Maybe You Dream of Jeannie, But These Are My TV Girlfriends

TV Girlfriends: Who Is Your Favorite TV Girlfriend

Ah, to be smitten!

The real thing can’t be beat, but here, I’m talking about my new “TV girlfriend” crush. Who would that be, you may ask? It could be someone featured in a show I mentioned back when I polled the MovieFanFare readership for new series suggestions; it could be somebody else. I’m just not ready to tell; not because I have the desire to be overly coy about it, but you see, it’s early in the relationship. This particular show has been on for some time but I’ve just picked it up, so we’ve sort of just met—and I have a lot more to find out about this character before I decide to take that all-important step…of adding her to my distinguished roster of small-screen infatuations.

Plus, like many a relationship in the real world can be…it’s complicated.

In the meantime, I’m going to share this peculiar joy in the best way available to me at the moment, and that’s by fondly looking back at the many female television characters—and the actresses who have so well played them—that swept me off my feet. I think you will perceive certain patterns here, since this is not some sort of “Top 10 Greatest Leading Ladies of Television” (though they’d all qualify for that) and thus represents no attempt on my part to make a well-rounded (ahem) list with various “types.”

They are all my type, so to speak.

And what type is that? You know the drill: If I have to pick between Ginger and Mary Ann, it’s Mary Ann. I go for Janet rather than Chrissy; Bailey over Jennifer; Betty instead of Wilma.

Sometimes the line is blurred for me, I will admit also, between having a mad crush on the specific character and a more general fascination with the performer bringing the part to life. But let me get on with this brief valentine to the talented women (and unforgettable roles) that have kept me glued to the tube:

tv-girlfriends-morticia-addams-carolyn-jones

Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones

For me, it all begins and ends with Morticia. I wrote at greater length some time ago about my long obsession with The Addams Family and my particular attachment to the slinky, saucy head of the Addams household (Yes, it’s clear to me at least that she’s in charge, and Gomez rather likes it that way). Morticia’s lust for the moment, her unquenchable thirst for romance (as long as it’s the “right” time), and her unconditional adoration of her attentive, devil-may-care, and daffy husband has long represented the ideal mate appealing to me in real life. And lucky me, for a while, I had just that.

tv-girlfriends-yvonne-craig-batgirl

Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Yvonne Craig

Probably the very first of my TV crushes, Yvonne Craig was brought on to spice up the campy adventures of the Caped Crusaders as the ratings for Batman began to slip. That hasty cheesecake injection ultimately failed to long prevent the ultimate SPLAT! of cancellation, but there’s no way we’re going to count that against the spectacular Ms. Craig, who brilliantly essayed both the square personality of Barbara Gordon (the daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon and a librarian: Seriously, how hot is that combination of “forbidden fruit” and cultured cutie?) and the sass of the most shapely member of the Terrific Trio.

Coming to the part with a dancer’s background, Craig employed a fighting style (during all those BIFF! POW! ZONK! sequences) that was more balletic in execution, with spins and high kicks substituting for the straight-up fisticuffs preferred by the not-so-Dark-Knight and his Boy Wonder.

Some in the geek-nerd population may think it more stylish to appreciate her contribution to the original Star Trek series, covering herself in green makeup and exposing much more skin as alien slave Marta in the 1968 episode “Whom Gods Destroy”; to each their own. Her Batgirl costume, by the way, remains the best superhero outfit in the history of superhero outfits. Did I mention that purple just happens to be my favorite color?  

 tv-girlfriends-barbara-feldon-agent-99-get-smart

Agent 99, Barbara Feldon

She never had an actual name, but that was never considered an insult to the woman who played the most valuable member of CONTROL. (Sure, Maxwell Smart might be the headline grabber, but he’d be nothing without her keeping him in check) In Get Smart, it was Max who was the ditz—which adds just one more layer of funny meaning to the show’s very well-chosen title. Feldon brought both sex appeal and intelligence to the part, and she really wears those clothes. Somehow, on her, even today, they never look tacky.

You shake your head a little when you learn from interviews that she spent most of her time onscreen subtly slouching, so as not to loom over Don Adams, who was not as tall. Whether doing so out of deference to one actor’s insecurities or the cultural “norms” of the time, Feldon’s overly accommodating gesture didn’t stop her from becoming a much-admired symbol of female empowerment.

And let’s not forget the way she would purr “Oh, Max…”—and the fact that she was terribly gifted at being the “straight man” in the midst of all the goofy farce.

tv-girlfriends-suzanne-pleshette-bob-newhart-show

Emily Hartley, Suzanne Pleshette

Pleshette’s Emily is probably the most traditionally-domesticated character of my many TV crushes. So beloved was her portrayal of psychologist Robert Hartley’s wife on The Bob Newhart Show, she returned to the part more than a decade after that show ended to participate in the final episode of her co-star’s subsequent series, Newhart—a riotous, closely guarded secret of a cameo appearance that resulted in what many consider to be the greatest finale to a sitcom ever aired.

While Emily Hartley may have indeed hewed more closely to the role of a more “traditional” (that is to say, submissive) TV wife, she was afforded many opportunities to one-up Bob by meeting his deadpan mocking with a sharp and sly wit of her own.

tv-girlfriends-blair-brown-days-and-nights-of-molly-dodd

Molly Dodd, Blair Brown

Emotionally vulnerable, frequently unsure of herself, but sophisticated and adventurous, wandering soul Molly Dodd came along at just the right time for me as I made my own transition from overconfident high-school nerd to fish-out-of-water college student. In Jay Tarses’ brainy comedy-drama The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Blair Brown played a woman often thunderstruck at her own ability to dive in too deep as well as her inability to shed unproductive feelings—while cultivating the self-deprecating and ironic posture that in times of neurotic crisis served as her only lifeline. Molly had a tough time moving on from her ex-husband, a jazz musician who was also kind of a “bad boy”; I was cheering her on when she got close to David Strathairn’s Moss, a sweetly maladjusted bookstore proprietor.

I lost touch with the show even before it made its jump from NBC to Lifetime, so I never got to see if Molly landed safely. And I never read up on any of the summaries of the show’s progression—somehow that seemed like taking a shortcut. So how about getting with it, powers-that-be, and see that this much-loved show (even if it’s a small audience that much loves it) is finally released to home video?  

TV Girlfriends: Laura Holt Remington Steele

Laura Holt, Stephanie Zimbalist

She was a goody two-shoes whose success as a private detective working for the Remington Steele agency was built on her secret con game: there was no “Remington Steele” –she invented him to appease fuddy-duddies who couldn’t accept that a woman could get the job done. She posed as a subordinate but was really the head shamus, and she could rock the hat as well as Bogart. Steele was simply never “available” to his clients, remaining a mysterious and unseen presence… “until he walked in.”

Yes, it’s fair to say that co-star Pierce Brosnan reaped the biggest reward from Remington Steele by becoming the fifth actor to play James Bond (we all knew he could be a great 007 right away)—but to echo the program’s central conceit, I’d say that Zimbalist was indispensable to that success, since the entire show rested neither on Brosnan’s ample charisma alone nor on the intricacies of the mystery plots, but the sizzle of the two leads’ chemistry. With the show’s exotic locales, sophisticated banter, and knack for making movie nostalgia hip, Remington Steele played the “will-they-or-won’t-they” game better than most series that attempted it.  

TV Girlfriends: Maura Tierney, News Radio

Lisa Miller, Maura Tierney

Here’s one of those cases where, in part, I’d have to admit my attachment to the actor might outweigh my infatuation with the role—since I was a spotty viewer of the terrific sitcom NewsRadio on its initial airing. Sometimes it’s just all about the timing—and I was missing a lot of these episodes before you could easily binge-watch thanks to DVD season sets or the Internet. But Lisa Miller was my kind of plucky gal. The show put a fun spin on what you might have expected with the “will-they-or-won’t-they” theme, by not stretching the question out for so very long (as in Remington Steele, Frasier, Cheers, etc.) and putting Lisa and Dave in the sack right out of the gate. Clearly, Lisa is in many ways a take-charge kind of woman.

tv-girlfriends-linda-cardellini-freaks-and-geeks-lindsay-weir

Lindsay Weir, Linda Cardellini

I will never forget the unusual compliment one of my English teachers paid me during a visit I made back to my high school a few years after graduation: She told me, very much out of the blue, that she thought I had great taste in women. If I’d gone to school with Lindsay Weir, the heroine of Freaks and Geeks, I’d like to think I’d have had a shot—although my peers and I tended to stick very, very closely to our particular cliques, so I might have missed out because I’d never have ventured anywhere near the “freaks” Lindsay sought to befriend when the snobberies of the “geeks” became intolerable to her. OK, so maybe that started out as just an attraction to the James Dean-ish James Franco, but it was ultimately about more than that; Lindsay’s willingness to rebel against others’ insular prejudices is maybe her most appealing trait—a lot of folks have to wait until they get beyond high school to become that evolved (if, indeed, they ever do evolve).  

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Nancy Botwin, Mary-Louise Parker

On occasion I like to think of myself as a “thinking man”—so of course I’d be head-over-heels for the “Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol,” right? Weeds is another show I had to abandon before it ran its full course, through no fault of its own, and I am really looking forward to sandwiching in the rest of the run when I get a chance so I can see exactly what happens with pot-selling widowed mom Nancy Botwin. From the episodes I’ve seen so far, I can tell that Nancy and I both have a healthy disdain for most of the same things (and people) that get in the way of leading an authentic and satisfactory life. Nancy is also just holding on by the skin of her teeth, though, battered by the urgency and complexities of the modern world—and I can appreciate that. But she is also fearless and resourceful. OK, so technically, she’s a criminal—but I will put it to you today that it won’t be so very long before that aspect of the show will seem as quaint as bootlegging alcohol.

So this list tops out at nine—first, because like I said, I’m keeping mum as to the latest TV lady to win my fussy heart; second, because I’m turning the list over to you now to discuss any stars or characters from the past or present taking up space on your video shelves, filling your DVR, or crowding your must-see TV memories.

 

  • frillbot

    Karen Valentine ( Room 222 ) who was from my hometown. Shortly after the series went off the air, I was training for a summer job as a Fuller Brush salesman…….and accidently knocked on the door of her mother’s condo. Karen, who was a recent newlywed happened to be visiting….and opened the door ( She was expecting her husband Max…)…She was all ‘dolled-up’…….in a white dress…….I think they were planning to head out to dinner or to a party. GORGEOUS!!!! I stumbled backwards in shock & about dropped my sample case. She invited me in & ended up ordering a couple of cans of strawberry scented air freshener. What a SWEETHEART. Just really nice. I turned out to be a pretty lousy salesman…….I think my only other ‘sale’ was a mop handle…..to some old lady a couple of days later. I got ‘canned’ for giving away all the ‘free samples’. I don’t think I ever even got paid. BUT………I came away with that memory. I’ll take it! .

    • James Bezanson

      I’ll second the vote for Karen Valentine (nice story!). Honorable Mention: Marlo Thomas (That Girl); Melody Patterson (Wrangler Jane in F Troop); (Elly Mae Clampett in Beverly Hillbillies).

      • billy

        Cheryl Ladd, Jenny McCarthy and Josie Bisset hottest of all time.

  • bill ginley

    I’ll go with Honey West!!!

    • IceStormer

      Without a doubt, my Number One. Although Mrs. Peel and Annnette came into a close tie for 2nd. Morticia at #4, and Jeannie rounding out the top 5.

  • pex2131

    Diana rig [EMMA PEEL]

    • Steve Martin

      YES, ditto!

  • M Raghavan

    Michele Greene in LA Law.

  • Movie Fan

    If I ever wanted to be
    A female from TV
    The lady in mind
    Was one of a kind,
    The fabulous Ms. Dickinson,
    Angie!

  • Wayne P.

    Elizabeth Montgomery, of Bewitched, was both hot and cute at the same time…not easy to do, but sure fun to marvel at while viewing as a young boy in the late 60′s!

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Exactly right. A rare combination. If I were rounding out this list to 10, I’d probably have added Jenna Fischer’s Pam Beesly from the US version of “The Office,” who comes to mind now because of that same cute-hot appeal.

  • Jackie

    Suzanne Pleshette…my all time favorite..as a teacher she knew ..how to handle little kids..I always admired her character and her as an actress She was amazing in the movie she co-starred in with Ben Gazarra

  • Andy

    Tuesday Weld was my first crush in Dobie Gillis . next had to be Diana Rigg; Mrs Peel was awesome!

  • rocky-o

    great choices one and all, but going back to where it all began for me…mary tyler moore as laura petrie on “the dick van dyke show”…

  • The G-Man

    Jeannie and Mary Ann

  • lovestorun

    Annette Funicello as a Mousketeer. When I was a young kid I thought she was amazing.

  • Capoman

    Annette Funicello, Wonder Woman, Mary Ann, Tamala Jones in Castle.

  • Bill Proctor

    Edie Adams….drool!

  • FR3

    Seven of Nine – Star Trek: Voyager.

  • Johnny Sherman

    Both hands up–or maybe out–for Wonder Woman.

  • Steve

    Two of ‘em…Julie Newmar (Catwoman), and (Dame) Diana Rigg (Mrs. Emma Peel)

  • Mark

    Diana Rigg, absolutely. Barbara Feldon, easy choice. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Erin Gray from Buck Rogers — another confident and intelligent beauty.

  • PCM60

    Doris Day!!! After she left the farm and did the show in San Francisco it was a love affair that’s continues to burn… I just love Doris Day!!!

  • Jack

    Oh let’s not forget Honey West ! Kay Francis

    • Louis Martinez

      That would be Anne Francis not Kay Francis.

  • Carolyn Ferrante

    Nobody mentioned ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ Kate Jackson and Farah Fawcett. And then there were the roomies on “Three’s Company.”

  • Ray Anthony

    For me it has to be Morticia first closely followed by Wilma Dearing !

  • Col

    Dawn Wells as Mary Anne Summers
    Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
    Barbara Eden as Jeannie Nelson
    Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster
    Lindsay Wagner as Bionic Woman
    Jane Seymour as Dr Michaela Quinn
    Maren Jensen as Athena

    • Col

      Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens
      Jacklyn Smith as Kelly Garrett
      Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie

      • Col

        Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett
        Donna Dixon as Sonny Lumet

  • Stevepyong

    Mrs. Peal from the Avengers. Diana Riggs. Julie Newmar as the Catwoman.

  • Vince

    Gabrielle, Willow Rosenberg, Veronica Mars and “Original” Cindy (Yeah she was a lesbian, so sue me!)

  • bonz

    There is only two possibilities for me Elizabeth Montgomery and Susan Dey!

  • Ken

    My two favorites have to remain nameless because I can’t remember their names!! Kotter’s wife in Welcome Back Kotter, and the brunette hottie in WKRP in Cincinnati. They NEVER show these two shows anymore and they were great and had my two nameless favoites. P.S. I really liked Susan St. James in Macmillan and Wife, too!

  • Ken

    How about Charlene Darlin from Andy Griffith show? She was sexy in a hillbilly sort of way, and I imagine out of character she was a knockout!

  • brian

    farrah fawcett, suzanne pleshette, nancy kovak, jane seymour ,tanya roberts, nadia blorlin ,joanna moore ,leyla melani.

  • Scott Henderson

    Electra Woman and Dyna Girl

  • http://www.wirralwriter.co.uk/ Alan Scouser

    Jenny Hanley, Alexander Bastedo, Sally Thomsett.

  • Benric

    Jane (on TV; grew-up viewing many Tarzan movies with Maureen O’Sullivan)
    Maryanne (from Gilligan’s Island)
    Bewitched (Elizabeth Montgomery)
    Batgirl (Yvonne Craig)
    Karen Valentine (Room 222)
    Valarie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time)
    Emma Peel (Avengers)
    Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie)
    Stefanie Powers (Girl from UNCLE)
    and Natalie Wood (from many films viewed on TV)

  • fbusch

    EMMA PEELE!! While there have been many, Diana Rigg keeps coming back to mind!

  • Quattermass

    Cheryll Miller (Daktari), Yvonne Craig (Batman), Diana Rigg (The Avengers), Karen Valentine (Room 222) and Grace Lee Whitney (Star Trek)

  • BAZZ02

    Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in the Avengers is my favorite. A few of my friends said my fiancée looked like her.

  • tim “blackie’ kenneally

    my favorite girlfriend was Arlene martel aka Arlene sax. I don’t believe she ever had a weekly show but was a guest on many tv shows. who could ever forget her in “the twilight zone” episode about the nurse in the morgue who later shows up at the airport. gosh dern it, I forgot the title. many folks like her from the star trek epiosde she did but my fave is the one or two she did with pornophile bob crane in “Hogan’s heroes”. great kisser is she as I’m sure bob would agree.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      That “Twilight Zone” episode you are trying to think of would be “Twenty Two,” from the second season.

      • Mark Malak

        Agree.And the wonderful Barbara Nichols in the same episode.My favorite

    • Louis Martinez

      Arlene Martel was also with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits episode “Demon With A Glass Hand”.

  • Cinemanny

    Barbara Bain (Mission:Impossible), Stefanie Powers (The Girl from U.N.C.L.E) and Anne Francis (Honey West). After them, I started having TV Boyfriends. Btw, I have remained a dedicated Barbara Bain fan.

  • Jay

    My very first TV Crush was Angela Cartwright as Penny Robinson on Lost In Space. That was in 1969 when I was 10 years old, and the reruns of Lost In Space were being shown every week day afternoon. My second major TV Crush occurred in 1975, When I watched Valerie Bertinelli as Barbara Cooper on One Day At A Time. My most recent TV crush began in 1994 when I first saw Jennifer Anniston as Rachel on – FRIENDS. And I have loved her now for the past 20 years.

  • wingnut_49

    I always thought Shelly Fabres ( The Donna Reed Show ) was the cutest girl on TV.

  • Mark Malak

    My first crush as a kid and still my tv girlfriend,Gale Storm.

  • Makumba

    Barbara Eden was my first crush then Linda Cristal of High Chaparral was my second.

  • Tom K.

    Find Barbara Eden’s appearance on the Andy Griffin Show. She played a young manacurist that worked briefly at Floyd’s Barber Shop ! She’s sweet and ” volcanic ” hot at the same time !

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Andy to The Manicurist: “Nature’s been good to you. I mean real, real, real good. I can’t remember when I’ve seen nature spend so much time on any one person.” Oh Andy, you scamp.

      • Geneva P.

        Thanks GD Allen for remembering that line. It really made me laugh then and made me laugh again today. That was one of my favorite episodes.

  • C. G.

    My first and biggest TV crush was as a kid in the early 1950s. There was a kids’ TV sci-fi series called “Space Patrol” that was similar in concept to “Star Trek”. Anyway, the blonde continuing character “Carol” (played by the late Virginia Hewett) was my dream girl for at least two years when I was between the ages of 6 and 8. I was truly smitten—and I even wrote her a love letter once! I have videos of the old show, and “Carol” still looks good!

  • Michael DeVerne

    I have always been in love with Christine McGlade from “You Can’t Do That On Television” and Lynda Carter.

  • mike

    Wow, all these great names here!
    But . . .
    Isn’t there anyone else out there that was in love with Connie Stevens on ‘Hawaiian Eye’??? She was my first and what a gorgeous female!

  • mattkorey

    Marlo Thomas.

  • badleg60

    Mariette Hartley in the Kodak commercials. When I was a kid it was Dianna Rigg as Mrs Peel on the Avengers.

    • Randy

      Yes, Mariette Hartley in Genesis 2 – WOW – 2 belly buttons !!

  • Misterauto5

    Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano, on The Sopranos, or Dawn Wells, as Mary Ann, in Gilligan’s Island.

  • Robert Rudolph

    Julie Newmar as Catwoman; Dianna Rigg as Mrs. Peel.

  • tim “blackie” kenneally

    o.k. thanks to louise and George for their help with Arlene martel tv shows. I’m only 64 but I had a 7 hour cancer operation two years ago and it has robbed me of my memory. best,blackie

  • Antone

    How about Bambi Lynn? If I correctly recall, she was teamed with Rod Alexander as guest dancers on many of the variety and late night talk shows.

  • flyingtoupee

    Julie Newmar as Catwoman. As a young kid, I couldn’t figure out what it was about her that made me like her more than any other character on a TV show. I just knew that I did for some strange reason.

  • John

    Every week, at the beginning of her TV show, a door would open and a great entrance was made by the beautiful Loretta Young.

  • Frosty

    My picks are a little more obscure:
    1. Judi Rolin – Beautiful, young, blonde singer from “The Dean Martin Summer Show”. She also appeared on “Bonanza” and played “Alice” in a terrible TV movie based on “Through the Looking Glass”.
    2. Cheryl Holdridge – My favorite Mouseketeer. Annette was cute, but Cheryl was way cuter. Appeared on “Leave it to Beaver”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, and “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. She was also in a pilot for an Archie sit-com. She would have been a great Betty Cooper.
    3. Judy Strangis – She played “Helen” on “Room 222″. I think she also played some sidekick character in a Saturday morning superhero show. She also played “Mean Mary Jean” in some football-inspired car commercials.

  • Rob in L.A.

    If my girlfriend is ever a TV character, I’ll know I’m in trouble.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      I feel exactly the same way about losing my ability to discern the literal from the figurative.

  • Chesaw Charlie

    I fell in love with Sally Field the first time I saw GIDGET, in 1965

  • Frank Camp

    In the late 60′s it was MARYANNE (Dawn Wells). In the early 70′s it was LORI PARTRIDGE (Susan Dey). Then in the mid 70′s it was VALERIE BERTINELLI (Barbara on One Day at a Time). I also had a big crush on KAREN VALENTINE and DONNA DOUGLAS. OH yeah, KATE JACKSON was my favorite ANGEL. In the ’80s it was NANCY McKEON “JO” on The Facts Of Life”

  • david rackley

    I thought that jan smithers was nice . then the 80s Christina applegate heather Thomas. now I have to go with pauley perrette!

  • MikeB

    When I was a kid I had the biggest crush on Patty Duke! We’d watch the show regularly, but then again all shows at that time were family friendly. But I had a secret reason to watch. On top of that I got twice the pleasure as she played two parts.

  • Randeroo

    For me it was Barbara Rhoades.

    • badleg60

      Barbara Rhodes was mucho hot!

  • Bob

    Lyndsay Wagner and Marlo Thomas

  • badleg60

    Sue Ane Langdon looked liked like our next door neighbor, Mrs C*********d or vice versa. Mrs C would spend her summer afternoons sunbathing in her bikini in her backyard. So all the husbands who lived within viewing distance would be out doing their yard work at the same time. Anyway Sue Ane Langdon always had a special place in my heart because of this.

  • wade

    Beverly Garland as a police woman in the show Decoy

  • John Patterson

    Okay.Jaclyn Smith in”Charlie’s Angels”;Mackenzie Phillips on”One Day at a Time”were my faves when I was in high school in the late 70′s.

  • mike

    Nina Hartley in the 90′s lol