One of the great staples of television – to the point of it becoming something of a cliché at times – is to partner up two characters from different worlds and watch their relationship develop. Their differences may seem initially irreconcilable, but over time they come to a mutual understanding and learn to appreciate their complementary outlooks and strengths.
We all have our favourite buddy-pairs, don’t we? Here are five of my mine (with an additional three receiving honourable mentions as a bonus).
1. Steve McGarrett & Danny Williams (Hawaii Five-0)
There are a lot of good things about the new Hawaii Five-0: the high-octane action, the liberal sprinkling of ‘tourist porn’ which highlights Hawaii’s gorgeous scenery, but most of all the show revolves around the bromance between Steve (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danny (Scott Caan), with huge swathes of airtime based around ‘Stanno’ bickering like an old married couple in the car or while pursuing their latest suspect. Their exchanges are often the highlight of even the most action-packed of episodes, and it’s a relationship which is played knowingly with tongue inserted firmly in cheek.
“You two need some time apart”, Chin Ho observed in one recent episode. Quite the opposite. An hour without a slice of Stanno is a missed opportunity.
2. Benjamin Sisko and Kira Nerys (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
I couldn’t have compiled this list without including a Star Trek pairing, but I haven’t gone with the obvious one.
Yes, James T Kirk and the half-Vulcan Spock were the ultimate study in contrasts: an emotional, impulsive captain and his cool, logical first officer. Yes, their relationship went beyond hierarchy, beyond friendship, and provided the template for all the central Trek relationships which followed it: Picard and Riker (The Next Generation), Sisko and Kira (Deep Space Nine), Janeway and Chakotay (Voyager), and – the most blatant rip-off ever – Archer and T’Pol (Enterprise).
But Kirk and Spock’s relationship was virtually fully formed by the time we first met them, and they were not so much a duo as two-thirds of a trio alongside Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy. Whereas Deep Space Nine took us from the first, hostile meeting between the irreligious Sisko (Avery Brooks) and the spiritual Kira (Nana Visitor), via his reluctant acceptance of the role of the Bajorans’ Emissary of the Prophets and their developing friendship and mutual respect, through to his final self-sacrifice to fulfil his and Bajor’s ‘destiny’. It’s a beautiful examination of two characters who start as polar opposites and gradually find common ground, played out organically over seven years.
3. Maddie Hayes & David Addison (Moonlighting)
We won’t dwell on the way David and Maddie’s relationship was irreparably damaged after they finally slept together. But for 2½ seasons this was the hottest duo on television, whose dialogue was delivered at machine-gun pace and sent more sparks flying than a fireworks display.
Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) was the former fashion model, pampered and innocent in the ways of the real world, who found herself suddenly penniless after being embezzled out of her fortune. David (Bruce Willis) was the streetwise grifter living on his wits. The pair bickered and rowed and stormed off into their offices, slamming doors behind them. And then they punctured the sexual tension between them, Shepherd had twins and Willis joined the Hollywood A-list after the success of Die Hard. The decline was swift and sad to watch, but what came before it was glorious.
4. Michael Knight & KITT (Knight Rider)
Men have always had a relationship with their cars, but nothing ever quite to the extent that lone crusader Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) and his talking Trans-Am, KITT (voiced by William Daniels) did. Knight spent much of his time trying to humanise KITT’s artificial intelligence, teaching him about relationships, humour, music and all aspects of the human condition, while repeatedly and recklessly putting himself in harm’s way. Meanwhile the generally conservative and cautious KITT, who gradually developed something of a dry wit, spent most of his time rescuing Michael like a four-wheeled guardian angel.
Let’s not discuss any of the subsequent remakes, though. Knight Rider 2000, Knight Rider 2010, Team Knight Rider and the short-lived 2008 remake were, not to put too fine a point on it, crap.
5. Chandler Bing & Monica Geller (Friends)
Friends initially revolved around Ross and Rachel, but the relationship between Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courteney Cox) gradually became the core of the show for me. Even from early on, a large contingent of the series’ fans were crying out for ‘Mondler’ to get together, as it was a relationship which was so obviously right. He was the wise-cracking goofball who could never take life too seriously. She was the serious, obsessive compulsive neat-freak. It was a match made in sitcom heaven.
They fell in love, moved in together, got married and – in a bittersweet arc which ran throughout the last two seasons – discovered they could not conceive a child. While the 236th and final episode was ostensibly about Rachel finally realising her feelings for Ross – most of us had stopped caring long before then – it was the birth of Monica and Chandler’s surrogate twins and their move from the city out to the suburbs which brought genuine closure the series.
- Sherlock Holmes & John Watson (Sherlock). A combination of Hawaii Five-0‘s bromance and Kirk/Spock (but in reverse), played by two fantastic actors in Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
- James Dempsey & Harriet ‘Harry’ Makepeace (Dempsey & Makepeace). Brash, rule-bending, gun-toting New York cop meets cool, by-the-book, lord’s daughter British detective, with the usual sexual tension thrown in. Stars Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber married in 1989.
- Walter Nebicher & Automan (Automan). In the series inspired by Tron, police computer programmer Walter (Desi Arnaz Jr, son of Lucille Ball) worked alongside and occasionally even stepped into the body of his own avatar creation, the holographic Automan (Chuck Wagner) to fight crime.