No relationship is perfect. But for viewers tuning in for just 30 minutes to an hour, they can seem like they are.
Some comedies, like Amazon’s Catastrophe, Fox’s New Girl, and Hulu’s recently ended The Mindy Project, prove that the perils of dating, marriage, and parenting are far from the bill of Norman Rockwell–hued goods many of us were sold as children. The humor in those series, however, is something that critics clearly appreciate: Catastrophe is Certified Fresh at 100% for each of its three seasons; New Girl’s review count has dipped as its seasons have gone on, but dedicated critics have kept its score high; and Mindy has an 87% Fresh Tomatometer score.
Meanwhile, shows like NBC’s This Is Us, ABC’s black-ish, and former NBC series Friday Night Lights remind us that some couples do get relationships with marks almost as high as their Tomatometer scores if they’re willing to put in the work. Even teen dramas, like former Fox series The O.C. and Glee, are known for their devotion to the intricacies of relationships. And then there’s Homer and Marge Simpson, who have been going strong for decades and seem to have not aged a day.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve gathered a list of TV shows that offered the best portrayals of coupledom in all its funny, messy, emotional, complicated glory.
The series are arranged first by Tomatometer score, then alphabetically where the show does not currently have a series score.
Which is your favorite TV couple and why? Tell us in the comments!
Happy New Year from Rotten Tomatoes! Hopefully, your resolutions don’t involve watching less TV because 2016 promises to be rich with more scripted shows than ever. Many are coming back this month, some are hitting streaming, and a few are just darn cool. So grab your remote and whatever terrible low-carb, low-calorie, low-fat snack you’re eating for the next two weeks and start bingeing!
What it is: After spending 18 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit, Steven Avery is exonerated by DNA evidence. Two years later he is arrested again for a murder he may not have committed.
Why you should watch it: Filmed over a ten-year period, this highly bingeable series provides a detailed account of the unfathomable events in Avery’s life. The story takes so many unexpected twists and turns that it’s not immediately clear where the truth lies. A guilty man may be facing his comeuppance, or an innocent man might be suffering one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice imaginable.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: 10 hours.
Why you should watch it: With the reboot premiering on Fox later this month, now is the perfect time to get caught up on this era-defining sci-fi show. Most of the episodes follow a case-of-the week (or monster-of-the-week) format, with Mulder and Scully in pursuit of strange leads in remote locations. They don’t always solve each mystery, but they often discover that truth is stranger than fiction. There are also the myth-arc episodes, which revolve around a government conspiracy to cover up the existence of an alien threat to humanity. Basically, think Criminal Minds meets The Twilight Zone and you’ll be on the right track.
Commitment: 154 hours.
What it is: In the midst of the Cold War, a young East German soldier with an ailing mother is tasked with going undercover in the West to steal NATO military secrets.
Why you should watch it: Deutschland 83 is a bit like The Americans’ European cousin, capturing the tension and paranoia of the Cold War from the perspective of a conflicted spy on the front lines. Jonas Nay plays Martin Rauch as both a resourceful operative and a wide-eyed innocent, at once committed to his mission and enticed by the freedoms he finds in the West. It’s tense, exciting stuff, full of evocative period details and fascinating personal conflicts.
Commitment: 6 hours.
What it is: Liza Miller, a newly single mom, is 40 and without a job. After a chance encounter, she decides to go for broke and enlists the help of her best friend to get a makeover and re-enter the workforce as a 26-year-old.
Why you should watch it: Two factors that should seal the deal on your binge quest: Younger is from famed Sex in the City creator Darren Star, and the show stars Sutton Foster, who out-charms every scene, person and thing she appears with. The show also boasts a cast of delightful characters; sweet, fun exploits; and a whimsical perspective that’s worth your precious time before season two airs on Jan. 13.
Commitment: 4 hours.
What it is: Living in the long shadow of his world-famous adventuring playboy father (who vanished under unknown circumstances), Dr. Venture is a disgraced scientist who drags his twin sons, Hank and Dean, around the world on violent misadventures with their Led Zeppelin-lovin’ bodyguard Brock Samson.
Why you should watch it: Initially a spoof on Jonny Quest, Venture Bros. has morphed over its five seasons into a hybrid screwball action/comedy, where the jokes whiz by as fast as the bullets and lasers. Popular characters are slaughtered to jar viewers, the pop culture references range from lowbrow to highly esoteric, and the series’ world-building and callbacks to earlier episodes are unparalleled. It’s a ruthless, specific humor which stems from the fact that the show is still driven by its creators, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, who write, direct, and voice most of the vast variety of characters (which explains why it takes forever to get new seasons).
Commitment: 24 hours.
What it is: Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agent Carter takes place shortly after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, following the exploits of Peggy Carter as she joins the Strategic Scientific Reserve in post-WWII New York City.
Why you should watch it: Essential viewing for fans of the MCU, Agent Carter expands on the background that led to the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stark Industries, while also infusing the universe with a spunky feminist twist. Peggy Carter is one tough cookie who relies on her wits as much as she does her physical strength, battling villains as well as the internalized (and sometimes externalized) sexism of mid-century America.
Commitment: 5.5 hours.
What it is: An idealistic small-town government supervisor with an obsessive work ethic and a penchant for waffles helps keep her local Parks and Recreation department running smoothly, despite an eccentric team of easily distracted employees and a boss who deliberately attempts to undermine the bureaucratic process.
Why you should watch it: Here’s why you should watch Parks and Rec: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott, and Rob Lowe. There’s a reason why this unabashedly sweet and silly workplace sitcom became the calling card for some of today’s biggest and most promising stars. Part of it has to do with the writing, to be sure — equal parts clever and absurd, incisively satirical at times and lovably earnest at others. Morever, though, each role was so perfectly cast that every star was allowed to shine. Amy Poehler is Leslie Knope, Nick Offerman is Ron Swanson, Chris Pratt is Andy Dwyer, Rob Lowe is Chris Traeger (“lit’rally”), and it is very, very hard to dislike any of them. You will laugh, and you will find yourself wishing you could be a part of the gang. This is comfort TV at its finest.
Commitment: 48.5 hours.
What it is: After his girlfriend dumps him, struggling writer Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) puts an ad on Craigslist, advertising himself as an unlicensed private detective. As his moonlight investigation job takes off, his best friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and his boss George (Ted Danson) join him on his adventures.
Why you should watch it: It’s a neo-noir comedy with a great ensemble. Ted Danson is awesome, and the stable of recurring and guest stars is formidable. Many feel the series was cancelled too soon, and talk of a follow-up movie (Ames reported in 2015 that he’s working on another draft of the script) continues to keep the detective dream alive. Also, it should get you in the laughing mood for Galifianakis’ upcoming new comedy series, Baskets, premiering Jan. 21 on FX.
Commitment: 12 hours.
What it is: The order of a second season has led The Missing into the anthology series pool. Season one is the horrifyingly realistic tragedy of one couple’s search for their young son, who goes missing during a holiday in France.
Why you should watch it: Subject matter like this can be difficult; it makes one wonder why watching a story about a missing child could be considered “entertainment.” But the familial dramatic arc and the unfolding mystery are presented with exceptional insight, as the characters’ daunting lives are carried out with specificity by a stellar cast that meets the challenge set before them.
Commitment: 13 hours.
What it is: In USA Network’s legal drama about a brilliant but unlicensed lawyer (Patrick J. Adams) and his polished mentor (Gabriel Macht), “suits” can refer to the millions of dollars in play for each case — or the well-dressed, fast-talking, claptrap-thinking litigators who wear them.
Why you should watch it: There’s usually an interesting lawsuit at the center of every episode, but the dynamic at the office of Pearson Hardman is Suits‘ bread and butter. From Louis Litt’s bullying of the associates to Harvey Specter’s obsession with winning, every character develops into someone you either love or love to hate. With a big cliffhanger heading into the Jan. 27 midseason premiere, now is the perfect time to study up on this quick, smart, well-tailored drama.
Commitment: 50 hours.