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TV’s Best Slow-Burn Romances: 30 Long-Awaited, Highly Satisfying Love Stories From All American to Xena

TV’s Best Slow-Burn Romances: 30 Long-Awaited, Highly Satisfying Love Stories From All American to Xena
TV’s Best Slow-Burn Romances: 30 Long-Awaited, Highly Satisfying Love Stories From All American to Xena

Good things take time. Swoon-worthy things take much longer.

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Along those lines: In celebration of one of TV’s most tantalizing tropes — the slow-burn romance — we’ve gathered together a selection of the small screen’s best speed-challenged love stories.

The fictional couples below sure took their sweet time getting together (though viewers usually clocked their attraction from the start). We’re talking about Jim and Pam’s air high-five on The Office, Dwayne and Whitley’s backseat smooch on A Different World, Luke and Lorelai’s diner banter on Gilmore Girls, Harvey and Donna’s can-opener ritual on Suits — you get the idea.

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A quick note: Many of these shows wrapped their runs years ago, but some are still airing. So consider this your potential Spoiler Alert! for series like All American, The Chi and The Rookie. Cool? Cool.

Scroll through the list below to see if your favorite turtle-paced love affairs made the cut. And if they didn’t, make sure to shout them out in the comments!

SPENCER AND OLIVIA, ALL AMERICAN

SPENCER AND OLIVIA, ALL AMERICAN
SPENCER AND OLIVIA, ALL AMERICAN

Two-and-a-half seasons passed before Spencer confessed his love for Olivia… then we waited longer for them to become a proper couple… only for the teenagers to self-sabotage their relationship, break up and spend most of Season 5 pining for each other from afar. We suppose, then, that this particular slow burn is still smoldering, but the best appears yet to come now that Spencer and Olivia have rekindled their romance ahead of Season 6. — Rebecca Iannucci

BOOTH AND BRENNAN, BONES

BOOTH AND BRENNAN, BONES 
BOOTH AND BRENNAN, BONES

The Fox drama threw ‘shippers a bone (no pun intended!) when the flashback 100th episode revealed that Brennan and Booth shared a kiss way back when. But it took six seasons (and a tragic death) for the partners to do the deed and officially become a couple, with an unexpected baby on the way! — Vlada Gelman

RICK AND KATE, CASTLE

RICK AND KATE, CASTLE
RICK AND KATE, CASTLE

From go, you hade to sense that mystery novelist Rick was smitten with his NYPD muse. Beckett, though, would be unmoved by his rakish ways… until that one rainy night, when she couldn’t deny their connection any further. — Matt Webb Mitovich

EMMETT AND KIESHA, THE CHI

EMMETT AND KIESHA, THE CHI
EMMETT AND KIESHA, THE CHI

This one’s complicated, given that these two were sleeping together in the Showtime drama’s first episode. But that physical connection had nothing on the deepening friendship and attraction they developed as the series continued, building to a steamy kiss in Season 5. “I want you to be the last ex I get back with,” he told her afterward which, for Emmett, was basically a love sonnet. — Kimberly Roots

CHUCK AND SARAH, CHUCK

CHUCK AND SARAH, CHUCK
CHUCK AND SARAH, CHUCK

After several obstacles — including the resurrection of Bryce Larkin, the introduction of an upgraded Intersect (“I know kung fu”) and the emergence of good guy-turned-Ring operative Daniel Shaw — Chuck and Sarah finally got together in Paris midway through Season 3. And they’d live happily ever after (assuming that kiss brought Sarah’s memories back in the 2012 series finale). — Ryan Schwartz

DWAYNE AND WHITLEY, A DIFFERENT WORLD

DWAYNE AND WHITLEY, A DIFFERENT WORLD
DWAYNE AND WHITLEY, A DIFFERENT WORLD

The attraction between the southern primadonna and the math whiz? Undeniable from the start. The kisses? Hot — and kinda frequent! — over the course of a couple seasons. Yet she wasn’t ready for a relationship… then he wasn’t… and it took the two Hillman students until Season 4 to finally get it together (and get together). — K.R.

NILES AND DAPHNE, FRASIER

NILES AND DAPHNE, FRASIER
NILES AND DAPHNE, FRASIER

He fell for her the first moment he saw her. She was none the wiser for several years. The longer Niles pined, the less likely it seemed that Martin’s live-in physical therapist would ever realize how the younger Crane brother felt about her… until he confessed all the night before her Season 7 wedding to another man. But the next day, the “working class Venus” ditched her groom, and the rest is heart-shaped history. — K.R.

JAIME AND BRIENNE, GAME OF THRONES

JAIME AND BRIENNE, GAME OF THRONES
JAIME AND BRIENNE, GAME OF THRONES

These two started out as the bitterest of enemies, but after he inadvertently sacrificed a hand for her, they started working toward mutual respect. Fast-forward a few seasons and they were fighting off an army of the dead back-to-back, then falling into bed and acting on their long-simmering attraction (before Jaime’s dumb loyalty to his toxic twin sister had to go and ruin everything). — K.R.

LUKE AND LORELAI, GILMORE GIRLS

LUKE AND LORELAI, GILMORE GIRLS
LUKE AND LORELAI, GILMORE GIRLS

The eventual love affair between Stars Hollow’s diner owner and inn manager was obvious from go, but viewers endured four seasons of bad timing, repressed feelings and throwaway love interests before Luke and Lorelai kissed during the Dragonfly Inn’s trial opening. Throw in a meddlesome Emily Gilmore, exceedingly nosy neighbors and April Nardini’s ill-timed arrival, and we’re still not sure Luke and Lorelai got the blissful romance they’d earned — but it was a romance, at long last. — R.I.

LINK AND JO, GREY’S ANATOMY

LINK AND JO, GREY’S ANATOMY 
LINK AND JO, GREY’S ANATOMY

He’d had a crush on her since their salad says. She developed one on him and kept it under her surgical cap. So it took them four long seasons — and breakups with Amelia and Alex, respectively — to confess that their feelings were reciprocated and start playing doctor like they meant it. — Charlie Mason

CARISI AND ROLLINS, LAW & ORDER: SVU

CARISI AND ROLLINS, LAW & ORDER: SVU
CARISI AND ROLLINS, LAW & ORDER: SVU

Who could’ve known, when Det. Dominick “Sonny” Carisi Jr. first rolled into the squad room with his mustache and zeppole in Season 16, that he and his sometime partner Amanda Rollins would eventually act on their feelings for each other six seasons later (and marry two seasons after that)? — K.R.

LUCIFER AND CHLOE, LUCIFER

LUCIFER AND CHLOE, LUCIFER 
LUCIFER AND CHLOE, LUCIFER

In addition to being the real Devil, Lucifer was a real devil. And by-the-book Chloe at first didn’t know what to make of his misbehaving (and oddly persuasive) ways. But over time, the detective came to recognize the sincerity of his feelings for her — and she allowed herself to see him as one heavenly partner. — M.W.M.

THOMAS AND JULIET, MAGNUM P.I.

THOMAS AND JULIET, MAGNUM P.I.
THOMAS AND JULIET, MAGNUM P.I.

Was it hot in here from Day 1, or was that just the Hawai’ian temps? Magnum and “Higgy” simmered plenty to start, when she was merely his landlord of sorts. But once she agreed to be his partner in private investigating, the heat between them rolled to a full, seasons-long boil. — M.W.M.

JANE AND LISBON, THE MENTALIST

JANE AND LISBON, THE MENTALIST
JANE AND LISBON, THE MENTALIST

It took six seasons for eccentric genius Patrick Jane and get-it-done CBI-turned-FBI agent Teresa Lisbon to act on their increasingly apparent feelings for each other. And they went big, packing admissions of love and an electric first kiss into the Season 6 finale. — K.R.

DAVID AND MADDIE, MOONLIGHTING

DAVID AND MADDIE, MOONLIGHTING
DAVID AND MADDIE, MOONLIGHTING

This pair of private eyes’ famously volatile love/hate relationship, filled with feisty back-and-forth banter, finally tipped over to the love side late in Season 3 when Maddie rejected a proposal from her boyfriend Sam — and hopped into bed with David. Their romance fizzled out soon after, though, proving that some slow burns are actually better before they catch fire. — Dave Nemetz

MAXWELL AND FRAN, THE NANNY

MAXWELL AND FRAN, THE NANNY
MAXWELL AND FRAN, THE NANNY

It’s a good thing the Sheffield residence didn’t have an HR department, because the chemistry between this flashy girl from Flushing and her Broadway-producer boss was red hot from the jump. So why did it take the guy four seasons to finally declare his love for her, only to take it back, then say it again (for real!) nearly a full year later? By the time Fran and Maxwell’s wedding finally arrived at the end of Season 5, we’re not sure who had grown more impatient — the audience, or Fran’s mother. — Andy Swift

TONY AND ZIVA, NCIS

TONY AND ZIVA, NCIS
TONY AND ZIVA, NCIS

Listen, if it takes you 190 episodes (!) to share your first on-screen, non-undercover kiss… well, burns don’t get slower than that. A bit maddeningly, viewers have yet to truly see “Tiva” as a couple/parents, given Cote de Pablo and Michael Weatherly’s respective exits/non-overlapping encores. But a newly announced Paramount+ spinoff promises to remedy that, and how!— M.W.M.

BEN AND DAVI, NEVER HAVE I EVER

BEN AND DAVI, NEVER HAVE I EVER
BEN AND DAVI, NEVER HAVE I EVER

Yes, yes, Paxton experienced incredible growth over the course of the Netflix dramedy’s four seasons. But from the moment that high-school rivals Devi and Ben hurled their first barb at each other, it was as obvious as their enviable GPAs that they were endgame. — C.M.

MAX AND HELEN, NEW AMSTERDAM

MAX AND HELEN, NEW AMSTERDAM 
MAX AND HELEN, NEW AMSTERDAM

Yes, the couple eventually split up after dating and getting engaged. But before that, viewers were left to wonder for three seasons if there was something more than just friendship between the husband-turned-widower and his oncologist. — V.G.

NICK AND JESS, NEW GIRL

NICK AND JESS, NEW GIRL
NICK AND JESS, NEW GIRL

Fact 1: The course of roomie — er, true — love never did run smooth. Fact 2: Jess Day and Nick Miller were stone-cold weirdos. So it shouldn’t surprise us that, despite one of the hottest first kisses in TV history, it took a while for the two pals to figure out that they were each other’s happily ever after. But you know what they say: That which Taylor Swift and Prince hath joined together, let no man tear asunder. — K.R.

JIM AND PAM, THE OFFICE

JIM AND PAM, THE OFFICE 
JIM AND PAM, THE OFFICE

Though these Dunder Mifflin co-workers were as made for one another as paper and ink, it took them three whole seasons to admit that they were, ahem, on the same page. — C.M.

HOOK AND EMMA, ONCE UPON A TIME

HOOK AND EMMA, ONCE UPON A TIME
HOOK AND EMMA, ONCE UPON A TIME

A princess and… a pirate? A Savior and… a swashbuckler? No matter how you put it, Snow White’s daughter was an unexpected match for the leather-loving, guyliner-wearing Captain Hook. And while it took two full seasons (43 episodes!) for the duo to embark on their first official date, fans now know that “A Happy Beginning” would be the duo’s destiny.  — M.W.M.

TIM AND LUCY, THE ROOKIE

TIM AND LUCY, THE ROOKIE
TIM AND LUCY, THE ROOKIE

In the beginning, he was an officious T.O., she his ambitious “boot.” But over numerous patrols, Tim’s walls started to lower, and they both began to see each other as people. And then “Dim” and “Juicy” opened their eyes to be so much more. — M.W.M.

CHRIS AND RITA, SILK STALKINGS

CHRIS AND RITA, SILK STALKINGS
CHRIS AND RITA, SILK STALKINGS

The Palm Beach police partners were besties from the jump, but c’mon: Two attractive, unattached people spending all that time together amid all that neon and spandex? By Season 5, Rob Estes’ and Mitzi Kapture’s characters couldn’t fight their attraction any longer. — K.R.

RIKER AND TROI, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION AND STAR TREK: PICARD

RIKER AND TROI, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION AND STAR TREK: PICARD
RIKER AND TROI, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION AND STAR TREK: PICARD

Thank goodness for revival movies and spinoffs: If they didn’t exist, TNG shippers never would have witnessed the culmination of William T. Riker and Deanna Troi’s seven-season-plus journey back to each other after a pre-series relationship gone wrong. The brash human and the empathic Betazoid got together in the film Star Trek: Insurrection and wed in Star Trek: Nemesis, but the imzadi relationship fully bloomed in Paramount+’s Star Trek: Picard. — K.R.

HARVEY AND DONNA, SUITS

HARVEY AND DONNA, SUITS 
HARVEY AND DONNA, SUITS

When it came to matters of the heart, Harvey wasn’t quite as quick as he was in the courtroom. Thankfully, after 124 episodes of torturous will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension and a lot of almost-starts, the lawyer finally woke up and realized he was in love with Donna, culminating in a heated night of passion. — V.G.

JONAH AND AMY, SUPERSTORE

JONAH AND AMY, SUPERSTORE
JONAH AND AMY, SUPERSTORE

Though they shared their first kiss amid a natural disaster in the Season 2 finale, it wasn’t until the start of Season 4 — after they’d been suspended for hooking up in the photo lab — that the Cloud 9 lovebirds made things official. — R.S.

DAMON AND ELENA, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

DAMON AND ELENA, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES
DAMON AND ELENA, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

It’s a tale as old as time — girl falls for boy, girl meets boy’s brooding brother, girl spends three seasons pining for said brother before eventually succumbing to her forbidden desire. Wait, did we forget to mention that the boys are both vampires? And that she also temporarily becomes a vampire herself? Oh, high school. — A.S.

XENA AND GABRIELLE, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS

XENA AND GABRIELLE, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
XENA AND GABRIELLE, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS

Xena and Gabrielle were never “officially” more than friends (whatever that means!), but there’s a reason they will forever be regarded as two of TV’s most iconic queer characters. If you didn’t watch every single episode wondering when they were finally going to get together, what show were you even watching? The power, the passion, the danger — their courage would change the world. — A.S.

MULDER AND SCULLY, THE X-FILES

MULDER AND SCULLY, THE X-FILES
MULDER AND SCULLY, THE X-FILES

It took seven seasons for the outcast FBI agents to act on their feelings for each other (depending on whom you ask), but they sealed the deal in a big way: with Mulder kissing Scully as he confirmed that he was, indeed, the father of her infant son — we don’t care what Cigarette Smoking Man later said. — K.R.

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