TV's 10 Best Non-Romantic Duos of the 2010-11 Season


Just as we were giving up hope, after a few weeks of lackluster episodes, that The Killing would live up to our high expectations, it came back strong with one of the most powerful hours of TV we’ve seen this year. The series, which has been criticized for failing to adequately develop its central character, homicide detective Sarah Linden, put all of its subplots on hold and focused solely on Sarah and her successor, Stephen Holder, dealing with a shocking development in her personal life. The episode got us thinking about our favorite — non-romantic — duos of this past TV season. Your Flavorpill editors’ (spoiler-packed) top ten is after the jump.

Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder, The Killing

In the beginning, it looked like the Linden-Holder dynamic would be pretty simple: She’s the intelligent, competent detective who won’t leave her post until she finishes the job; he’s the twitchy former narc who comes on a bit strong in questioning persons of interest and looks like he may be nursing a meth habit. But in the past few weeks, they’ve been on much more equal footing. As she bungles her impending marriage, loses control of her son, and reveals that she grew up in the foster-care system, we learn that he’s in recovery, has a family of his own, and actually cares about the woman who doesn’t trust him to do her former job. Last night, we saw these troubled characters come together in a moment of crisis, and that made for The Killing‘s most compelling episode in weeks. — Judy Berman

Lily Aldrin and Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother

Despite the fact that she was indirectly responsible for Robin and Ted’s original breakup (a fact that Lily later revealed when she was caught sabotaging yet another one of Ted’s unsuspecting girlfriends who “failed the front-porch test”), Lily and Robin have always been good friends. In fact, when Lily first returned from San Francisco in the show’s second season after unceremoniously dumping Marshall and moving to San Francisco, Robin was basically the only one of the gang really talking to her. Robin spent the majority of the recent season in a post-breakup funk over Don, while Lily was totally focused on getting pregnant; and yet, in one of the more memorable episodes from season six, it’s their teamwork (and relentless cocktail making) that helps to smooth things over when Marshall and Barney face off in a vicious prank war inspired by GNB’s demolition of the Arcadian Hotel. — Caroline Stanley

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, Portlandia

A year ago, Carrie Brownstein was best known as the former guitarist for Sleater-Kinney, and Fred Armisen was that guy who was just “ethnic” enough to get stuck doing a mediocre Barack Obama impression on SNL. Now, they’re the duo behind Portlandia, the funniest new sketch show in recent memory. Brownstein and Armisen are at the center of every skit, playing everyone from hilariously unhelpful feminist bookstore employees to yuppies who won’t eat a chicken unless they can visit the farm where it was raised to versions of themselves. For those of us who live in Portland-esque places — Brooklyn, Austin, San Francisco — their critique of urban hipster life felt eerily accurate. — JB

Don Draper and Peggy Olson, Mad Men

Don Draper has bedded a lot of women in his tenure as an adman, but by far his most fascinating relationship is with the one secretary (well, besides poor Ida Blankenship) he never banged. Although it’s hard to see Don as a feminist, it’s clear he thinks Peggy is his most promising employee. From the moment when he appeared in the hospital after she unexpectedly gave birth, Don has been a sort of mentor to Peggy, entrusting her with his pearls of wisdom about letting go of the past to create the life you want. Last season, the student briefly became the teacher (or, at least, the nursemaid) in an intense episode that had Don ordering Peggy to stay at work all night on her birthday and then falling apart amid his own alcoholic misery. — JB

Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

Insecure comedy writer Liz Lemon and polished, overconfident corporate exec Jack Donaghy have always made excellent foils. And while, unlike many fans, we aren’t itching to see them get together romantically, we do love that their relationship grows more complicated and co-dependent with each passing season. It says something about Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin’s capacity to carry the entire show that, when the wonderful Tracy Morgan was out for several episodes this year, we barely missed him. — JB

Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation

Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are another unlikely duo: She’s a hyper-efficient, touchingly dedicated public servant who believes in nothing more than the power of good government, and her boss is a meat-munching libertarian whose goal is to do as little work as possible (and thereby prove the pointlessness of bureaucracy). Despite their conflicting values, what brings them together is their respect for each other. Ron never misses an opportunity to point out Leslie’s competence, while she recently showed her appreciation for Ron by throwing him his ideal birthday party — a steak dinner, a bottle of scotch, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and a whole lot of privacy. — JB

Tara Gregson and Dr. Jack Hattarras, The United States of Tara

There are a lot of great, complicated relationships on Diablo Cody’s brilliant-but-canceled dissociative identity dramedy: Tara and her husband, Max; Tara and her sister, Charmaine; siblings Kate and Marshall; Charmaine and her baby-daddy, Neil; and, of course, Tara and her many alters. But this season introduced a fascinating new character, egotistical and curmudgeonly psychology professor Jack Hattaras (played by England’s national treasure, Eddie Izzard), who doesn’t believe in Tara’s affliction. After several false starts and blow-ups, Tara finally gained an intelligent and helpful ally in Hattaras — that is, until a new alter comes to town. With a few more episodes to go before the series prematurely ends, we’re not sure how their relationship will resolve itself. We have faith, though, that Cody, Izzard, and Toni Collette, will make it worth our while. — JB

Coach Beiste and Will Schuester, Glee

When Coach Beiste arrives as the new football coach at McKinley High, Will and Sue, angry that she convinced Principal Figgins to cut their respective budgets, join forces in “Operation: Mean Girls,” an effort to destroy her. Will eventually realizes that he’s being a bully — which, given the fact that his glee kids are often harassed in the same manner, is a big deal — and apologizes. Over the course of the season, they became an entertaining odd couple to watch interact on screen, and an unlikely support system for one another. When Beiste reveals to Will that she’s never been kissed, he remedies the situation (albeit, in the most platonic way possible); when he needs to de-stress over a situation at school, she takes him out to Rosalita’s Road House Bar to unwind. While there, he convinces her to do a duet with him to “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” — and it turns out that her singing voice isn’t half bad! — CS

Jonathan Ames and George Christopher, Bored to Death

If we weren’t limiting ourselves to duos, we would have included Jonathan, George, and Ray. Forced to pick one of Jonathan’s pals, though, we went with George — a vain, old-media silver fox who’s struggling to come to terms with both his own mortality and the death of print. The dynamic between George, the brash alpha male, and Jonathan, the literary nebbish, is comedy gold. The antics they gleefully drag each other into are pure, ridiculous fun. We’ve said it before, and we’ll likely say it again: This is the role of Ted Danson’s lifetime. — JB

Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke, White Collar

The relationship at the heart of this series — ie., the unconventional partnership between a former con artist and the FBI agent who spent years hunting him down — took a more intense turn in the second season. It became obvious that Neal Caffrey viewed Peter Burke as more than just a tool for solving the mystery behind the music box or his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance (and eventual death). There also seems to be a father/son thing happening here too, as Peter tries to convince Neal that can either be a con or a man, but you can’t be both. — CS