The Grump and Sunshine: Opposites Attract in TV Relationships

The Grump and Sunshine trope has got to be one of the most fun ways of showcasing romance. We asked what some of your favorites are, and no choice disappointed—even the ones that featured couples we didn’t know of looked intriguing enough that we’d consider watching wherever their story unfolds. That said, we compiled a list of the relationships we’re personally familiar with, some with a little twist. Where two people seem like an unlikely pair, chances are their relationship is going to be the most enigmatic.

Sidney Parker and Charlotte Heywood

Rose Williams and Theo James on Sanditon PBS or ITV

This trope has been around for a long time now, and while Sanditon’s Sidney and Charlotte are a newer couple, they made it onto the list with their stunning arc. Sidney and Charlotte are grump and sunshine embodied. His jaded, broken spirit mixed with her light make for a romance that’s utterly captivating. When we first meet Sidney in the first episode, there’s no part of him interested in anything but his own escape, and it’s the very meeting with Charlotte where you just know she’ll be touching his soul in a way no one else has. It’s that very kind of inexplicable touch that surpasses anything the two of them have ever known.

There’s something so achingly poignant about a man whose heart was shattered and darkened opening up to a woman whose innocence brought him back to life. Sidney wasn’t unkind out of malicious intent, but because the cruelty and rejection he faced stripped him bare and broke him at his core. A heartache that took the parts of his being that felt entirely too much and instead awakened anger in him. The past took no pity on him, and as a result, his instincts resulted in, attack first, and explain later because that’s easier than unveiling his heart and risking pain all over again. Then, in came a woman with an innocence that tore him to shreds not because she’d broken him further, but because she’d taken the parts of him that had been darkened and restored light into them. A restoration that took time because the severity of the damages done were vicious, and an awakening that opened up parts of him no other human had ever gotten close to.

He challenges her beliefs, tears apart her hesitations, and most importantly, he listens to her. He respects and values her good opinion, and in the same way, she values his. When given the chance, she’d do anything in her power, go above and beyond just to adore him. And he’d to do the same for her—everything and more because when someone saves you, you never stop fighting to be their safe place too. 

Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker

Source: NBC

It’s always fun when the roles are reversed and the male is the sunshine in a relationship. And while Sarah Walker isn’t exactly a grump by definition, her stoicism as a spy was a large part of her character in the first three seasons. Sarah’s life had been anything but easy and thus, she trained herself never to trust, but it’s hard not to trust someone when they’re as good and as pure as Chuck Bartowski is.

Chuck and Sarah’s journey towards finding their happy ending may not have ended ideally for fans, but the way the two helped each other grow has often been one of the most stunning parts of their relationship. Through his persistence, Chuck gave Sarah a safe place to come home to and in loving him as she did, she never failed to remind him of the fact that he’s remarkable as is. Poignant parallels go unsurpassed, and throughout the series, they both make prominent decisions at the beach to trust the other person. And it’s this very decision that leads them towards embarking on an exquisite journey where love, trust, and happiness are present even in the darkest hours. Chuck and Sarah know how to make one another happy—their differences aside, it’s always been about putting the other’s needs above their own. No one will ever love Chuck Bartowski the way Sarah Walker does, and no one will ever Sarah Walker the way Chuck Bartowski does. 

Luke Danes and Lorelai Gilmore
Gilmore Girls

When it comes to Gilmore Girls, it’s always Team Jess, Team Dean, and Team Logan, but we’ve always just been Team Luke. As the heart of this series, Luke and Lorelai’s grump and sunshine banter, which was ultimately our first introduction to the trope long before we even knew it was a thing, has always been the best part.

Luke was a grump, but the best kind, as much as the townspeople of Stars Hollow got under his skin, there’s nothing he wouldn’t have done for them, and there’s especially nothing he wouldn’t have done for the chatty but perfect bane of existence Lorelai Gilmore. The way Luke loved Rory, and the incredible way he always rooted for her stood out beautifully throughout the series because while everyone pissed him off, he loved Rory like a daughter from day one. And Lorelai always knew this, she knew that if there was one person in the world she could trust with her whole heart, it was Luke. Their distinct personalities woven intricately with one another’s have created an unbreakable bond filled with effortless laughter. At the end of the day, whether it was a small gesture like a hug just because or something grand like a homemade ice rink, the thought behind it was always full of immense heart. Luke and Lorelai are both damaged, they are two people who’ve worked extremely hard to be where they are, and together, they’re better—together, they complete each other. Together, they appreciate the little quirks others don’t often see.

Nick Miller and Jess Day
New Girl

Source: Fox

It was easy to ship Nick and Jess in the beginning and then it wasn’t. But then a rewatch of the series confirmed that yes, these two in all their ridiculousness are in fact, perfect for each other. Nick Miller is the grumpiest grump on the planet and our collective mood of 2020—when he yells about cookies, we get it. Or rather just when he yells about anything. We get it, we really do.

And while these two had to go through makeups and breakups, being together always worked best when they began to grow apart. But what Nick and Jess did best was make every moment they were on screen together an absolute joy. Their reunion at the end of season six and the proposal in season seven are still among some of my favorite moments throughout the series. No, but seriously, running towards one another in the building only to meet in an elevator after Nick yells at a man that he needs to tell his best friend he’s in love with her? YES PLEASE. In the strangest way, they have always been the best of friends, and the bond they’ve fortified all these years while working to make themselves better managed to make them stronger and somehow more chaotic as a couple. 

Roy Kent and Keeley Jones
Ted Lasso

Juno Temple and Brett Goldstein in “Ted Lasso,” now streaming on Apple TV+.​

There’s something so beautiful about two people who push each other’s buttons while being the other’s anchor when they’re about to sink. Ted Lasso’s Roy and Keeley are grump and sunshine to the t—where one literally grunts, the other’s smile radiates whatever room she walks into. They’re two people who probably shouldn’t work as beautifully as they do, but it works, and that’s exactly what happens when people who are expected to be tough are given a safe space to be vulnerable.

Roy Kent is used to surface-level one-night stands, he’s used to yelling his way through a goal and he’s used to breaking everything but his own walls. Keeley Jones knows her values but she doesn’t let herself have all that she deserves, except when she does, she finds it in someone whose form of communication looks differently than hers. While we’re only in the first season with these two and it’s just the beginning of something great, what we’re given exudes pure joy seamlessly. Roy’s walls won’t be down for a while, but allowing Keeley into his darkness knowing he isn’t judged by her is the first step. And Keeley’s persistence to push through his demons in order to be his shoulder to cry on is every bit of the reason this works so well. She is his strength when he falls, and he is her safe place. One day she’ll make him mushy peas and he’ll give her the world. It’ll be beautiful. It already is.

Mike Lawson and Ginny Baker

Source: Fox

Among the tragic list of series canceled too soon, Pitch will always be the one that got away and we still miss it. Mike Lawson and Ginny Baker, much like everyone on this list embodied grump and sunshine gorgeously. The development leading up to the realization that there’s something more between the two was so riveting to watch. Only a jaded, grump would yell to his team about Ginny’s perfect little quirks such as singing Katy Perry songs off-key, hating cilantro (Who can blame her?), and loving grape soda. It’s two people with struggles deeper than meets the eye who had found solace in the other’s spirit. It’s pushing buttons and diving head first in a field where all else is surface level.

Mike and Ginny saw everything that was worthwhile in the other, they accepted each other as they were, and they pushed each other to be the absolute best version of themselves possible. And they gave us the most healing phone call of time. There’s a vulnerability that takes over us late at night in the moments right before we’re about to shut our eyes. And to share that vulnerability with someone inflicts in us an indescribable light—a captivating sense of ephemeral serenity. In Pitch’s fourth episode, Mike and Ginny share a phone call that I’ve shamelessly replayed too many times to count. Perhaps it is the innocence in their conversation that floored me. Perhaps it’s the volumes their silence spoke. It’s vulnerable, it’s sincere, and it’s proof that sometimes, all a person needs is for someone to listen. And these two listened.

William Wellington and Eliza Scarlet
Miss Scarlet and the Duke 

While viewers immediately sense Eliza Scarlet’s strong sense of determination and independence during her investigations, they also see her gentle and caring side when she interacts with her friends. Self-described as “gullible”, Eliza often has an instinct to aid and protect others, and her naïveté and disregard for boundaries sometimes leads her to dangerous situations. On the other hand, years on the job have hardened Detective Inspector Wellington. His skills and work contributions are overlooked by his superiors while he’s often dealing with an onslaught of cases and a lack of men. Now add to that the extra stress of Eliza’s constant meddling in cases and his fear for her safety, and it’s easy to understand why he prefers to avoid social interaction. Despite their differences, the two are more alike then they’d like to admit, and truly care for one another.

Daryl Dixon and Beth Greene
The Walking Dead by Dana Anne

Source: FX

Daryl Dixon, the man who is so slow to open up, to reveal anything about himself, even to the people he trusts, is completely disarmed by a girl who tells the truth as she sees it—a girl who seems weak, maybe dependent on others to survive, but is strong in another way than what Daryl is used to. Maybe she changes his view of what it means to be strong, to be brave, to be a survivor. Beth explicitly suggests he doesn’t think she is as worthy of survival as Michonne, a katana-wielding warrior, or Maggie, an intelligent and capable potential leader, and Daryl, in that dark moment alone in the cottage, realizes that maybe she is right.

Ultimately, though, Daryl comes to rely on her, even if he finds her naive, but in helping him confront his past and burning it down (both literally and figuratively), he realizes she has an inner strength he didn’t see before, or didn’t recognize at first—she is a survivor, just like him. She has overcome her own struggles and emerged stronger, and for Daryl, at a moment when they are alone and everything he has worked to preserve has fallen apart, he sees that he can overcome his struggles, too. He sees a hope in her for the future, even as she eerily—prophetically—refers to her own fate by telling him he will miss her so bad when she’s gone. She believes they can find their family again, and in that moment when he needs it most, she makes him believe that, too. And he carries her knife with him for seasons after that, just to keep that hope alive even when she’s gone. Learning from her and taking her lead, he even overcomes losing his light. At a moment they are alone, scrounging and scraping by to survive, rigging a makeshift alarm system in an abandoned funeral home, she still sings. She still cares. She ignores her own foot injury as she rushes to see a dog that happens to cross their path. And to me, that’s beautiful. 

Jack Robinson and Phryne Fisher
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Source: Acorn TV

Okay so while Jack Thompson is more of a stickler and not so much a grump, we couldn’t not include these two in this category as opposites attract in the best way ever. Jack and Phryne are two people who probably shouldn’t work together, but goodness it’s glorious. Where there’s a man who needs to abide by the rules, there’s always a force of a woman who’s going to get under his skin in all the right ways. A series about murder shouldn’t be as fun as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is, but so much of it is because of Phryne’s magnetic spirit and Jack’s stoicism.

Two traits that can bring people together beautifully because their differing personalities work so well in establishing something ridiculous and fun. Jack and Phryne are opposites at best, but no one works better together than the two of them do. And at the end of the day, when the cases are done and they find themselves sharing drinks, it’s always a masterful display of what an excellent partnership looks like.

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