TV shows that totally understand what love means

We turn to TV for many things. To unwind after a long day, to catch up on the latest hit so we don’t feel so left out when everyone is dishing on Broad City at work. To laugh, to cry, to catch up with our favorite characters and find one that we relate to who makes us feel a little more understood and a little less weird. Or, if you’re anything like me, you look to TV for advice on life, friendship, and the most elusive of all the TV feels: love.

TV can teach us a lot about love. How it looks, how it feels, how much it hurts when it goes away. Familial love, platonic love, unrequited and problematic love, and of course the truest of true love that makes us weep with longing and appreciation for the characters we see kissing and hugging on our laptop screens.

But some TV shows rise above the rest, making us feel things we didn’t know possible. Here are some that have serious staying power — grab some tissues and settle in for a binge.

The Office

Obviously The Office belongs at the top of the list, because Jim and Pam had the most heartfelt, most wonderful love. There is no love truer, no friendship cuter, no feelings deeper than when you watch them grow and love and get married and have adorable babies. And then you watch them hit rough patches, you watch them fight for their future and each other. You get to see what love looks like under pressure, under strain and obstacles. It’s heart wrenching and so, so important because love isn’t always rainbows and unicorns! It’s hard work and sacrifice and a million little things that add up to something special and beautiful and unique and perfect in its flaws.

The Mindy Project

Watching The Mindy Project is a life changing experience. It’s not TV romance in its traditional form. There isn’t one clear cut couple that you root for from the beginning. We see Mindy try and test a lot of different relationships before she finds her person. We get to see a strong, career driven, single lady throwing herself into love and hoping for the best. We see breakups and mistakes and lines being drawn. We see sacrifice and negotiation, Mindy moving to Haiti and supporting her boyfriend’s decision to become a profession DJ, Danny giving up the ghost of his ex-wife and starting to trust again. We see what love looks like when it doesn’t come easy. And we get a lot of laughs and romcom references which is just a delightful bonus.

Sex and the City

Okay, now before you get all “Mr. Big was the worst! Team Aiden!” in your hearts, let me get to the part where I tell you that I don’t value Sex and the City for its portrayal of romantic love. Mr. Big was the worst, I am so with you. Carrie should have picked Aidan. And watching the toxic relationships and ill-fated hookups of the four main fabulous ladies is enough to make you set fire to your dating profiles, throw your phone into the Hudson, and get thee to a nunnery.

But if you step back, and view Sex and the City for what it really was, a kickass show about four strong women who found freedom and comfort in a tight girl gang, then you can appreciate it and bask in the glory of female friendship. Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Sam were and are the epitome of #squadgoals. They loved each other unconditionally and without judgment, lifting each other up and helping to carry the heartache and the fear when the load got to heavy for one person to hold onto. They stood together through loss, marriage, pregnancy, infertility, and cancer —never once letting go of each other’s hands. It’s beautiful and it makes you appreciate your friends for all they’ve done and all they’ll do.

Parks and Recreation

Okay I’ll admit it, I cried like a teething baby when Leslie married Ben. I mean c’mon! The dress! The romance! The spontaneity! It was all too much for my poor little sentimental heart to handle. Leslie and Ben were made in TV heaven. It’s rare that you get to see a TV couple not only so in love and so happy, but also so supportive of one another’s aspirations and career goals. Usually there’s tension as one or the other tries to balance love and work, family and responsibility. But in Parks and Rec we get to see a fully functioning (although perhaps a little eccentric) couple that is blazing the political trail together, giving and taking and negotiating the line between ambition and affection with grace and humor.

New Girl

New Girl is special for a lot of reasons. The characters are relatable in their flaws and their struggles, the writing is tight and crisp and darn funny, and all of the love story lines are so heartbreakingly real and honest that you feel like the series is your diary in television form. New Girl doesn’t shy away from the awkward tension and fumbling passes that seem to plague most modern day singles. The characters try and fail to find love, they date duds and give their hearts away too soon — or too slowly. They feel lonely and scared and vocalize their fears to their friends like we all do, taking comfort in shared experiences and honest reflection. Basically it’s the perfect show for anyone who’s still looking for their lobster — you’re not alone in your mistakes and your awkwardorableness.

Gilmore Girls

When we watched Gilmore Girls, we got to see Lorelei trying to date as a boss queen and single mother while building her career and keeping up with her thousand and one friends in Stars Hollow. We get to see Rory growing and falling in love for the first time, testing the waters as a young adult who knows her self worth and values her education way more than any boys that come her way.  We get to see the love between a mother and daughter, unshakable and thorough. We get to see the love of longstanding friendship between Lorelei and Sookie and between Rory and Lane. And we get to see the sometimes strained love between Lorelei and her parents, and how forgiveness is possible when you have enough humility to admit your mistakes and accept the past for what it is. We see all the love, all the time and it is excellent.


Scrubs is the best example of bro love you will ever find. There are a lot of bros on TV, but none are as supportive and loving and unabashedly emotional as Turk and JD. They love each other so much, you guys. Like I know they both end up in happy romantic relationships, but everyone knows who the real power couple was. Scrubs does a really good job of showing how friendships evolve over time when you mix in age, work, spouses, babies, and the unpredictability of life. Friendship is hard, and Scrubs gets that.

How I Met your Mother

Lily and Marshall are everyone’s relationship goals. They are completely perfect for each other, united in humor and intelligence and mushy feelings. They get each other so deeply and completely it almost hurts sometimes. But Lily and Marshall offer hope for the future and show us what a healthy relationship looks like. They fight, they go through rough patches, they feel lost and confused, they struggle sometimes, and we see it all, which is important. When you meet perfect couples in real life you never get to see that stuff. Lily and Marshall are flawed just like the rest of us, thank goodness.

(Images courtesy of FOX, NBC, CBS, CW, HBO)

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