Plenty of odes (read: lists) have been written on TV's best friendships, but many of the most dynamic small-screen duos share much more fraught relationships. Sometimes, they're two people who are obviously meant for each other, but can never get the timing quite right; other times, they're two sentient public relations nightmares who reliably bring out the worst in one another. A few of the most exhilarating pairings have never had a single nice thing to say about each other, while others make us wish we had better friends.
In other words, TV's best duos, like The Other Two's Brooke Dubek (Heléne York) and Cary Dubek (Drew Tarver), contain multitudes. These sibling strivers rely on each other — well, as much as anyone can rely on people like Brooke and Cary — as they find themselves in ever more outlandish circumstances. Season 3 of Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider's trenchant comedy premieres on HBO Max today, with all the biting commentary and dabbing we've come to expect. To mark the occasion (and maybe get your mind off of today's Star Wars merchandising frenzy), we've rounded up our favorite TV pairs, including collaborators, co-hosts, and frenemies. Some relationships are more symbiotic than others, but they're all worth watching.
From 2017 to 2021, The View co-hosts Joy Behar and Meghan McCain proved that you don’t have to get along to make TV magic. What made Behar and McCain so captivating to watch wasn’t that they were true ideological opposites — while Behar is liberal, she’s not as progressive as she claims to be — but that they were unafraid to go head-to-head in Hot Topics, regardless of how knowledgeable they were about the subject at hand. The resulting discussion often felt like two heavyweights throwing haymakers: Their punches didn’t always land, but when they did, the effects were felt for days afterwards. It’s no surprise that in 2019, the New York Times declared The View the “most important political TV show in America,” a well-deserved honor that can be partially attributed to McCain’s visible eye rolls and Behar’s under-her-breath mutterings.
That sense of combativeness has been missing from The View since McCain’s departure in 2021, but at least she treated fans to one last moment of pettiness on her way out the door. In Bad Republican, an audiobook released in October 2021, McCain revealed she decided to leave the show after getting into an on-air tiff with Behar just one day after returning from maternity leave. As a result, said the conservative, she and Behar didn’t speak off-camera ever again, which is probably the only way this TV duo’s story could have ended. — Claire Spellberg Lustig
Middle school is the most awkward time of a young girl’s life, and middle school in the early 2000s was something else entirely. Navigating internet chat rooms, ADD, and modeling scams alone would be near impossible — luckily, in Pen15, 13-year-old Anna (Anna Konkle) and Maya (Maya Erskine) have each other. This pair takes doing everything together to the next level, not only promising to have their first kiss and first drink at the same time, but taking turns wearing the same thong throughout a school day. That’s not to say that these two don’t fight. Teenage hormones are raging, and friend breakups can be just one middle school play casting away. But Anna and Maya always come back to each other, no matter what.
Series creators and stars Konkle and Erskine perfectly capture just how deeply connected two 13-year-old girls can be, whether that means participating in the shared delusion that they have witchy powers or staying by each other's side to egg (er, squid) a very creepy, very mean boy’s house. In the series’s final episode, Anna and Maya map out the rest of their lives together, promising to keep that strong bond alive through high school, college, and beyond. As they deliver those final lines, it’s hard not to feel melancholy knowing the inevitability of life and growing up mean that their friendship may never be the same. But at that exact moment in time, they truly are the best friends anyone could ever ask for. — Brianna Wellen
It’s difficult to imagine that HBO’s Barry, one of the darkest shows currently airing, could birth one of the sweetest TV couples imaginable. While the show is technically a comedy, Seasons 3 and 4 have produced one devastating moment after another. Amidst the dreariness, the relationship that developed between NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) and Crístobal (Michael Irby) was a shining light. They were sort of modern day Romeo and Juliet — Hank, the happiest Chechen mobster, and Crístobal, the stoic head of the Bolivian mafia.
They made for unlikely partners in their violent world of crime: Hank’s effervescence often clashed with Cristobal's no-nonsense approach, yet the two were able to inspire and bring out the best in each other. Throughout the senseless bloodshed, “Hankobal” was never weaponized as a source for unnecessary drama; instead, their relationship was given space to bloom. As Barry has tapped into the bleakest aspects of our human nature, it's been refreshing to see two characters indulge in a love story full of patience and warmth, brief though it may have been. — Dianna Shen
Abbott Elementary would be a landmark sitcom no matter where it aired, since shows this funny, kind-hearted, and structurally inventive don’t come along every day. But the series’s dynamite run through its first two seasons is even more impressive because it’s happening on network TV. In an era when it’s almost assumed that streamers are the platforms with all the best shows, Abbott thrives under the specific demands of traditional, primetime programming. Episodes are required to be 22-minutes long in order to make room for commercials, yet the series packs in so much detail and so many jokes that it feels richer than comedies with double the running time. And while the HBO version of a Philadelphia public school series might contain more profanity, it’s hard to imagine it would be more heartfelt than this TV-PG charmer.
Series creator and star Quinta Brunson has talked about how challenging it is to work within the constraints of broadcast television, but she’s also said she wanted to be on ABC, since it “represents family viewing.” That speaks to what the show is pulling off: It has become a series for viewers of all ages, using sly humor to talk about everything from race to gentrification to the hierarchies in American education. From her perch on a legacy network, Brunson is able to see a big picture and reflect it to a big audience. — Mark Blankenship
Poker Face was a singular TV series this year, a throwback to a Columbo-style detective series with few recurring characters and a new mystery with each episode. Mystery has been Rian Johnson's golden ticket over the last few years, having drawn raves for his whodunit feature films Knives Out and Glass Onion. Those films feature Daniel Craig's inimitable performance as Benoit Blanc at their center, not only as connective tissue but as a human temperature gage that guides the films' energy and sense of humor. For his new TV series, Johnson would need a similar grounding force, and did he ever find exactly that in Natasha Lyonne.
As conceived by Johnson and performed by Lyonne, Charlie Cale is an unlikely gumshoe. Gifted with an uncanny ability to tell when other people are lying, Charlie finds herself uniquely suited to dig to the bottom of the grim and often grisly murders she comes across. She's also thoroughly a Natasha Lyonne character, with all the raspy-voiced, "how'd I get myself mixed up in all this?" guilelessness. She just wants to meet cool people and have a beer, maybe hide out from the mob for a few days, and she — much like Benoit Blanc, actually — finds herself time and again confronted with people's deeply disappointing selfishness and amorality. For all her external messiness, she's got a pure heart. In Lyonne, Johnson found the perfect vessel to center his twisty mysteries around, and in Charlie Cale, Lyonne found her perfect character. — Joe Reid
When Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag met, it seemed like they were going to be best friends for life. The pair started their friendship off screen as college roommates, and when the Laguna Beach spinoff The Hills started, the two were still living together, this time in Los Angeles. Conrad starred in the series, which followed her pursuing a career in fashion while navigating romantic relationships and her friendships with Whitney Port, Audrina Patridge, and Montag. In Season 1, it was Lauren and Heidi against the world. They had their whole lives planned out, lives that at the time they were going to share with each other.
Enter Spencer Pratt, one of the most notorious reality TV villains of all time. His influence on Heidi was apparent from the start, causing an immediate rift in Lauren and Heidi’s friendship — when he supposedly leaked a sex tape of Lauren and her ex Jason Wahler, that was the last straw. In the Season 3 premiere of The Hills, Lauren officially ended her friendship with Heidi. But even though the friendship was over, the pair’s time as co-stars continued, and watching the ups and downs of their friendship became one of the most genre-defining relationships on reality television. The cycle of fights and reconciliations, both on and off the screen, kept us glued to the TV. We’re still wondering exactly why Lauren showed up at Heidi and Spencer’s wedding. And even though the two still seem to be feuding today, we’re holding out hope that one day they become BFFs, or at least friendly acquaintances, again. — Brianna Wellen
From 2018 to 2021, Making It delivered a reality competition in which everyone genuinely seemed to be having fun. The craftspeople in the big barn certainly wanted to win, but the show worked hard to celebrate everyone, even when their woodworking or foam-cutting wasn’t up to snuff. And while there were structural elements to keep things upbeat – like the running gag that all the eliminated contestants started a side hustle together – the show’s spirit was truly embodied by co-hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. They spent so much time talking to the makers and complimenting their work that they always seemed like gracious hosts.
But the pair really came to life when they were goofing around with each other. Thanks to their non-stop pun-offs and frequent bouts of uncontrollable laughter, they always seemed like genuine friends who were shocked they got to make a television show together. That genuine connection set them apart from the hosts of other “gentle” competition shows, and it gave Making It a wonderful, why-not-try-this energy. Poehler and Offerman rightfully scored three Emmy nominations for hosting the show, and while they never won, their work on the series proved that winning wasn’t the only type of victory. — Mark Blankenship
Who could have expected that the oft-derided seventh season of RuPaul's Drag Race would have produced the show's most prolific pair of breakout queens? Katya and Trixie Mattel weren't even depicted as particularly close on their original season, but in the years since, their stars have rise in tandem. Their World of Wonder-produced YouTube series UNHhhh premiered in 2016 and showcased the pair's off-the-cuff, deeply hilarious chemistry while doing nothing more than just sitting and riffing off of a prompt.
It's that high-yield, low-overhead approach to comedy that has made Trixie and Katya so adaptable across different media ventures. They co-host the podcast The Bald and the Beautiful, they offer commentary on Netflix programming in their "We Like to Watch" YouTube series, and they've produced three books, including one coloring book. Their popularity has at this point transcended their Drag Race careers and has established them as a multimedia comedic force in their own right. — Joe Reid
Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan will be the first to tell you just how long they’ve been friends. The pair’s relationship has outlasted their time on The Real Housewives of New York, a rarity in a franchise that's become known for roping together random, well-known folks based on their zip codes more than their real-life connections. It’s their decades-long relationship that makes the two comfortable enough around each other to really let loose, which has proven to be equal parts entertaining and cringe-inducing to watch.
As time goes on, the two bring out the worst in each other. On group vacations, they always room together — during one trip to Vermont, that meant teaming up to cheat the system and steal one of the best rooms in the house (there’s nothing Ramona loves more than creating drama around choosing rooms). They tend to encourage each to drink just a little too much, too, which more often than not results in Sonja taking a tumble off of a glass table or slurring her words during an important speech. And they know how to push each other’s buttons, creating some of the show’s most emotional moments. It turns out that even if you’re Sonja’s BFF, you can never, ever touch the Morgan letters. — Brianna Wellen
The chemistry between What We Do in the Shadows' Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) and Nandor (Kayvan Novak) is undeniable. From the very first moment they’re on screen together, it’s clear that there’s something bubbling under the surface of their relationship as familiar and vampire. Sure, it seems like Guillermo is only sticking around and doing anything he can to make Nandor happy because he wants to eventually be turned into a vampire, but there has to be more. And yes, Nandor puts on a front that he’s annoyed by Guillermo’s presence and has no real intention of giving him what he wants. But in Season 4, Nandor’s true feelings for Guillermo became clearer than ever.
Nandor’s quest for true love always brings him back to Guillermo. He missed Guillermo deeply when he was overseas with Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and not just because Nandor was helpless without him. When Guillermo gets a boyfriend, Nandor is desperate to have the exact same relationship (quite literally — he basically clones Guillermo’s boyfriend). At Season 4’s end, Guillermo leaves behind his life as Nandor’s familiar. Maybe that will be just the move that these two need to take it to the next level and just kiss already! — Brianna Wellen
TOPICS: The Other Two, Barry, The Hills, PEN15, Real Housewives of New York City, The View, What We Do in the Shadows, Heidi Montag, Katya, Lauren Conrad, Natasha Lyonne, Quinta Brunson, Ramona Singer, Rian Johnson, Sonja Morgan, Trixie Mattel