Special Report

The Most Famous Duos in TV History

Courtesy of American Movie Classics

When the chemistry is right, the pairing of two characters in a television comedy or drama can turn the series into a hit. (Pairings can be successful in other areas, too. These are the most iconic musical duos in history.)

To create a list of the most famous duos in TV history, 24/7 Tempo researched series in which friendships, partnerships, rivalries, and/or romantic relationships are key on sites including IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon; Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator; and Uproxx.com. Cast information also came from IMDb. 

TV’s famous duos can be relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, even enemies whose relationships evolve into something else. They are often found in comedies. That has been true from the beginning of television. 

Think of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz on “I Love Lucy” and fraternal-organization pals Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton on “The Honeymooners” in the 1950s; Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” in the 1970s; and Karen Walker and Jack McFarland in “Will & Grace” in the 1990s and 2000s.

Animation is not without its duos. “Tom and Jerry,” “The Flintstones,” and “Ren and Stimpy” all feature memorable pairings, too. 

Successful pairings in drama include detectives Benson and Stabler in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”; Mulder and Scully in “The X-Files”; and Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan in “Bones.” All three shows feature male/female partnerships with suggestions of something more, which appeals to audiences.

Click here to see the most famous duos in TV history

Source: Courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Tom and Jerry
> Show: The Tom and Jerry Show (1975-2021)
> Played by: William Hanna, Mel Blanc, and many others

Among the longest-running cartoon shows ever, “Tom and Jerry” started as a series of movie theater shorts featuring a cat named Tom, a mouse named Jerry. Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, it debuted in 1940. Edited versions of the shorts first appeared on TV in 1965. A decade later, the first iteration of “The Tom and Jerry Show” – produced especially for the small screen – was launched on CBS. Since then, the cartoons have appeared, off and on and under various titles and on various networks, through the present day.


Source: Courtesy of CBS

Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz
> Show: I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
> Played by: Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance

Television’s first famous sit-com buddies, Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance), spent the early 1950s on this CBS comedy classic trying to extricate themselves out of zany situations that were mostly created by Lucy.

Source: Courtesy of CBS

Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton
> Show: The Honeymooners (1955-1956)
> Played by: Jackie Gleason and Art Carney

There were only 39 episodes of CBS’s “The Honeymooners,” but that was long enough for the bloviating Ralph Kramden and loopy Ed Norton to become one of television’s greatest duos.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble
> Show: The Flintstones (1960-1966)
> Played by: Alan Reed and Mel Blanc

This ABC offering was the first animated series on prime time. Inspired by “The Honeymooners,” it featured Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble as Stone Age suburbanites.


Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Batman and Robin
> Show: Batman (1966-1968)
> Played by: Adam West and Burt Ward

The campy send-up of the comic-strip caped crusader, which aired on ABC, was so popular it was on twice a week. As the Dynamic Duo, Adam West chewed the scenery as Batman and Burt Ward was his faithful companion, Robin.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock
> Show: Star Trek (1966-1969)
> Played by: William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy

This Emmy-winning NBC series that spawned full-length movies and television spin-offs was in many ways ahead of its time – among other things, addressing civil rights issues in the context of space travel to other civilizations. James T. Kirk was the resolute captain of the starship Enterprise and Mr. Spock was second in command, seeking logical solutions to problems.


Source: Matthew Simmons / Getty Images

Bert and Ernie
> Show: Sesame Street (1969-present)
> Played by: Jim Henson and Frank Oz

Bert and Ernie, created and voiced by Frank Oz and Jim Henson, are two beloved Muppet characters who appear together in skits on the long-running PBS / HBO children’s television show “Sesame Street,” which has won six Emmys. Bert and Ernie demonstrate how two different personalities can get along.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

Felix Unger and Oscar Madison
> Show: The Odd Couple (1970-1975)
> Played by: Tony Randall and Jack Klugman

This hit ABC television series, which won three Emmys, was based on Neil Simon’s 1965 play of the same name and the subsequent 1968 movie version. Jack Klugman plays a messy sportswriter and Tony Randall a fastidious photographer who share a New York City apartment after both separate from their wives.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Fred and Lamont Sanford
> Show: Sanford & Son (1972-1977)
> Played by: Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson

The NBC sit-com starred Black comedian Redd Foxx as cranky though likable junk dealer Fred Sanford, who is in constant conflict with his more ambitious son (Demond Wilson).


Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicut
> Show: M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
> Played by: Alan Alda and Mike Farrell

Subversive U.S. Army doctors Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicut wisecrack their way through the horrors of the Korean War in the long-running CBS sit-com that took home 14 Emmys. The Hunnicut character was a replacement for Pierce’s original colleague, Trapper John McIntyre, after the actor who played that part, Wayne Rogers, left the show. The chemistry between Pierce and Hunnicut worked as well as that between Pierce and McIntyre.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

Det. Dave Starsky and Det. Ken ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
> Show: Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979)
> Played by: Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul

Detectives Dave Starsky and Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson, two Southern California police detectives, were among the first of the cop buddy pairings on television in this ABC drama. Though they fought crime in the fictional Golden State town of Bay City, Starsky and Hutch are said to have been partly inspired by two New York City detectives.


Source: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
> Show: Saturday Night Live (2001-2006)
> Played by: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who first met in 1993, overlapped for more than five years on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” among other things co-hosting the Weekend Update segment of the sketch comedy show. They returned to co-host SNL in 2015, the first time they had shared the stage there since Fey’s departure in 2006. (Poehler remained until 2008.) Fey and Poehler, who’ve won 10 Emmys between them, have also starred in movies together, including “Baby Mama” and “Sisters.”

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney
> Show: Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983)
> Played by: Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams

Laverne DeFazio – wearing a giant L on all her clothes – and Shirley Feeney are best friends and roommates though opposites in personality who work together at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee in the 1950s in this ABC sit-com.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

David Addison and Maddie Hayes
> Show: Moonlighting (1985-1989)
> Played by: Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd

This 1980s ABC series – part comedy, part drama, part romance – helped launch Willis into stardom and revived Shepherd’s career. Their onscreen chemistry was apparent, but offscreen, they disliked each other.


Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution

Will Smith and Carlton Banks
> Show: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996)
> Played by: Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro

Will Smith portrays a young man from Philadelphia sent to California to stay with affluent relatives after he runs afoul of street toughs. The contrast between Smith’s street smarts and his cousin Carlton’s proper upbringing is one of the many sources of comedy on the NBC series.

Source: Courtesy of Nickelodeon Network

Ren and Stimpy
> Show: Ren and Stimpy Show (1991-1996)
> Played by: John Kricfalusi and Billy West

This animated series on Nickelodeon featured Ren, a disturbed chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, a doltish cat who goes by the nickname Stimpy. The two have unusual adventures together.


Source: Courtesy of Comedy Central

Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon
> Show: Absolutely Fabulous (1992-1996, 2001-2004, 2011-2012)
> Played by: Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders

British import “Absolutely Fabulous,” or “Ab Fab,” featured Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders as Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon who go on drug- and booze-fueled misadventures. The often outrageous hit series, which ran in the U.S. on BBC America and other channels, won four BAFTA awards and its TV success led to a motion picture in 2016.

Source: Courtesy of Fox Network

Mulder and Scully
> Show: The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016, 2018)
> Played by: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson

In “The X-Files,” FBI agents Mulder, who believes in conspiracies, and Scully, a skeptic, investigate the unexplained, even as the government remains unconvinced by their reports. The Fox series, which won 16 Emmys, was known for its tagline “The truth is out there.”

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Chandler and Joey
> Show: Friends (1994-2004)
> Played by: Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc

This NBC ensemble sit-com “Friends” won six Emmys and made stars out of all six members of its cast. Two of them, Matthew Perry as WASPy Chandler Bing, and Matt LeBlanc as a swaggering Italian-American Joey Tribbiani, share an apartment and support each other in their career paths and romantic relationships. Chandler chooses Joey to officiate at his wedding.


Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Karen Walker and Jack McFarland
> Show: Will & Grace (1998-2006, 2017-2020)
> Played by: Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes

This NBC hit sit-com won 18 Emmys over two separate runs. Jack McFarland, a gay man aspiring to be an actor, and neighbor Karen Walker, a wealthy socialite, become fast friends. They have pet names for each other and Karen helps Jack financially while he struggles to find a career.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Benson and Stabler
> Show: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present)
> Played by: Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni

Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni play specially trained detectives Benson and Stabler, who investigate sexually related crimes in New York City and have each other’s backs in their private lives. Theirs is a complicated relationship that remained platonic during the course of the long-running NBC show, which has won six Emmys.


Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

Lorelai and Rory Gilmore
> Show: Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
> Played by: Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel play mother-and-child Lorelai and Rory Gilmore in this fast-talking drama/comedy on CW about the relationship between a 30-something single mom who runs a bed and breakfast in an idyllic town in Connecticut and her teenage daughter who attends Yale.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

J.D. Dorian and Christopher Turk
> Show: Scrubs (2001-2010)
> Played by: Zach Braff and Donald Faison

The bromance between doctors J.D. Dorian and Christopher Turk at fictional Sacred Heart Hospital on this NBC medical comedy included the “eagle running” joke. Turk would carry J.D. over his shoulders and spin him around as J.D. extends out his arms and shouts “Eagle!..”

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

Jimmy McNulty and ‘Bunk’ Moreland
> Show: The Wire (2002-2008)
> Played by: Dominic West and Wendell Pierce

Cop partners Jimmy McNulty and “Bunk” Moreland work the streets of Baltimore in this HBO crime series. McNulty is a bit of a loose cannon but Bunk has his back. Whatever differences they have are settled over a glass of Jameson’s.


Source: Courtesy of Fox Network

Seeley Booth and Dr. Temperance Brennan
> Show: Bones (2005-2017)
> Played by: David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel

The comedy/drama crime show “Bones” on Fox pairs cocky FBI agent Seeley Booth and forensic expert Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan, a pair who investigate murders together. Their professional relationship becomes a romantic one and they eventually get married.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy
> Show: 30 Rock (2006-2013)
> Played by: Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin

This 16-time Emmy-winning NBC comedy series is loosely based on that network’s long-running sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live.” “30 Rock” focuses on head comedy writer Liz Lemon, who has to deal with an egocentric boss who insists on hiring an unstable movie star to join the cast.


Source: Courtesy of American Movie Classics

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman
> Show: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
> Played by: Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul

They may have a vast age difference, but Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, on this AMC series, have two things in common: making crystal meth and earning millions of dollars. Along the way, they develop a bond that transcends their age gap.

Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir
> Show: Community (2009-2015)
> Played by: Donald Glover and Danny Pudi

Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir join a study group at the mythical Greendale Community College and became friends on NBC’s “Community.” Theirs is one of television’s more memorable bromances. They hang together, watch movies, go to demonstrations, and even have a secret handshake.

Source: Courtesy of Crackle

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
> Show: Sherlock (2010-2017)
> Played by: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

One of countless interpretations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective novels, this “Sherlock” is set in modern times – except for a special episode set in Victorian times, evoking the spirit of the source material. Produced by the BBC and airing in the U.S. on PBS, the series has taken home nine Emmys.


Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

Arya Stark and The Hound
> Show: Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
> Played by: Maisie Williams and Rory McCann

These enemies in the HBO medieval fantasy series “Game of Thrones” develop a rapport after The Hound captures Arya.

Source: Courtesy of Comedy Central

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele
> Show: Key & Peele (2012-2015)
> Played by: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

The two-time Emmy-winning comedy series on Comedy Central paired Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (now best-known as the director of acclaimed horror films), who satirized politicians and Nazis, among others, in sketches and filmed shorts in front of a live studio audience.


Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham
> Show: Hannibal (2013-2015)
> Played by: Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy

This NBC television series, following on the popular motion pictures, features psychiatrist/cannibal Hannibal Lecter and looks at the relationship between him and an FBI criminal profiler who is disturbed by his own ability to empathize with serial killers.

Source: Courtesy of FX Network

Elizabeth and Philip Jennings
> Show: The Americans (2013-2018)
> Played by: Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys

This Cold War-era drama series on FX focuses on KGB agents who masquerade as a suburban American couple running a travel agency as they raise two children in Virginia and spy on the U.S.

Source: Courtesy of HBO Max

Issa Dee and Molly Carter
> Show: Insecure (2016-2021)
> Played by: Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji

Issa and Molly are best friends who want to be strong and confident African-American women but must deal with their own flaws. Issa Rae co-created and co-starred in the HBO comedy series.

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