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Michael Vartan and Jennifer Garner of <i>Alias</i>
© ABC / Norman Jean Roy
Best Kisses, Worst Couples
TV liplocks that sizzled
and pairings that fizzled

by Amy Amatangelo

Pucker up. Because their kiss, their kiss is on my list.

Deep down, we know that a television couple is entirely fictional (really, we do). They're two actors paid to read their lines and emote (I'm serious, we know that). But sometimes we forget. Sometimes a television kiss is the butterflies-in-your-stomach, toes-curled, heart-go-pitter-patter kind of lip lock that we actually stand up and cheer.

(Of course, there are other on-screen couples that we never believe in, no matter how many kisses we see -- more on that later.) 

Here are my 10 favorite television kisses of all time (I instituted a "one kiss per show" rule):

1. Sydney and Vaughn on Alias in "Phase One": The kiss that inspired this particular column. After SD-6 had been destroyed and their reason for remaining apart obliterated, Sydney and Vaughn, in full S.W.A.T. team regalia, rushed toward each other, kissed, and the world around them disappeared. Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan share a rare and palpable on-screen chemistry. They just look at each other and generate heat. So, when their lips finally met, it was the payoff fans have been patiently waiting for. Their little seduction in Sydney's kitchen in "Double Agent," was also fantastic, but there's nothing like the first kiss.

2. Buffy and Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in "Tabula Rasa": As the camera panned away from Michelle Branch singing the apropos "Goodbye to You," and snuck around the corner, viewers saw Spike and Buffy hungrily making out. The lustful duo have had their share of fiery moments (and sweet ones like in "Once More With Feeling" ), but this kiss demonstrated their mutual attraction at its most base level.

3. Mulder and Scully on The X-Files in "Existence" : We knew they had to be in love. We just knew it. This was the proof we had all been waiting for. Scully gives birth to her son, William. "From the moment I became pregnant, I feared the truth about how and why. And I know that you feared it, too," Scully told Mulder. He replied, "I think what we feared were the possibilities. The truth we both know." "Which is what?" Scully asked. To answer her question, Mulder leaned down and kissed her over their love child.

4. Pacey and Joey on Dawson's Creek in "Stolen Kisses": In the best story line to ever come out of "The Creek," Pacey falls for his best friend's girl. While visiting Dawson's Aunt Gwen, Joey realizes that she loves Pacey too. After telling our Pacey that he makes her feel alive, he announces that he's going to start kissing her in 10 seconds and begins counting ... .

5. Ross and Rachel on Friends in "The One Where Ross Finds Out": Sure, they're a ruined couple now and Ross is a thrice-divorced loser. But on Nov. 9, 1995, Ross and Rachel were television's It Couple. After a drunken Rachel leaves a message on Ross's machine that she's over him, Ross utters the classic line "You're over me? When were you under me?" Then he goes to the Central Perk and looks longingly at her through the window, Rachel wrestles with the locks, before flinging open the doors. The two kiss in the pouring rain. Years later, that moment is still perfect.

6. Sam and Diane on Cheers in "Showdown, Part 2": Television's defining will-they-or-won't-they-couple. In the first season's finale, Diane slaps Sam, he slaps her back, this continues until he asks, "Are you as turned on as I am?" "More," she replies and they kiss.

7. Alex and Ellen on Family Ties in "The Real Thing, Part 2": We had seen Alex P. Keaton be a lot of things, but we had never seen him in love like this. He drove all night to prevent the woman he loved from marrying another man and kissed her to the tune of Billy Vera's "At This Moment." The fact that Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan became a real-life and lasting love story makes the scene that much sweeter.

8. Buffy and Angel on Angel in "I Will Always Remember You": Angel briefly experiences being human and he and the slayer he thought he could never be with again kiss in the sunlight. Later when he realizes he must revert to being a vampire with a soul and erase all memories of their day together, Buffy plaintively promises, "I will never forget ... I will never forget ... I will never forget." But, of course, she does. Heartbreaking and touching, viewers were reminded of why Buffy and Angel are television's best star-crossed duo.

9. Doug and Carol on ER in "Such Sweet Sorrow": As Don Henley's song "Taking You Home" played, Carol rushed to be with the man that she loved. Standing out on the dock, Doug kissed the woman he had redeemed himself for and asked the simple question, "Where are the girls?" George Clooney's surprise appearance remains one of television's best-kept secrets. It was such a great moment that I completely forgave Doug for never coming back for the birth of the twins.

10. David and Maddie on Moonlighting in "I am curious ... Maddie": In what's known as the "Big Bang" episode among fans, David and Maddie finally sleep together in a scene that literally takes down the house. The show went downhill after this, but we at least got to see the pair happy for a night.

Worst romantic pairings

And then there are the couples who flunked chemistry...

I was sitting there watching 7th Heaven, wondering when Simon's hair got so brown and debating who is the cuter London brother (it was close, but for the first time Jason took the lead for his, let's be honest, much better haircut. Jeremy's has almost reached mullet level).

Anyhow, it occurred to me, Kevin and Lucy are like the worst television couple ever. I have absolutely no idea why he loves her. She's shrill and annoying. Let's review Lucy's modus operandi this season. She's demanded a grandiose engagement, hated his partner at work because she's pretty and constantly stormed off in a huff. Plus, she wears way too much makeup. All they do is fight, and they have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. I don't know why Kevin hasn't run back to Rochester and never looked back. He needs to enter the Aaron Spelling Witness Protection Program.

Sometime television couples just don't work: Whether it's because of bad writing, worse acting, or two lovely people with zilch on-screen chemistry, they simply don't have what it takes. Here are some of the worst couples ever to grace your TV set: the couples who fizzled instead of sizzled.

1 . Mark and Elisabeth on ER: It does seem kind of cruel to pick on the dead, doesn't it? But I can't help myself. It was under their tutelage that ER became the place where romance went to die. Plus the whole thing turned Elisabeth into a cranky brat. Look at what they left in their wake: Carter and Susan, Carter and Abby (who had much more crackle when they weren't together) and Pratt and Debbie (okay, they aren't half bad together, but they represent the best the show has to offer).

2. Brandon and Tracy on Beverly Hills, 90210: Poor Tracy, do you think she ever knew that she only existed so Brandon could dump her and get back together with Kelly.

3. Richard and Caroline on Caroline in the City: If the show had come along a little later, they definitely would have gone in the Will & Grace direction. I kept waiting for Richard to come out of the closet. Jack McFarland is more straight than Richard.

Joey and Dawson4. Dawson and Joey on Dawson's Creek: Yes, I'm biased because I love Pacey and Joey together (it's so obvious that Dawson's Creek is practically bribing me to watch the show again), but Dawson and Joey are so dull together. Clearly, being with him is upsetting to her. She hasn't even been able to dye her hair all one color since they slept together. Actually, I don't think our pal Joey has had chemistry with anyone but Pacey. Could the "I love you" exchanges between her and Eddie have been any less convincing?

5. Josh and Amy on The West Wing: Mary-Louise Parker almost succeeded in ruining one of my all-time favorite television characters.

6. Bailey and Annie on Party of Five: This story was created the season after the phenomenon that was Jerry Maguire. The only problem was, despite Scott Wolf's resemblance to Tom Cruise, we didn't want to see Bailey with an older woman and a child.