We are, of course, a bunch of queers writing for a queer website, so even when we’re doing roundtables where we don’t have to choose queer shows and characters, we almost always do anyway. But this week, we decided to share those rarer than unicorn straight couples that we won’t apologize for loving. It turns out that even those of us who thump our chests and proclaim loudly that we’re Team Love Is a Lie are a bunch of dang softies!
Will you tell us yours, too?
Rebecca and Greg, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Okay, so my actual answer is Moe and Noah on Trinkets but I just talked about that. And my possibly less controversial answer is Jane and Rafael on Jane the Virgin but I also talked about that plenty last year. So instead I am going to say something that is probably objectively wrong: oh my god I think I like Rebecca Bunch and Greg Serrano??
Greg is introduced as the guy Rebecca probably should be with instead of his friend/her crush Josh. They actually have chemistry, they actually have things to talk about, they actually seem to get to know each other. But both characters have too much shit to work through and actor Santino Fontana inexplicably wanted to leave one of the greatest television shows of all time to go star in Tootsie on Broadway so in season two it was goodbye Greg. He returned in season four, now played by Skylar Astin, and it shouldn’t have worked, but for me it just did. Now sober, Greg had definitely grown a lot during his absence, but he was still a sarcastic dick and the exact kind of guy I usually wouldn’t want my friends to date! And this is a show that ends with Rebecca choosing herself and musical theatre over any of her love interests! So why the hell am I still stuck on Greg??
Here’s my answer: musical theatre. It’s my only explanation. It’s my only explanation for tolerating Jamie in The Last Five Years and it’s my only explanation for shipping Rebecca and Greg. Musical theatre has the power to let me inside the brain of a straight woman who wants to date a man like Greg. Suddenly I understand falling in love with someone that arrogant, that negative, that insufferable. I see his charm! I see his appeal! I see their love! In fact, I actually liked Rebecca with all three guys?? What a powerful artform.
Davia & Dennis and Malika & Isaac, Good Trouble
When Good Trouble debuted last year, I knew I’d care about the straight relationships…after all, I’d watched Callie and Mariana Adams Foster grow up over five seasons of The Fosters so, of course, I’d be invested in their relationships in this new spin-off, right? But, much to my surprise, Good Trouble introduced an expansive ensemble cast that I grew to adore and, somehow, I started to care about their straight relationships more than the characters I’d always known.
The thing that binds my love of Davia’s relationship with Dennis and Malika’s relationship with Isaac is how, through each of them, you get a window into the trauma that they’re carrying. For years, Davia’s had to endure her mother’s abuse about her weight and she carries that shame into her relationships. No matter what image she showcases on Instagram, she’s scared that her mother’s warnings — that no one would love her because she was fat — are true and that being someone’s mistress ought to be enough. You can see her falling slowly for Dennis but never being able to commit to the possibility until Dennis says it aloud. She needs his voice, his love to drown out the echoes of her mother. But, of course, Dennis is reluctant to do that because he comes to the table with his own trauma. He carries so much pain over the loss of his son and so much guilt for having failed his family in such a profound way that he feels unworthy of whatever kindness is offered to him. He’s at the Coterie to hide, not to be seen… and Davia makes him feel so exposed. I grew so invested in them and hoping they’d find their way past their pain and to each other.
Similarly, with Malika: she’s who Callie might have been if Stef and Lena hadn’t welcomed her into their home. Years in the foster system have left her fearful of trusting that the ground beneath her feet will still be there tomorrow. When she meets Isaac, he confirms all her skepticism but then, after she rejects him, Isaac does a thing that Malika doesn’t expect: he keeps trying. Malika is a dark-skinned black woman who grew up in the foster system and was homeless before she ended up at the Coterie…people don’t keep trying to win the affection of people like her. The more Isaac shows up, the more Malika can let go of her past trauma and fully embrace the love that’s being offered…. and watching her learn to love Isaac and learning to let him love her feels like a profound triumph and I cheer it on every week.
Khadijah and Scooter, Living Single
If you’re a lover of the specific subgenre that is Iconic Black Sitcoms of the 90s (and there are many of us, I salute you!) — then you probably knew I’d have a Living Single couple on this list, and you’re probably surprised that the couple is not Maxine and Kyle. Maxine Shaw Attorney at Law (Ride the Maverick!) and Kyle Barker, exquisite dresser and stockbroker, are the lead Will-They-Won’t-They couple of the series. Their hot, sexy enemies-to-lovers dynamic SPARKED from the high heavens and there’s no denying that, least of all by me. So then why would my heart settle on another love story instead?
Because I never want to be enemies with the love of my life, that’s why. The complicated drama of hating each other — but being drawn together nonetheless — makes for captivating television, but who the hell wants that mess in their actual lives? My heart is far too sensitive for such volatility. Khadijah and Scooter (excuse me, he’s grown now so we call him Terrence) have been best friends since diapers. The first time they have sex? The next morning they laugh together about how it was the first time they’d seen each other naked since they were five years old and sharing a bathtub. I love love that is warm and lived in, like wrapping your softest, warmest throw blanket up to your neck on a cold winter’s night, sipping hot cocoa. I want a love story that feels like home.
If Queen Latifah did one thing as Khadijah James, it was keep a NBA roster of fine men on her arm, but we always knew that it would come back to Scooter. In the show’s finale, on New Year’s Eve, when he returns to finally sweep her off her feet… to be new and in love with your best friend? There’s nothing like it.
Dwayne and Whitley, A Different World
When this roundtable was first suggested, I complained that I haven’t loved a straight couple in 25 years, which is true, and so may I please present you with the other 90s Black sitcom couple that has my heart.
Here’s the deal with Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert. They are college sweethearts, but not at first. No, at first Dwayne is a skinny math nerd, a bonafide geek who no girl will seriously date. And Whitley is a pampered, bougie Southern princess who thinks everyone is beneath her. To be honest, in the early years they are both… well, annoying.
But the beauty of Dwayne and Whitley not that opposites attract, it’s that in a true coming-of-age, they grow up together. In Whitley, Dwayne not only grows into his own versionof cool, he ultimately learns patience and how to care for someone other than himself. In Dwayne, Whitley learns that there is so much more to the world than money; she also learns how to stand on her own two feet and outside of the princess shadow cast by her bougie and overbearing parents. It takes them four years of college (well, five for Whitley) but when they graduate they aren’t just getting a piece of paper degree — they’ve become better people. Love did that for them. They grew up in love. And really, what’s a better love story than that?
In conclusion, this summer I once explained that I loved this couple so much by describing myself as a “Whitley Gilbert, looking for a queer Dwayne Wayne with flip-up glasses ❤️” and Natalie pointed out that since I am myself a Black nerd with a PhD, then aren’t I also my own Dwayne Wayne? And to be honest, she wasn’t wrong.
Coach and Tami, Friday Night Lights
My favorite scene between any married couple on TV, ever, happens in the fourth season of Friday Night Lights, “The Lights in Carroll Park,” two episodes after Glenn, a teacher at Tami Taylor’s school, gets drunk and kisses her in the parking lot of a karaoke bar. She jumps away from him, of course, and according to the rules of TV, it’s going to cause big problems in her marriage. When she doesn’t mention it to Coach in the next episode, that seems like a sure bet. But in “Carroll Park,” somewhere in the middle of the episode, Coach and Tami wake up in bed and he mumbles, “Guess who came to see me the other day? Glenn.” And Tami says, “Oh? And what did Glenn have to say?” They get into a sleepy, silly, groggy, foggy, early morning mumble-jumble talk-off about Glenn kissing her. She says, “Oh honey, he was so drunk; you didn’t hit him, did you?” And he says, “You just get kissed by so many people over at the school you forget to even talk about it?” He’s not mad because he’s not threatened and she’s not embarrassed because she knows that he knows what he means to her, what they mean to each other. Coach jokes about it throughout the episode, says she’s going to have Glenn over when he goes out of town, and “Don’t let him drink all my scotch.” But the episode ends with them in the car, down by the lake where they had their first date, kissing and pressing their foreheads into each other. Coach says, “Damn, I love you.” And Tami says, “Damn, I love you too, babe.”
That’s the kind of love I never knew existed when I was growing up. Not that kind where you run through the streets in the snow to stop an airplane from taking off, or chase somebody to the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day for a sweeping, soppy kiss. That was all fine and good and everywhere. The kind of love I never saw modeled for me in real life and also never saw on TV or in movies was steady and sure and gentle and firm and unwavering, the kind of love that challenges you to be a better version of yourself and gives you the space and empowers you to actually do it; the kind of love that’s refuge from the storm, not the storm itself; the kind of love that is so self-assured — not haughty, or cocky, but quietly and completely confident — that getting kissed by drunken Glenn in the parking lot will become just another in a lifelong series of inside jokes between you.
Coach and Tami are their own characters, with their own hopes and dreams and flaws and fears, and their marriage is its own character too, this whole other living and breathing thing that, as Coach says, needs to be nurtured.
When I met my wife, ten years ago, I asked her on our first date how she handled conflict. And I told her how I handled it (anxious-avoidant) too. And then I told her the most important thing to me, in the entire world, was to create the kind of relationships that are built on so much consistent goodness and grace that all conflict will become me and that person against the world, and not me and that person against each other. The first time I saw that in action was the first time we watched Friday Night Lights together. And now I have the great good fortune to see it in my own life, too.
Jim and Pam, The Office
Sorry for being basic but it’s true! They make each other laugh. They have great running bits. They have a very cute love story. My only complaint is how they seem to hold each other back a little bit from whatever their respective dreams are, sometimes. But G-d, they find the other person just so delightful! I love them. Remember THE TEAPOT
Tami + Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights
Best marriage I’ve ever seen on television! There were no broad strokes here, just real, flawed, ambitious, impressive people navigating assorted ups and downs with a relationship rooted in mutual respect and a desire to see the other succeed. It’s too bad the child produced from this union was a total bitch!!!
April & Andy, Parks & Recreation and Veronica & Kevin, Shameless
I think I like both of these couples for the same reason — hot bossy women in relationships with men who are a little um, less smart, but also very charming and funny! Bonus points to K&V for when they had a throuple in Svetlana, justice for Svetlana.