Every TV show needs a good duo at its core. That’s the best character dynamic there is. Every TV show needs two characters who have a romantic entanglement and two characters who make a terrific duo. That’s the standard, because it’s oh so enjoyable for us to watch. The reason that a lot of successful TV shows manage to go on for so long is because they center on a partnership of two characters whose bantering and riffing off of one another is endlessly entertaining. You could watch Jerry Seinfeld bicker with George Costanza for days. You could watch Walt and Jesse argue over quantities of different chemicals in their meth lab forever. Duos are what make some TV shows great. The best duos are the ones where each of the characters sort of hate each other, but at the same time, couldn’t live without each other. They complement each other’s personalities in the most outrageous ways. One of them has a Type A personality, the other one has a Type B personality. One thinks the glass is half full, the other thinks the glass is half empty. In that spirit, here are the 10 greatest duos in TV history.
10. J.D. and Turk
J.D. left in the second to last season of Scrubs, and so Turk was left all alone for the ninth and final season. The show suffered from this, because the center of the show was always the adorable bromance shared by these two characters, and now, that was gone! See, J.D. and Turk were not just best friends – they were surrogate brothers. They began their friendship as college roommates, and quickly bonded over a shared silly sense of humor. The two friends enjoy doing “the robot” dance, doing “dramatic slow running,” and pretending to be at times, a “multi-ethnic Siamese doctor,” and at other times, the “world’s most giant doctor.” They love their dog toy like it was a real dog. J.D. was the best man at Turk’s wedding and the godfather of his child. Some jokes in the show allude to J.D. and Turk being so close as friends that it borders on romantic. Carla refers to J.D. as Turk’s “boyfriend,” but the two pals call this “guy love,” and claim that there is “nothing gay about it in our eyes.” It was heartbreaking when J.D. left Sacred Heart at the end of season 8 and Turk made him a big banner that said, “Goodbye, J.D.” Tragic!
9. Abed and Troy
Everyone wants to have a friendship like that of Abed and Troy on Community. They’re like the best friends on TV! They have movie marathons together and make up Spanish raps together while they’re studying. And yet, according to actor Danny Pudi, the two were never supposed to have a bromance on the show – the producers decided that later, when they realized what amazing chemistry Pudi had with his co-star Donald Glover. Pudi explained, “Initially [the producers] saw Troy and [Chevy Chase’s character] Pierce as being weird buddies, but things changed. Donald and I just got each other and it fit. ‘La Biblioteca’ spawned from an interview the two of us did.” So, there you go. What makes this such a terrific bromance on TV is that a real life bromance was brewing off the set first, and the writers just put two guys together who were meant to be together. It’s kind of beautiful, if you think about it. They share a love of the Kickpuncher movies, they chloroformed the janitor together, they created Dreamatorium together, they co-host the fake talk show Troy and Abed in the Morning, they faced a zombie apocalypse together, they reached a peace treaty between the United Forts of Pillowtown and the Legit Republic of Blanketsburg – not many friends can say they’ve shared these moments with each other.
8. Abbi and Ilana
The reason that Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler are such great friends on Broad City is quite simple, really. It’s because the fantastically funny actors who play them, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, are best friends in real life. They first made Broad City as a web series, in which they pretty much played themselves as a pair of cool, young chicks trying to make it big in New York City. That web series proved so popular that Amy Poehler picked it up for a cable TV series and it’s been airing on Comedy Central to a massive millennial audience ever since. The great thing about Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is that they can always rely on each other for help and support in times of need, which is something we all need in our lives. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, which assigns the show a perfect 100% score, agrees that the best thing about the show is the strong bond shared by its two lead characters: “Led by two of the funniest women on TV, Broad City uses its stars’ vibrant chemistry to lend an element of authenticity to the show’s chaotic yet enlightening brand of comedy.” Abbi and Ilana are the kind of gal pals that every girl wishes she had.
7. Mark and Jez
By all logic and reason, Mark Corrigan and Jeremy Usborne should not be friends – and yet, somehow, that’s what makes them best friends. Mark and Jez are polar opposites. Mark has a soul-crushing office job, he’s climbing the corporate ladder, he does everything society tells him to, and yet nothing ever seems to go his way. Jez is unemployed, fancies himself a musical genius, and never seems to do anything, while money and sex always seems to fall into his lap like magic. Mark lives “relentlessly in the real world” (Jeremy’s words), while Jez is a “work-shy freeloader” (Mark’s word). They’re chalk and cheese. The way Mark sees it, the glass is half empty. The way Jez sees it, it’s half full. They both infuriate each other at times and take pleasure in bad things happening to the other person. They even screw each other over a lot. Jez kissed Mark’s fiancée and poisoned him in his sleep! But for better or for worse, they are the best friends you’ll see on television. They enable each other’s bad behavior and don’t judge each other (at least out loud) for the decisions they make. Whether they like it or not, Mark and Jez love each other.
6. Beavis and Butthead
Beavis and Butthead might just be two kids who sit on the couch all day and watch TV, but they’re really more than that. They serve as an iconic and stunningly accurate representation of 1990s youth culture and Generation X. Grown ups didn’t like Beavis and Butthead, because they marked a change in teen society as the kids began questioning their authority and turning against the establishment – and Beavis and Butthead were inspiring more and more of them to do that. The adults of the 1990s were that establishment, so of course they didn’t like the show. But screw ‘em, because it’s a hilarious show and they’re hilarious characters and kids should be questioning the authorities that push them down and try to keep them in line. So, there’s that. There’s the cool, rebellious social change brought on by Beavis and Butthead. But there’s also the friendship of these two characters. They enjoy each other’s company so freaking much that they’re content to just sit together and watch TV and make comments about the shows they’re watching. Wouldn’t we all love to have a friend like that – someone who doesn’t need to go to the movies or the bowling alley to have fun with you.
5. Frasier and Niles
Dr. Frasier Crane was first introduced as a regular in the sitcom Cheers, but after that show ended, he was given his own spin-off, and in the spin-off, we were introduced to his family, including his brother Niles. The producers hired David Hyde Pierce to play Niles, because they thought he looked like a young Kelsey Grammer from his headshot, but what they didn’t expect was the amazing comedic chemistry that the actors shared. Grammer and Pierce’s chemistry is comparable to Laurel and Hardy. Whether they’re bickering in a parking garage or attempting to share an office space or spending a weekend at a log cabin with a couple of girls they’ve picked up, the pair are endlessly watchable as they riff off each other and enjoy a love/hate relationship with one another. If you thought Frasier was a fancy pants compared to the patrons of a Boston bar, you had no idea what to expect when you met his brother in the spin-off. Pierce himself has described the character of Niles as “what Frasier would be if he had never gone to Boston and never been exposed to the people at Cheers.” Even though they’re just two actors, you really believe that Frasier and Niles are brothers.
4. Brian and Stewie
When Family Guy began, Brian was Peter’s best friend and Stewie was just a blindly evil little child who was bent on killing his mother. The two characters barely ever spoke to one another, and when they did, it was just a one liner. But from those one liners, it was clear that these two characters shared a lovable chemistry. They started getting storylines together and eventually became the central duo of the show. Now, they’re best friends! All of their characteristics complement one another. Stewie is as smart as Brian pretends to be, Stewie sees right through Brian’s blind liberalism, and they know just the right things to mock about each other. But most importantly, they’ve always got each other’s back when they’re on an adventure – whether they’re flying through the Colorado Rockies or heading to London to live on the set of a TV show or trapped in a bank vault for the weekend or going back in time to Nazi Germany with a Jewish guy or hopping from dimension to dimension through the multiverse or simply trying to get home from California. Brian and Stewie’s bromance never gets old – you could watch them back and forth for days!
3. Jerry and George
The best friends are the ones who you’ve known since high school. Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza have been the best of friends since they were teenagers – and they haven’t looked back. Even better friends are the ones who enable your bad behavior. Jerry and George never judge each other – in fact, they help each other do terrible things. George helps Jerry to plan his roommate ‘switch.’ Jerry helps George to plant a marble rye in his fiancée’s parents’ house, even though it involves mugging an old lady in the street. Jerry has broken up with girls for all kinds of random and trivial reasons, like if the girl ate her peas one at a time or if she wouldn’t taste his pie at the coffee shop or if she liked a TV commercial that he thought was cheesy or if she had an annoying laugh or if she had “man hands.” But George never judges him for it, because he’s just as bad. He killed his fiancée by skimping on the wedding invitation envelopes and Jerry never said anything about it. The friendship of Jerry and George is a terrible thing for society – but they’re perfect for each other.
2. Mulder and Scully
At the beginning of The X Files, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully find themselves both in a crummy position. Scully starts off as a Clarice Starling figure who, as a strong, smart, skilled female, threatens the men in the male-dominated workplace of the FBI. So, those men relegate her to the dumbest, most useless department in the bureau. Meanwhile, Mulder has seen his sister get abducted by aliens and has devoted his life to chasing the supernatural forces of the world until he gets her back. But the FBI’s top brass think this is ridiculous, so they stick him in the basement and give him just enough funding to get by. So, they’re not in the best of places at the start of the show. But these circumstances are how they wound up getting paired together. Cue seven years of saving each other’s lives and fighting sexual tension and getting on the same page and basking in the beautiful chemistry shared by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Mulder is a reckless, irrational agent who blindly follows his belief in the paranormal and gets into a ton of wacky situations. Scully is skeptical of Mulder’s beliefs and applies logic and reason to everything. This pairing is what made such a strange show so enjoyable for so long – and why it went very quickly downhill after Duchovny left the show.
1. Walt and Jesse
One of the best relationships for drama and conflict in fiction is that of the surrogate father and son. Jesse Pinkman has a strained relationship with his own father, who hates him for getting involved with drugs and wants nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, Walter White has always been a fine father to his son Walt, Jr., but when he started cooking meth, the two grew distant from one another. The key relationship at the core of Breaking Bad was that of Walt and Jesse. When Walt first enters the world of drugs and starts working with Jesse, they’re nothing more than a bickering mentor and mentee – which was still a joy to watch. But over the course of six seasons, their relationship grew to something much deeper and more profound than that. Walt was the father that Jesse needed, who was understanding and caring and compassionate, while Jesse was the son who needed Walt more. The relationship between Walt and Jesse wouldn’t be anywhere near as engaging or as watchable without the strong chemistry (pun definitely intended) shared by actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. It’s only fitting that what is arguably the greatest TV series ever made would also star the greatest duo in TV history.