Love has long been at the heart of the successful sitcom, whether it be in the trials and tribulations of couples or the seemingly fruitless pursuit of passion by one or more character.
Throughout Valentine's week, there's love, heartbreak, tears and joy on Gold as classic episodes from legendary sitcoms are aired which feature characters trying their darndest to win at the game of love.
To celebrate this season, we took a look at eight of the greatest romances from our favourite TV comedies.
1. Del and Raquel, Rodney and Cassandra – Only Fools and Horses
Only Fools and Horses managed to have two significant romances running through it, albeit both would only occur well after the series was established.
Del-Boy’s significant other Raquel Turner first appears in the 1988 Christmas special Dates, but Derek nearly blows his chance of true love by rejecting her when he finds out she is a strippergram. A year later they are reunited in The Jolly Boys’ Outing and, the odd ‘ricket’ aside, remain together for the rest of the series’ run.
Rodney Trotter met the love of his life Cassandra at evening classes in the show’s sixth series, by the end of which they were married. But the course of sitcom love rarely runs smooth, and after only a year Rodney was out on his ear and back at Nelson Mandela House. Fortunately the couple were reunited, and in the final ever episode their daughter Joan is born.
2. Ross and Rachel - Friends
Probably the most famous on-again, off-again sitcom relationship of all, the love affair between Ross Geller and Rachel Green managed to be a constant throughout all 10 seasons of the hit US show Friends – and their eventual happiness is arguably the ‘end game’ of the whole series.
Initially keeping his feelings for his sister’s best friend a secret, Ross eventually manages to win Rachel over before driving her away with jealousy over her boss Mark, then sleeping with copy shop girl Chloe. Because they were ON A BREAK.
By the end of season six they have been reconciled, married and divorced, and later they have a baby, but it is only when faced with a decision on whether to leave New York for a new life in Paris that Rachel realises the couple are simply made for each other.
3. Niles and Daphne - Frasier
Cheers spin-off Frasier had its very own “will they or won’t they?” couple, nerdy and neurotic psychiatrist Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and dippy Mancunian physical therapist Daphne (Jane Leeves). While his attraction to her was apparent from the start, the relationship didn’t blossom until well over the series’ halfway point.
Niles’ rocky marriage to the unseen Maris, along with his natural timidity, kept the couple apart for six seasons, and their road to eventual happiness was often interrupted by problems, mishaps and other love interests. But the couple finally managed to get together, marry and have a son.
4. Miranda and Gary - Miranda
Some love stories are incidental to the sitcoms they appear in. Others almost form their whole basis – and such was the case in the BBC’s hit series Miranda.
Miranda Hart’s title character is, from the first episode, quite obviously smitten by her old university chum Gary, played by Tom Ellis. Alas, she’s usually so gormless around men, and he’s so insecure, that they seem destined never to end up together.
Eventually, after she gets over his fling with a waitress in Hong Kong and he realises that her lack of confidence is one of the things he loves most about her, they are reconciled and end up marrying at the finale of the show’s third and last series.
5. Rigsby and Miss Jones – Rising Damp
Leonard Rossiter’s Rigsby is unlikely to be anyone’s idea of a romantic sitcom hero, but there is an underlying sweetness to his amorous pursuit of Frances de la Tour’s Miss Jones in Rising Damp. Of course, both characters are distinctly lonely, and to begin with any interest between the two seems to be of a primarily physical nature.
By the end of the series there does seem to be genuine – if sometimes strained – affection between the two, and Miss Jones actually agrees to marry Rigsby in the last episode broadcast on TV. In the film adaptation, Rigsby even fantasises that the two dance a tango in a 1920s silent film, while her concession to a romantic meal with him ends when he trips over his cat Vienna and falls downstairs.
6. Gavin and Stacey
Another sitcom to fit into the romance-as-its-theme mould was Gavin and Stacey, which followed the ups-and-downs of the relationship between the titular characters as they embark on a long-distance relationship stretching between Essex and South Wales.
Matthew Horne’s Gavin is absolutely smitten with his new girlfriend Stacey, played by Joanna Page, and by the end of the first series the couple are married. Problems arise when Stacey gets homesick for her family and friends in Barry – and later, when she believes she and Gavin are unable to have children. But everything works out well, and Stacey is eventually revealed to be pregnant after all.
Meanwhile, Gavin’s best mate Smithy spends his time trying to convince himself he doesn’t like Stacey’s friend Nessa. The couple (played by the show’s writers James Corden and Ruth Jones) had a one-night stand on the same evening that Gavin and Stacey met, but it’s not until the series finale that Smithy reveals his true feelings for Nessa – just as she is about to be married to her boyfriend Dave.
7. Ria and Leonard - Butterflies
Carla Lane’s Butterflies, featuring Wendy Craig, went a little differently from most sitcoms in that much of its plot derived from the potential for Craig’s Ria to counter being taken for granted by husband Ben (Geoffrey Palmer) by contemplating adultery with her ‘friend’ Leonard (Bruce Montague).
Leonard seems to be the antithesis of Ben; charming, romantic, and deeply interested in Ria – despite her unwillingness to leave her husband and commit to him. In spite of everything, their relationship remained unconsummated – but delighted audiences enough for the show to be granted a special 10-minute episode as part of Children in Need in 2001, some 18 years after the original series had ended.
8. Geraldine and – well, almost everyone – The Vicar of Dibley
The Vicar of Dibley’s Geraldine, played by Dawn French, spent much of the early episodes of the show playing Cupid to her friends Alice (Emma Chambers) and Hugo (James Fleet), but she’s quite clearly a lady on the lookout for her own love.
As well as a tentative romance with a TV producer (played by Peter Capaldi), Geraldine also falls for Hugo’s uncle Simon, goes on a speed dating night, kisses politician Robin Cook and even contemplates an offer of marriage from the unpalatable David (Gary Waldhorn), before meeting and wedding her ideal man Harry in the show’s finale.
Photo credits: BBC/UKTV/Tiger Aspect