No matter how many series have managed to get it right and stick the landing with their finales, there are so many TV shows that failed to live up to fans’ standards. That might come down to weird pacing, last minute twists, or bizarre, unresolved cliffhangers – or, the problems could have to do with the romantic pairings. Few series finale decisions are quite as frustrating for viewers as seeing TV characters who chose the wrong partner in the end.
Whether it be through behind-the-scenes complications or genuine narrative fumbling by the creative team, there are a number of reasons why there are so many TV characters who ended up with the wrong person. But no matter what the excuse is, the worst TV romances always feel particularly annoying, especially for anyone who spent years staying up to date on the show.
Now, it’s entirely possible this list could change in the coming years, if say, Meredith Grey does actually end up with someone other than the late, great Derek Shepherd. But for now, the absolute most disappointing TV couplings of all time consist of limp will-they-won’t-they matches and problematic partnerships that can’t live up to the standard set by the best couples on television.
Yes, That ’70s Show ends with Jackie (Mila Kunis) and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) together. Sure, Fez spends several seasons pining for her, but out of the many love interests Jackie has throughout the series, her relationship with Fez is the least exciting.
That’s especially true when comparing her scenes with Fez to her various romantic moments with Hyde (Danny Masterson) and Kelso (Ashton Kutcher). Both of those men have their fair share of flaws, of course, but their banter and romantic chemistry with Jackie is off the charts. Meanwhile, Jackie’s scenes with Fez in the final episodes not only feel awkward, but strangely forced.
In a perfect world, That ’70s Show would have Jackie and Hyde end up together, with Kelso being the best man at their wedding. But unfortunately, the series chooses to go a much less satisfying route.
Few shows betray viewers in their finales quite like How I Met Your Mother does. After spending nine seasons building up Ted Mosby’s (Josh Radnor) relationship with the titular Mother (Cristin Milioti), the series finale turns all of that inside out, in the span of about 10 minutes.
First, the show reveals that the Mother has actually been dead the whole time Ted is telling the story. Then, it becomes clear that the real reason he’s talking to his kids is so he can get their permission to date Robin (Cobie Smulders) again.
It’s a real slap in the face, especially after the HIMYM writers spend nine years establishing all the reasons that Ted and Robin can’t sustain a long-term relationship together. This is the endgame that nobody saw coming (or wanted).
The O.C. sets up its endgame couple from the pilot: Ryan (Ben McKenzie) is destined to be with Marissa (Mischa Barton). And despite a few hiccups, that’s exactly what happens.
Until, that is, Mischa Barton decides to leave the show. In response, The O.C. writers kill off Marissa in the show’s heartbreaking Season 3 finale. But, because Ryan can’t end the series alone and heartbroken, he couples up with Taylor (Autumn Reeser), a character who reads as little more than a mild annoyance. No matter how hard the show tries to make Ryan and Taylor’s relationship believable, it never manages to measure up to the bond between Ryan and Marissa.
Most Degrassi viewers are all but positive that Emma (Miriam McDonald) is going to end up with Sean (Daniel Clark), once and for all. But this is Degrassi, after all, a show prone to making left-turn decisions that made absolutely no sense.
In Degrassi Takes Manhattan, Emma and Spinner (Shane Kippel) get drunk at Niagara Falls one night and decide to get married – despite being the only two characters in the entire show to have never had a romantic fling prior. They consider getting their marriage annulled – but then decide that maybe they’re meant to be married after all. Because nothing is more satisfying for Emma’s character arc than throwing out years’ worth of emotional setup with Sean for a one-night fling with Spinner.
Gilmore Girls fans are understandably upset with how Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) is handled throughout the show’s 2016 Netflix revival. But nothing is quite as frustrating as learning that Rory is still involved with Logan (Matt Czurchy), an entitled manchild who spends almost his entire relationship with Rory in the original series manipulating and taking advantage of her. That pattern continues in the revival as well. Logan tries to keep Rory on the back burner, ready for him whenever he has the time to give her attention.
This is very different from how Rory’s other main love interest, Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), acts around her. He’s constantly respectful and caring. Most viewers think Jess and Rory will eventually end up together, given the open-ended nature of Rory’s pregnancy at the end of the revival. But until new episodes come out, you’ll have to stomach the idea of Logan truly being Rory’s final onscreen love interest.
It’s hard to truly hate on this particular TV endgame, but it’s still disappointing. Creator Ryan Murphyhad intended for Glee to end with Rachel (Lea Michele) reuniting with Finn (Cory Monteith). But Monteith tragically died before the series finished its run, making that particular coupling impossible.
Instead, Murphy and co. have Rachel end up with her ex-boyfriend, Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff). It’s not the worst ending, but it’s sad nonetheless.
Few shows are as emotional or richly layered as Parenthood. But it’s not perfect – just consider the romantic fate of Amber (Mae Whitman). The series finale reveals she marries Peter (Scott Porter).
Even in the finale, Parenthood goes out of its way to illustrate the long-lasting and strong bond Amber shares with Ryan (Matt Lauria). But somehow these two never reunite romantically. Amber doesn’t exactly end up with a bad partner, but it’s hard to forget about all the potential she shared with Ryan.
From a storytelling standpoint, it makes sense for Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) to end up together in Friends. However, that does not take away from the fact that the two characters make a horrible couple.
Most of that comes from Ross, who constantly proves himself to be a whiny and manipulative romantic partner, and who almost always casts the blame for his mistakes on someone else. Plus, his consideration for Rachel’s feelings and personal ambitions is basically nonexistent. To say that he doesn’t really deserve to be with Rachel would be an understatement.
Parks and Recreation is considered one of the best TV comedies of the 21st century. But it’s fair to say that when it came to Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), the series stumbles. Her character never really gels beyond “Leslie’s friend.” So, she has on-again, off-again relationships with both Chris Traegar (Rob Lowe) and Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), two characters she never seems to connect to.
It seems beyond random when Ann decides to have a baby and leave town with Chris in the show’s final seasons. It feels more like a way to write off the departing Jones than a true ending for the character. Maybe Ann should have remained single and content.
When The Vampire Diaries starts, it seems clear that Elena (Nina Dobrev) is supposed to end up with Stefan (Paul Wesley). But then Stefan’s brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) emerges as a competitor, and it becomes increasingly apparent that the writers are throwing them together.
While Somerhalder and Dobrev have undeniable chemistry, Damon is hardly a great choice for a boyfriend. Prone to violent fits of rage and emotional abuse, Damon is the definition of a toxic romantic partner for almost his entire time on the series. Stefan, on the other hand, more or less remains the same good-natured and “nice guy” to Elena that he was when they first met.
The central tension of Dawson’s Creek centers on whether Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey (Katie Holmes) will ever get together for good. Their relationship is built up for years, so by the time the finale rolls around, it’s fair for fans to assume Dawson and Joey will finally make things official.
Instead of Joey ending up with Dawson, though, she ends the series romantically linked to Pacey, Dawson’s best friend and her sometimes love interest. The couple definitely has its supporters, but after all that will-they-won’t-they, it’s beyond annoying to have Dawson left in the dust.
Fans will probably debate who the titular sleuth of Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) should end up with for years. You’re either Team Logan (Jason Dohring) or Team Piz (Chris Lowell). Logan is presented as the more passionate, but dangerous choice, while Piz is the sweeter, nerdier alternative. The series ends with Veronica dating Piz – but in the follow-up movie, she ditches him for Logan after all.
But Piz is constantly presented as a caring and understanding romantic partner. He trusts Veronica entirely, and remains respectful even while ending their relationship. Yes, Piz is the safer choice for danger-seeking Veronica, but he’s also arguably the better one.