By EW Staff
April 09, 2013 at 06:07 PM EDT
(CW) Ray Mickshaw/CBS: Adam Rose/Fox; CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images; BBC

It was a stunner: Even President Obama likely had Ross and Rachel advancing to the Final Four in his Greatest TV Couple of All Time bracket. But that’s why they play the games… and the popularity contests that skew towards current favorites. Like Marshall and Lily of How I Met Your Mother, deserved darlings who upset the presumed No. 1 seed with a little help from their friends. The couple joins Kurt and Blaine from Glee, The Doctor and Rose from Doctor Who, and sentimental favorite Lucy and Ricky from I Love Lucy (who’ve made it this far without a grassroots social-media presence).

Check out our full bracket here and vote in the polls below to determine who will move on to the championship round. Now, the Final Four remaining couples battle it out below!

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Marshall and Lily, How I Met Your Mother vs. Kurt and Blaine, Glee

We’ve watched Ted tell the story of his search for the would-be mother of his children for nearly eight seasons, but How I Met Your Mother‘s greatest couple actually didn’t have to search very hard for one another at all. Marshall and Lily’s tale began in college — she was an art freak and he loved, um, sandwiches. For both Ted and the audience, the couple quickly became the ideal for that right-in-front-of-your-face/call-just-to-say-I-love-you romance — the kind of love where you know the search is over.

The ease at which they came together didn’t make them any less appreciative of what they have, though. It could be argued, actually, that in addition to being one of TV’s greatest couples, they’re undoubtedly the steamiest. We’re talking kitchen-floor romps and kinky-bedroom happenings, people.

Love is more than just sex, though. It’s the tough stuff that separates the good couples from the all-time-great ones. And in the last few seasons of the show, Marshall and Lily have had to deal with the death of Marshall’s father, Lily’s problems with fertility, and the struggles of parenting their son, Marvin. Through it all, they stood by each other, were each other’s shoulder to cry on, and somehow, managed to make us laugh, too.

That’s love, bitch. — Sandra Gonzalez

Glee has been credited with creating groundbreaking television, and that’s largely thanks to Kurt and Blaine’s relationship. The Fox show didn’t make its teenage gay characters marginalized outcasts or peripheral best friends; Kurt and Blaine are front and center with their own romantic storyline, one with all the on-and-off-again, all the ups and downs, and all the drama and sweetness expected of any TV couple.

Initially, Kurt Hummel worried that he’d never find love or anything close to it as long as he was in Lima, Ohio. As far as he knew, there wasn’t another openly gay person his age in his entire town. But one town away was Blaine Anderson, whom Kurt met when he was sent to spy on Blaine’s a cappella group, the Warblers, and who eventually called Kurt “the love of my life” after he transfered to Dalton Academy to get away from the bullies of McKinley High and became a Warbler himself.

Their love story can largely be traced through songs, from “When I Get You Alone” to “Blackbird,” where Blaine — who had earlier told Kurt he wanted to be just friends — realized he’d fallen for his fellow Warbler. As Kurt crooned, “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise,” plenty of fans echoed the sentiment. There was the first kiss, the first “I love you,” and even the first time.

But then came the first break-up. They had tried the long-distance thing, but when Blaine visited Kurt in the Big Apple, he confessed he hooked up with someone else in Lima. But Glee has made it clear that these two haven’t been able to move on yet, perhaps most touchingly in the recent episode “Girls (and Boys) on Film,” when a movie night at Rachel and Kurt’s New York loft yielded the choice of Moulin Rouge!, which got Kurt daydreaming about singing “Come What May” — the film’s soaring love theme that Blaine and Kurt once said they’d like to sing to each other at their wedding.

Darren Criss, who plays Blaine, has said that Klaine are Glee’s Ross and Rachel. They complement one another perfectly, and it’s not just because Blaine’s tenor and Kurt’s countertenor make for some music magic. They both come off confident, but they both have their moments of doubt and fear. In those moments, they always know how to hold each other up. So the seasons are still changing for this sweet but strong pair, but we’re confident they’ll be able to work things out, come what may. — Emily Rome

NEXT: Lucy versus Who

The Doctor and Rose, Doctor Who vs. Lucy and Ricky, I Love Lucy

Doctor Who runs on miracles. It’s a miracle that the British TV series is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It’s a miracle that the show came back in 2005 after over a decade in the wilderness, and it’s a miracle that every week the show freely resets itself — new time, new place, new supporting cast, new genre — without ever losing its essential compass. It’s a miracle that the show mixes together deep-think sci-fi with silly fantasy and light comedy, and it’s a miracle that, sometimes, it can break your heart. But no miracle was ever more miraculous than Rose Tyler, the working-class shop assistant who was simultaneously a plucky everygal and the most important woman in the universe.

The Doctor has had many companions over the years. But Rose was always unique. She was the lead protagonist when Doctor Who premiered in 2005 (with an episode titled “Rose.”) She played the role of audience surrogate, slowly learning more about the mysterious man with the time-traveling blue box. In the process, she learned that the Doctor’s chipper exterior hid untold layers of courage, sadness… and anger. The last survivor of his kind, the Doctor she met was a lonely god who stayed on the move because he was scared what would happen if he ever stopped.

In a weird way, though, traveling with Rose grounded the Doctor. As played by Billie Piper, Rose was a helplessly average person who turned out to be extraordinary — a local girl at home in the furthest reaches of time and space, capable of hobnobbing with royalty, someone generously trying to understand even the most terrifying alien monsters. Rose saved the Doctor’s life, and the Doctor saved hers. Rose only traveled with the Doctor for 26 episodes plus one Christmas special — one of the shortest TV romances in this bracket, particularly considering how little actual explicit “romance” there was. But their relationship had layers. It was all a great game between them — until sometimes it wasn’t, and they had to tear apart space and time to save each other. They were lovers on the run who wouldn’t even acknowledge they were lovers until it was too late.

When we talk about the Doctor and Rose, we’re really talking about three people. In Rose’s first season, she traveled with the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston with a memorable mix of brooding PTSD and goofball charm. In her second season, the Doctor was incarnated by David Tennant, who was cerebral, zany, and genuinely dashing. You could argue that this is unfair; to me, this just speaks to what a wonderful connection the two characters had, that it managed to survive and deepen with a recasting. (It does mean that this single relationship had two separate tearful goodbyes. Actually, maybe that’s three. More on that later.)

It might be surprising to see how far The Doctor and Rose have come in this bracket. But it makes sense — their relationship feels a little bit like a patchwork combination of every TV couple. In some ways, they’re like two cops in a long-running procedural, Mulder and Scully, Castle and Beckett, Booth and Bones — slowly moving together as they explore different cases. In other ways, they’re like two coworkers who only gradually realize they’re meant to be together: Jim and Pam, Josh and Donna, Andy and April. There are elements of fantasy that make their connection feel epic — like Buffy and Angel, or Desmond and Penny from Lost, one of many high-powered couples that they upset on the way to their Final Four perch. They even feel a little bit like Lucy and Ricky — although they switched off who was who. And there’s a slight unmistakable quality of a fairy tale to their whole interaction: The Girl Next Door and the Lonely God, who saved each other and could never be together.

Because, in the end, they couldn’t — add “unrequited love” to the pile of phrases we can use to describe this indescribable couple. The Doctor must always stay on the move: He has to keep starring in Doctor Who. After her time with the Doctor, Rose got a happy ending — the family she had never had, a better job, a better world — but her time with the show ended with a goodbye on a distant shore, and with words left unspoken. Rose did return a long time later, reimagined as a full-on action heroine, and the show bent over backwards to grant her a happy ending with someone who was almost the Doctor. You can imagine that Rose lived a happy life forever-after with her almost-Doctor. But part of what made The Actual Doctor and Rose’s relationship on the TARDIS so special was that it could never last. It was an affair and a first love, and they were like an old married couple who kept on going on a different first date. — Darren Franich

After barely squeaking past The Addams Family‘s Gomez and Morticia in the Round of 16, Lucy and Ricky clobbered Bewitched‘s Samantha and Darrin in the Elite 8 by a 38-percent margin. They’re peaking at the right time! The housewife with showbiz dreams and her bandleader husband with the funny accent may be the oldest couple in the Final Four, but their staying power is legendary — 62 years after the show debuted on CBS and became the first sitcom filmed before a live audience, you can watch 10 episodes a day, Monday through Friday (six on Hallmark and four on TV Land). Why? They’re still funny. It’s as simple as that.

“[T]here was no feeling that the audience was watching her act,” wrote I Love Lucy producer-cowriter Jess Oppenheimer, in his memoir. “She simply was Lucy Ricardo. And if you looked carefully, you would marvel that every fiber in the woman’s body was contributing to the illusion. Did Ricky catch her in a lie? She wouldn’t be just a voice denying it. Her stance would be a liar’s stance…. There would be a telltale picking at a cuticle, or a finger brushed against her upper lip…. Her hands, her feet, her knees — every cell — would be doing the right thing.”

But there are reasons why the real-life couple endure beyond the timeless slapstick, which usually resulted in Lucy having some “‘splaining” to do, why this couple — a mixed marriage, in primetime, in the 1950s — is deserving of the crown. In 1999, when EW named the 100 Greatest Moments in Television, the birth of their son came in at No. 5. Times being what they were in 1952, Arnaz was actually worried that Ball’s pregnancy might offend viewers… since there was really only one way for a woman to get pregnant in those days, and those ways did not have a place on respectable network television (even in inference). Instead, viewers were enthralled with the “stunt” of a pregnant actress playing a pregnant woman on TV. Forty-four million viewers tuned in on Jan. 19, 1953, for “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” the same day Ball gave birth to her real son via Caesarean section.

As EW wrote in 1999, “Little Ricky’s birth was a groundbreaker, not only in paving the way for a legion of Very Special Episodes, but in allowing the first hint of sex to slip onto the air.” — Mandi Bierly

The Greatest TV Romance Tournament:

Round 1, part 1

Round 1, part 2

Round 1, part 3

Round 1, part 4

Round 2, part 1

Round 2, part 2

Round 2, part 3

Round 2, part 4

Sweet 16 round

Elite 8 round

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