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Dynamic Duos

Who's the best couple on TV? Undercover lovers Sydney and Vaughn kick butt over Clark Kent and Lana Lang, Joey and Pacey, Joey and Rachel, and all other small-screen pairs, says Ken Tucker

Alias, Michael Vartan, ... | SILVER FOX Syd and Vaughn make a sizzling pair -- on and off the job
Image credit: Alias: Mitchell Haaseth/ABC
SILVER FOX Syd and Vaughn make a sizzling pair -- on and off the job

Who's the best couple on TV?

When it comes to picking the best couple on TV, a few concrete qualities need to be considered -- along with the usual unquantifiable factors that make up the formula for romance.

At this stage of their game, for example, I'd say that ''Smallville'''s young Clark Kent and Lana Lang are too tentative, too wary of their feelings for each other, to have blossomed into a classic couple like, oh, say, ''Dawson's Creek'''s Joey and Pacey, who transformed an entire series' worth of tentativeness and wariness into the very essence of the relationship. Their getting together was so delayed, we were beginning to wonder if the show was going to end, the cameras put on trucks and headed out of North Carolina, and only then would they finally ''find'' each other.

By contrast, Jake and Dylan on ''Good Morning, Miami'' fit into the ''they're together?/they're not'' category, and frankly, it's difficult to see this couple (or this show) as sustaining much suspense about whether they (or it) has much of a future.

This is in stark contrast to Joey and Rachel on ''Friends.'' Over the years, we've slowly been made -- through the show's terrific writing and the actors' increasing sophistication -- to understand that, as dissimilar and, well, friendly as these two have been, this is a couple that could work. At least until the very end of the series, when Matt LeBlanc's Joey will have to disentangle himself from Jennifer Aniston's Rachel so as to be footloose and free to star in his already announced, ''I'm goin' to Hollywood'' spin-off.

So who's the most intriguing couple on current TV? My vote goes to Jennifer Garner's Sydney and Michael Vartan's Vaughn on ''Alias.'' They've spent just enough time together as business partners to know each other's moods, strengths, and weaknesses, and their slowly nurtured attraction has been pulled off without any annoying ''get on with it already'' teasing. No, the upcoming season of ''Alias,'' now that Sydney and Vaughn have coupled (and Sydney has been gone for two years and Vaughn has gone off and gotten married), should be the hottest, coolest romance on TV.

Originally posted Aug 13, 2003