It's that time again, when Valentine's Day approaches and television turns its thoughts to romance. And, of course, sweeps.
Last year at this time, we took a look at TV's best and worst boyfriends, and now, it's only fair to turn the tables. Who does the sisterhood proud? Who makes us all want to say, "Uh, sorry"? Take a peek at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Best Semi-Religious Icon:
Joan Girardi, "Joan of Arcadia"
Had Us At: One of the times she screwed up, but really wanted to make it right.
Sure, Joan isn't your conventional romantic heroine, with her penchant for following instructions from various incarnations of God to join the swim team or try out for the zombie musical. And we worried a little when it looked like her head might be turned by an unctuous college student who wanted to help her discover great literature. But ultimately, Joan is hopelessly devoted to Adam, her smart, moody, talented boyfriend. A high-school girl who's smart enough to love the weird artist in the hoodie? Pretty impressive.
Kirsten Bennett, "Party of 5"
Had Us At: "I want to bury you."
Okay, Kirsten had a head cold when she asked to bury Charlie; she wanted to marry him, of course. And that was the first time she wanted to marry him, and it took a long time after that before she actually did. And admittedly, she married another guy in the middle there, and almost married another guy, too. But the point is that even though Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love Hewitt were more famous, this show was about Charlie, always, and Kirsten's ability to love him without overindulging his stupider behaviors was always one of the show's best qualities.
Best Non-Mild-Mannered Reporter:
Lois Lane, "Lois & Clark"
Had Us At: "I love him so much, and he is so dumb."
Sure, sure, "Smallville" is hipper and everything, but in the mid-1990s, Superman lore was all about Dean Cain and the pre-"Desperate Housewives" Teri Hatcher. They did the charged-banter routine surprisingly well for people whose previous credits included, respectively, playing football and appearing as a "Love Boat" dancer. While Lois was neurotic, difficult, and prone to being kidnapped and cloned, she also was awfully patient when her boyfriend had to stop an avalanche or prevent a world leader from being assassinated.
Worst Self-Righteous Hag:
Brenda Walsh, "Beverly Hills, 90210"
Lost Us At: Well, the part with everything she ever did, pretty much.
Oh, Brenda. You big jerk.
One summer, our Brenda Walsh went off to France and tried to romance a pre-Clark-Kent Dean Cain, calling him "Reeeeek" in an atrocious French accent, all while her boyfriend Dylan was supposedly at home waiting for her. Granted, Dylan was actually making hay while the sun shone on himself and Brenda's best friend Kelly, but it's always seemed like Brenda karmically deserved it, what with her smoking and her bad French and the way she didn't support Donna when Donna wanted to be exploited by a modeling agent. Brenda was rigid, judgmental, and mean, and she could even make us feel sorry for Luke Perry, which is saying a lot.
Rory, no matter how you spin adultery, it's never romantic.
RORY AND DEAN
1PfalsefalseWorst Childlike Home-Wrecker:
Rory Gilmore, "Gilmore Girls"
Lost Us At: The married guy.
We always sort of want to love Rory, because she's so plucky, and she's so smart, and she's the girl everyone always wished got more action in high school instead of spending so much time on volunteer work. But after Rory's romance with Dean went bust (a couple of times), she first entered into an ill-advised dalliance with Jess, best-known as the guy everyone always wished got a little less action in high school. And after that went up in smoke, Rory went back to Dean — even though he was married. Ew. Ugly scenes of eviction and heartbreak followed. No matter how you spin adultery, it's never going to be romantic, and we thought less of Rory for thinking so little of herself.
Worst Freaking Nutcase:
Ally McBeal, "Ally McBeal"
Lost Us At: One of those insufferable dream sequences.
Even putting aside her fixation on her old boyfriend who was now married (see: Gilmore, Rory), this woman has to have been one of the poorest excuses for a girlfriend in the history of television. Everything made her insecure. Everything made her nervous. Nothing could be straightforward. Nothing could be easy. Ally McBeal was an annoying girlfriend for the same reasons she was an annoying person: nothing she ever did, said, or thought made a lick of sense to anyone not taking direction from her own hallucinations. It's surprising she dated as much as she did, considering her fundamental inability to connect with reality for more than six minutes at a time.
Worst Spineless Jellyfish:
Joey Potter, "Dawson's Creek"
Lost Us At: One of the many junctures at which she stood motionless, paralyzed by indecision.
Yes, last year brought Dawson Leery onto the list of crummy boyfriends, and his erstwhile "soulmate" fares no better. Let's see. She pursued Dawson in her passive-aggressive way, even though he really didn't want her, and then when she got him, she didn't want him, so then she dated Jack, who was gay, and then she went back to Dawson, whom she dumped for interfering with her father's drug business. (Deep breath.)
And then she dated this rodent-like college guy, but she ultimately pushed him off on some blonde chick, and then she came home and kissed Pacey, whom she dated for about five minutes until Dawson got mad and flared his nostrils and that was the end of that. (Another deep breath.)
Then she went off sailing with Pacey, and she stayed with him for a while, but then they broke up at the prom and she went off to college . . . and she slept with Dawson somewhere along the line, which was very upsetting, and then there was this relationship with Goldie Hawn's son, and she sang Carpenters songs with a dying mugger, but ultimately, she wound up with Pacey and everything was okay. And not once, during that entire sequence, did she appear capable of making a decision for herself. And that is the ultimate Bad Girlfriend maneuver.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.