From Scott and Charlene to Dani and Jack: 30 years of much-loved TV couples
By Fraser McAlpine, 14 September 2018
As well as showcasing some of music's biggest stars, Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park 2018 played host to a reunion of one of television’s most iconic romantic pairings.
During her headline performance, Kylie Minogue invited Jason Donovan to join her onstage and perform their chart-topping duet Especially For You, rekindling for a brief moment the TV romance of their Neighbours alter-egos Scott and Charlene, which peaked with their iconic wedding scene in November 1988.
Scott and Charlene are not the only couple whose small screen chemistry has beguiled TV lovers. Let's take a look at some of the other on-screen couples that have kept us on the edge of our seats in the 30 years since Kylie and Jason.
Marge and Homer Simpson - The Simpsons
The Simpsons may be a cartoon, and therefore subject to different rules of physical reality than the ones we have to obey, but there is something eternally warm and human about the relationship between the daft, scheming and easily irked Homer and his eternally patient and resourceful wife Marge. This is a couple whose relationship is tested thoroughly on a weekly basis, but they nonetheless always survive each and every time, as strong a couple as ever.
It’s a dynamic we also see in the equally trying relationship of Family Guy’s Peter and Lois Griffin, and proof that no matter how dysfunctional a family may look from the outside, true love finds a way to deal with almost anything.
Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv - The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
The strength of a relationship isn't just tested in the early years. Sometimes it takes the arrival of a lanky family member from the mean streets of West Philadelphia to prove that you have what it takes to keep a heart and home together. Philip Banks was a successful man, a judge, who had provided a beautiful home for his family in Bel Air. Accepting nephew Will into their lives, Uncle Phil and his wife Vivian came together to support their family no matter how badly their various schemes had come unstuck, dispensing life lessons with the kind of bluntness that comes with real love.
Monica Geller and Chandler Bing - Friends
Our initial attention may have been on the will they/won't they nature of Rachel and Ross' romance, but we all know that the best couple in the biggest sitcom of the 90s and 00s was Monica and Chandler. She was an uptight neat freak and chef, he was a wisecracker with fears of commitment.
They first got together at one of Ross' many weddings, and immediately set about complementing the kinks in their respective personalities. Chandler proved himself to be a secure and reassuring presence for Monica, and Monica helped Chandler get past the traumas of his childhood that left an enduring mark on his personality. We didn't see it coming, but their relationship simply worked.
Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big - Sex and the City
It can often be natural to look at your relationship and wonder if there could be better options out there. For Carrie Bradshaw, the history of her love life wasn't just played out on our TV screens, but also in a syndicated column that formed the narrative backbone of Sex and the City.
Mr Big was a version of her perfect man: romantic, prone to extravagant gestures of love and handsome as the day is long. But he was also hard to pin down, elusive when she needed him to be there and frequently caught up in his own life. There was an on-again, off-again tension that made their journey so hard to steer. Naturally, viewers watched all this willing the two of them to work it out, recognising that love is worth making sacrifices for.
The Doctor and Rose Tyler - Doctor Who
Doctor Who has never been particularly strong on romance, partly because of its origins as a show for children and partly because the lead character is an alien from the planet of Gallifrey. But when this beloved sci-fi institution returned to our screens in 2005, the chemistry between bored teenager Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper) and her new Time Lord BFF was so intense, it looked a lot like love.
However, events started to get in the way: Rose was separated from the Doctor by a rift in reality, then David Tennant's Doctor found he had been replicated in human form. It wasn't your everyday tale of boy-meets-girl, but ultimately it was a story of love that was both thwarted and achieved. Rose and the human Doctor went off into the sunset, finally able to confess their true feelings for one another, but the original Doctor remains on the outside, looking in.
Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley - The Office
The ache of unrequited love is a tough burden to bear, which is why it's such a rich source of comedy, just ask Niles Crane from Frasier. And while The Office (the original UK version) may have centred around David Brent, the middle-manager with aspirations of stardom, it was also the story of Tim, a young man in love with Dawn, the receptionist at his work. Engaged to someone else, Tim tried very hard not to show his true feelings. It was agonising to watch, but we couldn't look away.
Thankfully, in the very last episode, just as Dawn appeared to be vanishing from Tim's life, she reappeared, her hidden feelings suddenly made plain, and a nation swooned.
Kat and Alfie Moon - EastEnders
EastEnders likes to put its couples through the wringer. None more so, perhaps, than Alfie and Kat, whose various tribulations sometimes appeared to be beyond human endurance. They came together out of friendship, but always struggled to find equilibrium. There were deaths, affairs and breakups; a lottery win, a rival marriage, ill-health and a house being burned down to claim insurance. And yet some ineffable magic kept drawing these two back together, time and again. And whenever they reappear in Albert Square, it would be foolish to bet against them staying the course, no matter what the scriptwriters can throw at them.
Roy and Hayley Cropper - Coronation Street
A groundbreaking TV romance at the time, the characters of Roy and Hayley Cropper became beloved members of the Corrie family. Hayley, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, was the first transgender soap character, and her heartbreaking exit from the show in 2014 (which provoked a debate about assisted death for people with terminal illnesses) showed just how strongly the British public had taken Hayley to their heart.
Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes - Gilmore Girls
Most couples bicker now and again, but with others their differences are as much a part of what makes them tick as their similarities. So when freespirited, gleeful mum Lorelai Gilmore met grumpy coffee shop owner Luke Danes, they started as they meant to go on, swapping barbs and constantly teasing one another.
They occasionally tested their friendship, and formed cracks in their burgeoning relationship as each one proved they could out-will the other, but Lorelai's teasing and Luke's crotchetiness was set against the common assumption that this was a love that didn't particularly need spelling out to anyone but the characters themselves.
John Luther and Alice Morgan - Luther
The turbulent bond between DCI John Luther and Alice Morgan was a complicated one. A brilliant policeman on the side of the angels but prone to anger and dark deeds; and an even more intelligent, but manipulative and antisocial, counterpart with occasional flashes of decency. Their relationship was an elaborate dance of tension, flirtation and rejection, set against the backdrop of police work. Luther knew Morgan was a murderer but couldn't prove it. While he tried to investigate her, she developed a fixation on him, which ultimately resulted in a rewarding - if potentially compromising - friendship for both parties. Not all romances are consummated, after all.
Missandei and Grey Worm - Game of Thrones
In the brutal world of Game of Thrones, a little kindness and empathy goes a long way. This is particularly true in the case of Grey Worm - a eunuch trained from a very young age to be one of the slave soldiers known as the Unsullied. Over the course of several seasons, he became commander of the Unsullied legions, and befriended Missandei, serving Daenerys Targaryen (the great Mother of Dragons) as an advisor and translator. As Missandei revealed more about her own traumatic childhood - she was taken into slavery at the age of five - Grey Worm's long-buried feelings began to emerge. Their eventual romance was a redemption for two people who have good reason to never trust another ever again.
Piper Chapman and Alex Vause - Orange is the New Black
Piper and Alex's is a relationship with a lot of history, bitterness and resentment, but ultimately forgiveness of sorts too. After a whirlwind affair and a massive fallout from it, the pair find themselves in prison together, with an understandably aggrieved Piper spending a good deal of her early time there avoiding Alex. Events conspire to bring the two together again, and it becomes clear they're better (and safer) together than apart. Romance is complicated - and this prison romance is no different.
John Redmond and Kayleigh Kitson - Peter Kay's Car Share
Love can blossom in surprising places - in a car, for example. John and Kayleigh were never supposed to spend any great amounts of time together, but thanks to a car-sharing initiative at the supermarket where they both work, they were brought together. She rides to work in his car and they chat: that's basically the plot of Peter Kay's Car Share.
Unexpected moments happened along the way, like their very first trip together in which Kayleigh accidentally squirted a sample of urine in John's face. Despite their occasional bickering, the pair found themselves drawn together in the most charmingly banal way.
Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham - Love Island
Not fictional characters, but it was an amazing TV moment to witness love blossom between Love Island contestants (and eventual winners) Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham. Despite the best efforts of the show's producers to find ways to test their resolve - an early separation of the boys from the girls resulted in both Jack and Dani refusing to sleep in their own beds until they could be reunited, and Jack's ex-girlfriend was brought in to introduce a note of tension - they seemed particularly attuned to one another, bickering and larking about the way best friends do. No summertime fling, their relationship proved that romance is still alive and well.
Charlene Mitchell and Scott Robinson - Neighbours
And let's take things back to Scott and Charlene. They were too young to handle their feelings, the archetypal teenage couple who found it hard to control the avalanche of emotions they were exposed to. Scott had to fend off pressure from his family to put his education first, while Charlene was a trainee mechanic with a short fuse and very little patience. Their arguments were frequent, the bickering constant, but through it all they formed a lasting bond.
The viewing public were willing them to succeed, which is one of the forces that made their wedding such a huge TV moment. So much so that it made a hit out of Angry Anderson’s song Suddenly, which provided the soundtrack to their vows. Paying homage to that moment, a recent episode of Neighbours featured the show's first gay wedding, to the soundtrack of Kylie and Jason's Especially For You.