The Evolution of TV Couples

It was on this day in 1940 that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz embarked on their marital voyage . Art soon mimicked life, as the duo went on to play one of the most adored TV couples of all time on the hit show I Love Lucy. To celebrate this real-life union, take a look at some of the most iconic TV couples throughout history and how they’ve evolved with the times.

By Brooke Benjamin

Lucy and Ricky 1950s

Lucy and Ricky had a very loving television relationship while still very respective of the era.  Ricky was responsible for earning an income and controlling the finances, while Lucy kept the household in order. The couple also famously slept in separate beds – as for their TV kid, little Ricky, I guess we’ll never know exactly where he came from. Although their relationship depicted ideas of that time, they were ahead of the times in some ways: an inter-cultural couple (Lucy  a red-headed all-American woman; Ricky was Cuban); Lucy was anything but submissive, she often spoke back to her husband and refused to succumb to his orders.


Ralph and Alice 1950s

The Honeymooners revolved around bickering couple Ralph and Alice.  Although there is a deep love between these two, there are several undertones that indicate controversial methods to their marriage. Ralph is extremely short-tempered and often resorts to barking insults and controversial threats of physical abuse at his wife, Alice. He would often say, “ of these days, Alice POW.” Alice was patient and quick-witted, never taking Ralph’s insults sitting down. Notably, in contrast to many other shows of the time, this was one of the first shows to depict a couple in a less desirable financial situation. A sure indication of progress on the realism front.

Maude and Walter 1970s

Maude was one of the first female TV characters to not only have her own clear views on the world, but to also openly voice them. She was a liberal, a feminist and had been divorced three times before marrying Walter. Clearly she was a woman who lived to please herself, a stark contrast to shows from the 1950s. Maude was also highly progressive in that the show often touched on dark, controversial, but very real marital issues such as abortion and alcoholism.

Cliff and Clair Huxtable 1980s

One of the biggest accomplishments of The Cosby Show was that it opened the doors for several other sitcoms based on African-American characters. This show also received high levels of praise at the time for portraying an African-American family as successful and educated. Clair and Cliff were both nurturing and loving toward each other and toward their children. Clair was a high-powered attorney but always seemed to balance the duties of motherhood and her job flawlessly, showing women everywhere that they could in fact have it all.

Modern Family Couples

The critically acclaimed Modern Family is one of the top TV shows today and serves as the perfect example for how much TV couples have evolved. Modern Family is composed of three couples. Claire and Phil have what would be considered to be a more traditional marriage with Phil working and Claire a stay-at-home mom. Then of course there’s Mitch and Cam, the totally lovable gay couple who always seem to have the most hilarious but well-intentioned squabbles. Lastly, there’s the family patriarch and father to Claire and Mitch, Jay, and his much younger Columbian wife, Gloria. This show is not just side-splittingly funny, but there is a little something in there that everyone can relate to.