Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: Which current TV couple is giving you relationship goals?
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
Whenever people ask me what TV show is the best currently running, my go-to answer is “The Americans” for a variety of reasons (it’s really that good, it’s one most people haven’t seen, etc.). But a big reason for that is thanks to the sterling marriage of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, whose icy cold love fills my heart with joy. Think about it: When the series began, these two spies were just pretending to have a functional relationship — only to have realized that their pretending was essentially the same as something real. Having given in to their passion, the two have now done a remarkable job of navigating the twin pressures of ’80s geopolitics and parenting. They respect each other. They look out for each other. They always have the other’s best interests at heart, even when one of them is carrying on an entirely separate marriage with a different spouse. Marriage and foreign policy are both endless series of careful compromises. No show understands that better than “The Americans.” (Note to self: Do not send this week’s column to my wife.)
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
Curses to the word “current”! While I’m tempted to look at the ambitiously romantic early years of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) relationship on “This Is Us” as goal-worthy behavior, ultimately I’m more drawn to the comfortable and more relatable relationship of Josh (Jay Baruchel) and Lucy (Katie Findlay) in “Man Seeking Woman.”
Though the two go through many iterations of typical relationship insecurities and anxieties, in the end they always address them and work through them, bringing them even closer together. Whether faced with a heist, a horror story, the seductions of a gentleman adventurer, an insurmountable pile of empty Amazon Prime boxes, or 14 hours of a Ken Burns documentary, Josh and Lucy always work best as a team. And even though “Man Seeking Woman” portrays life through the lens of magic realism, it feels more true to life than most relationship-focused shows. That means that while the dilemmas are comically augmented, the sweet moments that cap them off are also that much more goal-worthy.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
You know, they have their problems, but there is something fundamentally lovely about how Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) work together in “Santa Clarita Diet.” Even after Sheila’s new state of being complicates their lives considerably, Joel is never anything less than devoted to his wife. It’s an interesting take on marriage anchored by Barrymore and Olyphant’s great chemistry. Sheila’s heart may no longer be beating, but their relationship is what keeps this show alive.
Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), HitFix
Not every relationship requires an alpha and a beta, but the marriage between Maya and Jimmy DiMeo on “Speechless” does, while also serving as a reminder that the best relationships are ones where the two partners complement one another. Maya is in charge of everything, yet the marriage, and the family, wouldn’t function without his sane, steady, easygoing presence at the middle of it all. Each one knows the other one’s role, and their respective weaknesses, and they’re better together than either would be apart. Like all the great TV marriages, there’s tension and arguing at times, but never a doubt that these two are ultimately perfect for one another.
June Thomas (@junethomas), Slate
Philip and Elizabeth Jennings of “The Americans.” You think you’re obsessed with your job? This couple puts everything — their lives, their relationship, that feeling of not having wig glue suck in your hair — on the line every day — and they can also get you a great deal on a family trip to the Epcot Center. They’re the only people in the world who know what the other has done for their country and their beliefs. In our narcissistic age, that’s the ultimate model relationship.
Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine
Wow, this is tough because I am not seeing gay male couples that really set the bar on TV these days. Cyrus so doesn’t deserve Michael on “Scandal,” I’m waiting for “Modern Family’s” Lily to smother her constantly fighting fathers in their sleep, and “Riverdale’s” Kevin Keller in only getting some DL loving’ from Moose…plus they’re both young enough to be kids I abandoned after their prom births. So unless I drop my standards and aim for a Connor-Oliver relationship of murder coverups and unsafe Grindr liaisons, I have to go for outside of scripted television. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen seem to have it down. Sure, they claim to be platonic buddies but you know they have their fun on those speaking tours they do. No way A+A haven’t tested the waters. And they each have their own lives going on, as well, so I bet neither of them pressures the other for more time or any of that needy b.s.
Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
My first instinct was Sheldon and his wife from “Top Chef,” but the fact that they’re cute while making an egg probably isn’t enough for #relationshipgoals. Instead, I’m going with Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) of “Better Call Saul.” She makes him aspire to be the best version of himself, but she loves him enough to believe in him even when he fails. He makes her aspire to be the most assertive, strong version of herself, but he also feels guilty when sometimes that “best version of herself” puts her in a professionally self-destructive position. Jimmy and Kim began “Better Call Saul” as something of a doomed placeholder relationship, because we suspect (even if it isn’t necessarily true) that as long as she’s in his life, he can’t truly become Saul Goodman and if he doesn’t become Saul Goodman, there’s no “Breaking Bad.” So Jimmy and Kim (and Odenkirk and Seehorn) have a chemistry that effectively makes us root against one of the greatest shows ever happening. That’s remarkable. Runner-up: Winston and Ferguson.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
Claire and Jamie of “Outlander” based on their love that crosses time periods. Most all of the shows I do watch and enjoy have scant examples of couples who have an admirable or enviable arc. “Taboo”? Ick. “Baskets”? Negatory, Ghost Rider. “Legion”? Nah. “Girls”? No freaking way. “Game of Thrones”? The couples keep dying! “Desus & Mero”? Haha.
Tim Surette (@timsurette), TV.com)
Probably Philip and Elizabeth Jennings from “The Americans.” Not because they have developed a real sense of love after starting as an arranged marriage, or because their trust in each other — though occasionally shaken — can survive their job’s demands of boinking others, or because they love each other enough to perform/allow back-alley dentistry in a pinch. The Jennings’ relationship makes me set my own goals in my marriage because somehow they are able to leave their kids unattended ALL THE TIME without any blowback. That is my number-one goal. Teach me the ways, comrades!
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), TVGuide.com
My favorite line from “Catastrophe” is in Season 2, when Rob tells Sharon that he’s more proud of their relationship than their kids because “maintaining this? This is the slog.” The fantasy and high stakes of TV and movies make it easy to forget, but relationships take work, and these two work at it more realistically and hilariously than any other TV pair, never devolving into sitcom caricatures. That’s credit to Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s witty, warm and unsentimental writing that subverts every rom-com trope you can think of. I hope they never break up and I hope no one ever learns how to pronounce Muireann.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
While the new Tami and Eric Taylor are clearly Philip and Elizabeth Jennings — even the Emmys finally fell in love with this inspirational couple — as a servant of Cupid, I’m contractually obligated to follow my heart and choose Kevin and Nora in “The Leftovers.” From the hot-like-fire chemistry on display since they bumped into each other at the dry cleaner to Kevin’s otherworldly death-conquering quest to return to the woman (and family) he loves, these two share the fundamental pillars of any lasting relationship: attraction, understanding, and devotion. Moreover, take one long look at the couple in Season 3 (premiering April 16), and I dare you not to wilt from the heat. Seriously, go get some water. You look burnt.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
Other contenders: “Baskets” and “The Young Pope” (two votes each), “Black-ish,” “Colony,” “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “The Magicians” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming, the show must have premiered in the past month.