Jan 24 2012 7:35pm

The Sneak Attack: Unexpected TV Romances in The West Wing, Justified, The Good Wife, and More

Josh and Donna in The West WingI confess, I often decide whether or not to try a show based on ’shipping potential—as in, can I see myself getting really invested in these characters and their relationships? But if you can’t judge a book by its cover, well, I’ve found that neither can you judge a television show that quickly (not that I’m not still guilty of this sometimes!). After all, some of my favorite couples of all time have come out of shows I never in a million years would have thought I’d be into, and some favorites have snuck up on me in a totally different way.

Who’d have thought The West Wing, for instance—a political drama about White House staffers—would end up with such a great romance on its hands? Yes yes yes, that show is amazing for many reasons and I should have watched it even without the promise of a romance between the deputy chief of staff and his executive assistant, but whatever, my point is this: it (eventually) gave us Josh/Donna.

There are also shows, like The Vampire Diaries, that I go into/have gone into with a ’ship already in mind. Take Damon/Elena. They are incredibly pretty together and come with a lot of baggage (he’s a vampire! she’s dating his brother!), so I of course assumed that they’d be my driving interest in the show. And yet, halfway through Season 3, my favorite couple (Caroline/Tyler, the main reason I still watch) consists of two characters I didn’t even LIKE when I started watching. Huh.

Victor and Sierra in DollhouseI can think of so many other examples! Starbuck/Apollo in Battlestar Galactica (“A sci-fi show based on a cheesy 1970s original?” I originally thought), Boyd/Ava in Justified (“A show about a hillbilly lawman?” I pre-judged), Kalinda/Cary in The Good Wife (“Another lawyer drama? The things I watch for you, Julianna Margulies...” I whined), Victor/Sierra in Dollhouse (“I’m tuning in purely because it’s Joss Whedon...” I  swore), Mary/Marshall in In Plain Sight (“A USA show?” I questioned), etc. etc. I doubt I’ve even hit the tip of the iceberg, there’ve been so many great surprises television romances for me to get behind.

Are there any shows you started watching for one reason or another that ended up introducing you to an unexpected relationship you fell in love with? I can always use more recommendations. Or, on the flip side, have there been any shows you started watching for a relationship you thought you might like but ended up sticking with for an entirely different reason?

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Nikki H
1. Nikki H
My favorite has to be Castle. I sit on edge, waiting for Castle and Beckett to finally make a connection.
Liz Maverick
2. Liz Maverick
I LOVED JOSH/DONNA. And it's been a long, long time since anybody even brought it up. Le sigh. How I miss thee, West Wing of the Rob Years.
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
@Nikki H -- I didn't know what to expect when Castle first started--I just tuned in for Nathan Fillion (adore him)--but yessss, you're so right: Castle/Beckett was a lovely development. They are the best part for sure.

@liz maverick -- JOSH/DONNA ARE THE BEST! I know this now. They were kinda my carrot for finally trying out TWW, 'cause I'd heard they were a great couple but I was still not convinced I'd like the show. Then I actually watched and fell for it and them, and the rest is history. I did not see my fierce love for TWW coming and now it might just be my favorite show!
Charli Mac
4. CharliMac
All time favorite no they didn't TV romance... Jimmy and his mom from Boardwalk Empire. Gross. One that I am waiting for, Castle and Beckett. But I am afraid when they finally do get together it may have a Moonlighting effect. Like when David and Maddie finally got together the show tanked.
Carmen Pinzon
5. bungluna
I love Temperance and Booth in Bones. I did feel cheated at the way the writers jumped from 'will they-won't they' to baby on the way, but their give and take has always been endearing to me.
Heather Waters
6. hnwaters
@CharliMac -- Whoooooaaaa! Okay, yeah, that would totally catch me by surprise, but not in a good way. Gross indeed. Castle and Beckett will need to keep up the tension somehow over the course of the show to prevent a Moonlighting problem, but I don't think it's impossible if done right.

@bungluna -- The actors have such great chemistry that I can see still enjoying that despite the writers's missteps. (Unfortunately for me, I couldn't get over what the writers did, but I still have a soft spot for the characters.)
Pamela Webb-Elliott
7. Spaz
I looooved Victor & Sierra in Dollhouse (watched it for the same reason, and kept watching it for them too :P) and Mary & Marshall in In Plain Sight as well! Most recently, the relationship between Sgt Brady & Carrie in Homeland had me HOOKED.
8. Janga
I'm another Josh and Donna fan. In fact, a marathon viewing of The West Wing is one of my cures for romance fiction saturation. C. J. had some great romance moments too.
Anna Bowling
9. AnnaBowling
Barney/Robin on How I Met Your Mother snuck up on me and overcame me with their awesomeness, even though I throw the writers more than a few stinkeyes the last season or two.

Booth/Bones, well, 'nuff said there. The chemistry is strong enough to get around the stinkeyes I've been throwing the writers of that show, but come on, baby on the way. Shippers live for this sort of thing.

Very, very early in the game for Alcatraz, but I would be very very happy to see something develop between Doc Soto and Rebecca Madsen in between all the spooky goings on. Jorge Garcia could be a fantastic romantic lead, given the right partner.
Nikki H
10. taragel
@AnnaBowling Me too on Doc/Rebecca!! I'm sure the network won't go there unfortunately but I'd dig it!

My all-time unexpected romantic pairing is still Joey/Pacey of Dawson's Creek. I'm still surprised (and glad!) that the producers smelled the cappuccino and paired them off for an HEA!
Nikki H
11. Shell41224
I too loved pacey/ Joey pairing. Dawson's creek one of my all time favorite shows. Being a sci- fi geek counselor troi and worf were a great surprise couple on Star Trek the Next Generation
Nikki H
12. SleepyVamp
I was a big fan of TWW and Josh/Donna, but I have to admit that by season 7, it all felt very inevitable and expected.

For unexpected couples, loved 10th Doctor Who (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler - never thought that would work out what with her being trapped in an alternate dimension and all, but there you go. Second has got to be Torchwood's Capt. Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones, just for pure sex appeal.
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