8/4/09

Beauty and the Buffoon: Implausible TV Couples

Throughout the history of television, you could always count on one thing: an abundance of shows featuring a beautiful woman paired with some goofy schmuck. Time after time, plausibility is tossed out the window in favor of eye candy. The genesis of this whole tradition may be the Blondie TV series (which, of course, originated from the comic strip and then movies). Dagwood Bumstead was a bumbling idiot, and his wife was the definition of poise and beauty. Of course, this wasn't near as implausible as Barney Fife and Thelma Lou.


Then there’s Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery is an intelligent and incredibly beautiful woman. Plus she has magical powers that could grant your every wish. So, who does she choose as a mate? A neurotic moron who won’t let her do magic. He’s not even all that good at his job – Larry Tate is constantly threatening to have him fired. That is, until Samantha can save his incompetent ass once again.

The Flintstones and The Jetsons are also prime examples. Fred and George are overweight, ignorant, and extremely grouchy – prone to shouting at their ladies. Barney is short, fat, and a complete imbecile. And yet, their spouses are smart, level headed and drop dead gorgeous. Go figure.

Bob Newhart is a successful psychiatrist with a razor sharp dry wit; this adds tome bonus points with the ladies, I’m sure. But Suzanne Pleshette? Come on. Next you’re gonna tell me Bosley was makin’ it with all three Angels.

Perhaps the one I take most umbrage to is The Brady Brides. I'm sorry, but there is no way in hell that the perfect Marcia Brady married this slovenly doofus. Whoever created this show obviously never watched a single episode of The Brady Bunch. Marcia was a cheerleader, school president, miss popularity and all around overachiever... simply being in the same home amid this manic drive for perfection drove Jan to the very edge of sanity. Not to mention, Marcia was a total knockout - not the type to hook up with this lame cornball.

One of the most unbelievable examples would have to be Perfect Strangers. Explain to me how Larry and Balki, two of the goofiest individuals who ever lived, can be intimately involved with two hot blonde stewardesses? I mean, these guys make Shemp seem suave and handsome. To quote Balki: "Don't be ridiculous!" (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

I think Seinfeld deserves a mention as well. Somehow a neurotic stand-up comedian manages to have one fashion model quality girl after another. I mean, this guy makes Sinatra and Warren Beatty look like lightweights!

The honor for the most absurd, completely unbelievable mismatch in the history of television would have to be Téa Leoni and Corey Parker in Flying Blind (1992-1993). There’s no possible way this match could have taken place – not even under the influence of large amounts of alcohol. If Flying Blind had been a science fiction program taking place on a remote corner of the galaxy where nerdy dumb-asses are considered attractive, then I might buy it.

I nearly included Doug and Emmy Jo from The New Zoo Revue as shining examples of a mismatched couple. Emmy Jo was a stone cold fox, while Doug was as nerdy as they come. (I dealt with this issue in detail in a previous post.) However, the couple was married in real life, and are happily married to this day! Hardly what I'd call a mismatch.

One of the reasons I like examining trends in movies and television is because of what it says about the culture surrounding it. So, what does this say about our American culture that gorgeous women are often paired with unattractive morons and the reverse is never the case? It's an interesting thought.

25 comments:

  1. Pretty much all of Bob Newhart's TV wives would make this list. All of Don Knott's post Andy movies of the mid-late 1960's had him paired up with women that were way out of his league too.

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  2. Great post. But wasn't Balki's wife on Perfect Strangers a total ditz as well? Or maybe she just looks that way to me from the picture.

    What about Mork and Mindy? I couldn't stand Robin Williams on that show, and Mindy never seemed to mind.

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  3. Great idea for a post! How about Courtney Thorne-Smith paired up with Jim Belushi! GAH! They make even Mark Addy & Jami Gertz seem plausible.

    From older shows, what about Dan Hedaya and Jean Kasem as Nick and Loretta Tortelli, from "Cheers"? They even got their own short-lived spin-off! Although, she IS married to Casey Kasem in real life, so...

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  4. And don't forget all the beautiful babes with whom David Spade scores on his various shows. It became so ridiculous that an episode of JUST SHOOT ME even parodied the idea of his marrying a supermodel. (But is he married to a hottie in life? I can't recall.)

    Most comedies feature male shlubs who get really hot chicks. On rare occasions you might get comediennes who end up with hunks, but it's a much more rare phenomenon.

    However, there are occasional films where the handsome male lead ends up with the "cute one" rather than the "gorgeous one." THE SURE THING and most Elvis movies come to mind.

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  5. metal mark- True that. Newhart's lady at the Vermont inn was attractive as well.

    goretrogirl- Good one on Mork & Mindy (their offspring, Jonathan Winters, was disturbing). However, Balki's lady was ditzy, but still waaaayyy out of his league.

    Wings - I'm so out of it with current TV, that I don't follow your Courtney Thorne Smith reference - last thing I saw her on was Revenge of the Nerds II and Summer School (and the Fast Times at Ridgemont High TV show). Your Cheers example was a good one though. Wasn't Matt LeBlanc the son on that Cheers spinoff?

    Gene Phillips - I don't think the "beauty and the buffoon" convention applies as well to movies. It certainly does happen, but not with near the regularity as on the sitcom. I'd also say that the handsome male lead more often than not ends up with the cute one rather than the gorgeous one - the old "naughty vs. nice" is a well worn cliche, and "nice" almost always wins in the end.

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    1. Exactly...Newhart's 80's TV wife, the late Mary Frann, was America's Junior Miss 1961--you can find an instructional film on YouTube called PROM:IT'S A PLEASURE, which opens with her--full name Mary Fran Lemcke--being crowned)

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  6. Courtney was on "According to Jim". Never watched it, but was using it as a reference that fit your examples.

    And yeah, I believe LeBlanc was the son.

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  7. I know why Dr. Hartley is smiling in that picture!

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  8. Blondie & Dagwood make sense when one realizes in the original comic strip he gave up any claim to his family's fortune in order to marry Blondie. He's a ditz, a doofus, and a dumbbell but he loves her and he's loyal, so for many that makes him a keeper.

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    1. But as the Depression deepened, Chic Young revamped the strip and discarded that element...

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  9. You realize that there are only about four people who read your blog who REMEMBER Téa Leoni and Corey Parker in Flying Blind (1992-1993), let alone saw every episode (like I did).

    Entertainment is a fantasy and that fantasy has always been (more or less) that beautiful, well built women can hook up with the average Joe. The average Joe who is NOT made of money that is (because then it becomes fact).

    Don Knox made his whole career out of getting the babe. Look at "The Love God." He got Ann (Honey West) Francis for gosh sake.

    Now that is what I call fantasy.

    When it works in reverse, we take it a jake. The guy, more evolved than you and I, obviously sees something more in the average gal than just looks. What a guy.
    It happens (I think) but rarely on TV and if so, we just push it aside and get on with the story.

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  10. Emily Peden aka Emmy Jo was a big crush of mine, back in the day! I didn't even understand why, back then, but I just adored looking at her!

    Another big one for mini-Me was Marilyn Patch, aka Happy Harmony of The New Howdy Doody Show. Watching her prance around in hot pants and pantyhose five days a week had a big affect on my developing male psyche!

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  11. Awww...c'mon now...!

    Ugly people need love too!

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  12. buzz - Hey, I love Dagwood; I'm sure he made a better husband than any smarmy stud ever would... however; isn't that also the case for Barney Fife, Balki, Mr. Keaton on Family Ties, etc.? In other words, I'm sure Anthony Michael Hall would better, more faithful,and doting boyfriend than Jake in Sixteen Candles... but that's not how it usually works. I'm rambling, but I hope you catch my drift.

    Wendel - great observation as usuall. How true that, when the reverse occurs, the guy is canonized as a saint!

    TotalToyz- Wow! Never watched The New Howdy Doody Show, but sounds like something I should look into - hot pants you say?

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  13. Viva- Indeed. Yet it's interesting the reverse (i.e. ugly girl + studly guy) is rarely if ever true.

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  14. dollarbillAugust 05, 2009

    hey gilligan, isn't Perfect Strangers' Larry's girlfriend Mr Whipple's daughter or niece ?

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  15. Wow! Never watched The New Howdy Doody Show, but sounds like something I should look into - hot pants you say?

    Yes indeed. It was an attempt to revive the Howdy Doody show in 1976, but apparently we were hipper in the '70s than our elder cousins had been and it flopped. But Marilyn Patch wore pants that would have been called a belt if they had been a couple inches shorter, and that made it worthwhile for me. I haven't been able to find any images of her online; but there were four DVDs of The New Howdy Doody Show released a few years ago, so maybe Netflix or your local library can help.

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    1. It now currently airs Sunday mornings on Cozi TV

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  16. And as far as Marcia Brady hooking up with that clod in 1981 goes, you have to remember she was doing cocaine at that time. (Puts a whole new spin on the "Oh my nose!" bit, doesn't it?)

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  17. I guess that's one of the magical things about television. It's a shame it doesn't often work out like that in real life. Heck, I'd be up with supermodel after supermodel.

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  18. It's just TV pandering to an absurd male fantasy; that a guy who looks like Mark Addy, Jim Belushi, or Alfred Molina would ever have a shot with a gal who looks like Jami Gertz, Courtney Thorne-Smith, or Sharon Lawrence.

    It's a wonder the Oxygen network hasn't done a sitcom wherein a "plain Jane" ends up married to a hot-bodied hunk. (Or isn't that what women fantasize about? I don't claim to understand women any more than the next guy.)

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  19. I still have Flying Blind episodes on VHS somewhere, as I fell in love with Leoni instantly. David Byrne did the theme song, I believe, or maybe it was already a song of his they used. No idea if the show was actually any *good* or not.

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  20. I have a friend, a college teacher, bald, slightly pudgy, and he's had college students ask him how he got a beautiful woman like his wife to marry him. He's kinda insulted at the question, but he says that humor is a big part of it. I personally think I "married up" too. So, it does happen in real life, though not as often as TV. Of course most TV writers are probably not-too-attractive guys getting some wish fulfillment in.

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  21. Yah OK, this blog entry is old, but I stumbled across it and I have a theory I'd like to share.

    You say, "what does this say about our American culture that gorgeous women are often paired with unattractive morons and the reverse is never the case?"

    What it says is, that American Writers are almost always unattractive dweebs, who were likely bullied and picked on as kids, and they watched the Football Hero and Class Bully always get the girls. So when they're writing successful comedies for TV and movies, they are obviously projecting the kind of life they wish they had.

    It's just like you always see TV and movies where the putz kid turns out to make it big and then his high school tormentors will all either feel sorry for their actions and apologize, or all have their big comeuppance. Karma works overtime in fiction. Do you think the Football Hero or Class Bully ever writes comedy for TV and movies? No, they do not.

    SO you won't see unattractive women with handsome hunks until we have more unattractive ladies doing the writing.

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  22. You can say the exact same thing about JAN Brady !! She married the awkward and nerdy Phillip Covington !!

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