person has sunken into a similar black hole, it’s easy to fall back into old, bad habits together. BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) and Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) have a complicated history, and as much as BoJack wants to make up for his past negligence, he’s too preoccupied with his own ongoing drama. What they inspire in each other are deep regrets and an unshakable need for self-destruction. Given their background and age difference, one would expect BoJack to stop Sarah Lynn from following in his footsteps, but as a broken man himself he has nothing to offer her, and their wild benders are all they can do to drown out the loneliness.
When Manny (Bill Bailey) takes on the job as Bernard’s (Dylan Moran) assistant in the chaotic Black Books shop, he takes on a lot more than he bargained for: the role of assistant, babysitter, moderator of alcohol intake and, last but not least, the role of the unconditional friend. No matter how much abuse Bernard throws his way, and regardless of Bernard’s chaotic existence, Manny always tries to support his boss/roommate the best way he can. Unfortunately, the kind-natured and naïve Manny seems to attract just as many weirdos and absurd situations as Bernard, so things don’t always end up going smoothly. But none of that matters because they have found the perfect (if not unruly) balance between their opposing personalities.
If ever there was a power couple, Gilmore Girls’ Paris Gellar (Liza Weil) and Doyle McMaster (Danny Strong) are it. They’re both incredibly ambitious, self-absorbed and, in Paris’ case, pretty damn intimidating. To the outside world, they appear arrogant, ruthless and more or less unemotional (unless you count their respective fits of rage and self-pity), but deep down they’re both riddled with insecurities. As individuals, they’re forces to be reckoned with, but together, they are capable of ruling the world and making their minions dance to their every tune.
It’s hard not to envy the many adventures Rick and Morty (both voiced by Justin Rolland) embark on. Suddenly, you find yourself eyeing your snoozing grandpa on the far end of the couch, wondering about all the mischief he might get up to if only you could get him drunk enough. But as exciting as their journeys through intergalactic worlds and different realities may be, they don’t come without their fair share of danger. While most grandfathers do their best to keep their grandchildren out of harm’s way, Rick welcomes all things absurd and hazardous and forces Morty along on his crazy rides. He’s a drunken genius with no sense of responsibility and a lack of empathy, and only poor Morty makes his lonely existence bearable.
As far as spoiled, annoying, rich kids go, Parks and Recreation’s Mona-Lisa (Jenny Slate) and Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) are the worst of their kind. Jean-Ralphio really isn’t exaggerating when he says his sister is the worst, but then again, he’s not much better. The main difference between them is that Jean-Ralphio does actually have the ideas and drive to build his own empire and even does something about making it happen, whereas Mona-Lisa is content to spend the rest of her life living on Daddy’s handouts without even attempting to venture out on her own. One-on-one time with either of them is trying, but as a package they are impossible. Their overgrown teen behavior and loud energy takes over, and everyone in their immediate environment is left to cringe as they turn another insult into a chorus.
Dr. Alan Statham (Mark Heap) isn’t exactly a ladies’ man, but what he lacks in charm he makes up for in eccentricities—and he has a lot of them. The persistently high-strung and slightly perverted consultant radiologist only has eyes for Joanna (Pippa Haywood) and goes to great, absurd lengths to prove it to her. Joanna, on the other hand, prefers to see herself with someone like the hunky Lyndon (Patterson Joseph), but as long as he remains an unrealistic wet fantasy, she’ll just have to make due with Alan. As comical as their relationship may be to us, at times it’s hard not to pity Alan, with his hopeful puppy eyes peering into Joanna’s through thick rimmed glasses, because we can’t imagine Joanna ever reciprocating his unconditional love and devotion.
Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) are far from having it all together, but that doesn’t matter because they have each other. Each knows every in and out of the other’s mind—and could pick each other’s buttholes out of a line up—and they still love each other. So what more could they want? Why care about money, work or romantic relationships when there’s so much fun to be had with each other? As much as Broad City is the ultimate BFF love story, it seems as though their intimate bond and their strong interdependence tends to get in the way of, you know, adult life.
A competent HR department usually ensures a smooth-running working environment, but with someone like Pam Poovey (voiced by Amber Nash) in charge, it’s no surprise there’s ongoing drama among the ISIS agents at all times. And whenever Pam decides to team up with Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) on a drug-addled blinder even he has difficulty recovering from, you can expect the consequences of their actions to be dire. Not that they’d care, of course: They’re hedonists of the hardcore variety and, as long as they’re having fun, they don’t give a holy shit-snacks about professionalism, let alone any other form of responsibility.
Once you’ve reached a point in your partnership at which you can communicate through a series of grunts or a single word, you know you’ve reached a higher level as a team. As much as this may be true for Bunk (Wendell Pierce) and McNulty’s (Dominic West) detective work, on a personal level they bring out the worst in each other, despite trying to better themselves. Bunk may be the lesser of two evils where heavy drinking and bed hopping with strangers is concerned, but more often than not McNulty’s self-destructive behavior rubs off on him. However, when McNulty ends up putting his career in jeopardy, Bunk is forced to turn his back on him to save his own.
They say you should find a partner just as crazy and weird as you. In the case of Marcy (Pamela Adlon) and Charlie (Evan Handler) Runkle, there may have been a little too much crazy weirdness at play to make it work, but the love was real, there’s no doubt about that. Charlie’s high-pressure job as an agent and Marcy’s business of removing unwanted hair for the rich and famous keep them moving in luxurious, drug-fueled party situations. Unfortunately, neither of them has the discipline or maturity to stand strong against the many temptations L.A. has to offer and soon cocaine and mistresses get in the way of their formerly strong relationship.
Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) and Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths) were two of the most intriguingly complex characters to grace our screens in the early 2000s, and whenever they were together they’d leave a path of destruction in their wake. Stemming from completely different worlds—the bottled-up tendencies of the Fisher household versus the Chenowiths’ no-filter approach to life—their relationship often consisted of challenging each other in the crassest ways. They suffocated one another with their opposing strengths and apparent weaknesses, tearing each other down more than they ever lifted one another up. As toxic as their relationship may have been, ironically, they were, no question, true loves.
I’m not entirely sure any of us would be deemed particularly likable if our most private thoughts became public to the world, but Mark (David Mitchell) and Jez (Robert Webb) roam in a narcissistic, conniving world of their own. Upon first encounter, they may come across as lovable, awkward losers who are just as deserving of affection as anyone else, but as soon as we’re let in on their internal dialogue, it becomes clear just how despicable they can be as people and, most certainly, as friends. There seems to be a constant sense of conflict and competition between the two, and while, at heart, they do kind of love each other, they’ve made it their mission to never, ever admit to it. Instead, they wallow in their own bitterness and refuse to delight in each other’s respective joys.
There’s something to be said about the kind of female friendship that requires absolutely no editing. These are the relationships that come along once in a lifetime, and when you find that connection with someone, you’re never going to want to let it go. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue) have found this bond with one another; they always have each other’s backs and get through some of their worst times in life together, even if they don’t always have the most mature manner of expressing themselves. But as beautiful as their friendship may be, it’s not always pretty for the people around them. Their tough-love approach, twisted sense of humor and harsh vocabulary works for them, but practiced on others it can quickly result in tears or major frustrations (the poor Fro-yo guy!).
Charlie (Charlie Day) and Frank (Danny DeVito) share the closest bond among the members of The Gang, but it ain’t pretty. It involves vile cat-food eating routines, unsanitary living conditions, a worrying lack of hygiene and the regular abuse of inhalants (silver spray paint, anyone?). Though it’s not 100% clear whether Frank is indeed Charlie’s biological father, he seems to care more for him than he ever did for Dee and Dennis—which isn’t to say he treats Charlie any better. He has pulled some of the most despicable things on his alleged son, has even tried to have him killed, but at the end of the day, they’re always at their happiest ass-to-ass on their shithole’s filthy futon.
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.