The marriages in most modern TV shows are disastrous. Even the stable marriages of couples like Modern Family‘s Claire and Phil Dunphy, Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Debra and Ray Romano, and The Simpsons‘ Marge and Homer work despite the man’s weakness or outright stupidity—certainly not the marriages most young girls dream of.
But we don’t have to look all the way back to Father Knows Best or Leave It to Beaver to find examples worth copying for ourselves. These five very different T.V. marriages offer twenty-first century takes on happy relationships.
Carla Espinosa and Christopher Turk from Scrubs (2001-2010)
Nurse Carla and surgical intern Turk meet at Sacred Heart Hospital. After first refusing Turk’s advances, Carla realizes she is attracted to the ambitious goofball. As the series progresses, they marry, cope with infertility, and eventually have two children together. Carla learns to tone down her domineering nature. Turk learns to be a man his wife, children, and friends can respect without sacrificing his sense of fun.
Carla and Turk’s marriage really shines in the penultimate season as they encourage J.D. to move past his extended adolescence and become a man. Not only do they slap some sense into him—sometimes literally—but Turk sets a beautiful example of how a goofball husband doesn’t have to be stupid or incompetent.
Zoe and “Wash” Washburn from Firefly (2002)
Second-mate Zoe fought in the Unification War against the utopian Alliance alongside captain Mal before joining his starship, Serenity, as first mate. Wash joins the crew as its talented pilot while Serenity smuggles goods and people under the Alliance’s radar.
Throughout the series, wiry nerd Wash struggles with his jealousy over the friendship between Zoe and tough guy Mal. Wash may not be a “man’s man,” but he and Zoe find a way to make their marriage work without compromising Wash’s masculinity.
Tami and Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
Coach Eric Taylor moves his family to a small town in Texas to coach the successful Dillion Panthers high school football team. After his star quarterback suffers a debilitating injury in the first game of the season, Taylor has an uphill climb to win the support and confidence of his players and the Dillon community.
Tami and Eric are absolutely supportive of each other—personally and professionally. But that doesn’t mean they’re afraid to challenge each other to be better people, spouses, or parents.
Elizabeth and Peter Burke from White Collar (2009-present)
Federal Agent Peter Burke is the only man who could capture elusive con-man Neal Caffrey. Neal convinces Peter to serve out his prison sentence as a consultant with the F.B.I. Peter and Neal work together to solve crimes while Peter tries to show Neal a better life. As the show progresses, Peter’s wife Elizabeth gets involved in mentoring Neal.
The fun, playful marriage between Peter and Elizabeth provides a model for what Neal can gain by giving up his life of crime. Instead of resenting Peter’s work for taking so much of his time, Elizabeth helps him with the projects that matter most. And Peter supports Elizabeth’s successful catering company with encouragement and a willing palate for taste testing.
Amy Pond and Rory Williams from Doctor Who (2010-present)
Amy Pond met wandering time-traveler the Doctor as a small child. When he comes back into her life on the eve of her wedding, she runs away with him and tries to seduce him. With a little help, she returns to her senses and marries her gentle and devoted childhood sweetheart Rory.
Again and again, Amy puts her trust in her very human husband over her super-human best friend. And again and again Rory justifies her confidence. They not only come through for each other, but they trust each other to always do the right thing—no exceptions.
What marriages do you admire? Let us know in the comments.