The audience has fallen in love with the beloved “ships” and sitcom couples, rejoicing in heartwarming weddings and slow-burn cliches. But enough kumbaya already, I collated five sworn enemies on television sitcoms.
Instead of the will-they-won’t-they arc, two polar opposite characters, fed with past grudges, were always one step away from murdering each other. During intense witty banters, the gloves come off — hit where it hurts. But unlike dramatic rivalry in other genres, sworn enemies in sitcoms relied on humor. Conflicts and tensions were played for laughs.
Five Sworn Enemies in TV Sitcoms
Captain Ray Holt and Madeline Wuntch (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
IMDb | Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Chocolate Milk)
“But if you’re here, who’s guarding Hades?” and other quick-witted insults of Captain Ray Holt’s (Andre Braugher) hurled to Deputy Madeline Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick) are one of the series’ hilarious running gags.
Before being sworn enemies, they were close friends at Boston Police Department. But things soured after Holt believed Wuntch’s betrayal happened since he “refused to bed her” after coming out gay. But later revealed he embarrassed her in front of Derek Jeter.
His response to her death is even better, “As Wuntch says when she sees deodorant, I’m not buying it.” Wuntch did not let their rivalry rest until her deathbed and instructed her nephew to carry out her last-ditch scheme to humiliate Holt at her funeral. But Holt had the upper hand, but when asked to speak for real this time, he admitted that he missed her.
Martin Payne and Pamela “Pam” James (Martin)
IMDb | Martin (Back in Trouble Again)
Besides occurring personas like Bruh-Man and Sheneneh, the roast-fest between Martin Payne (Martin Lawrence) and Pam James (Tichina Arnold) made the FOX 90’s sitcom to be a household staple.
Platonic hatred is significantly more appropriate. Imagine Martin’s dismay when he learned that his best buddy, Tommy, was dating his sworn enemy, Pam. And also, the thought of being married to Martin, due to a document mistake, drove Pam to madness.
But their clashing personalities occasionally called for a truce. Like when Pam was hypnotized for a dental procedure and turned into Martin. She hilariously ticked all the boxes for Martin-esque antics, his gait, and signature catchphrases like “Get ta steppin’!”
Jay Pritchett and Earl Chambers (Modern Family)
IMDb | Modern Family (Won’t You Be Our Neighbor)
Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), the patriarch of Modern Family and owner of Pritchett’s Closets & Blinds, has a long-standing grudge and business rivalry with Earl Chambers (late Jon Polito) of Closets, Closets, Closets, Closets.
In 1980, they became co-owners of Closet Fornia. But their brotherhood turned awry when Earl badmouthed him and stole “half of their Rolodex.” Jay had to start all over again, and they’ve been at odds with each other ever since. Earl made fun of Jay’s web series, recruited Mitchelle under duress, and poked fun at Manny for dating his granddaughter.
But their feud abruptly ended when Earl died. Jay initially refused to believe he had passed away and was convinced he might only fall victim to an elaborate mind game. The sobfest episode ended with Jay scattering his friend’s ashes near the old oak tree where they spent most of their younger days brainstorming how to conquer the closet business.
Professor Duncan and Senor Chang (Community)
IMDb | Community (The Psychology of Letting Go)
A student chased by his professor on campus due to a restraining order is not a shot unordinary in Greendale Community College. After all, paintball wars, a dean always in drag, and the ‘Ass Crack Bandit’ mystery hounded the school.
Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver) and disgraced Spanish teacher Ben Chang’s (Ken Jeong), deep-seated hatred of each other escalated to new heights. From arguing in the men’s locker room showers, depraved insults one’s British teeth to restraining orders.
Chang had to stay 25 feet from Duncan after the transfer dance assault or risk expulsion. In Duncan’s fashion, he abused the newfound “forcefield” to keep Chang from class and the cafeteria. But it quickly wore off after Chang hurt himself while fleeing and had to file his own protective order. “Mutually assured destruction, well played, Chang,” Duncan said, calling it quits.
Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson (The Office)
IMDb | The Office (Frame Toby). Michael yelled “No, God, please, no!” after he discovered Toby came back from Costa Rica.
Horrible boss Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) has continuously overstepped boundaries with his employees to like him, as is the case for Ryan and Jim. But Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein), HR Representative and poster boy for sad divorcees, was the bane of Michael’s existence.
One episode that piqued Michael’s pettiness was the attempted frame-up for a narcotics bust for Toby. He and Dwight planted “weed” in Toby’s desk and called the cops on him. Michael, who naturally looks like a ‘narc’ was fooled into buying a Caprese salad instead. Although, claiming the “drugs” as his own was a sweet gesture—by Michael’s standards, of course.
Despite hilarious zingers like this: “If I had a gun with two bullets, and I was in a room with Hitler, Bin-Laden, and Toby, I would shoot Toby twice.”
They had reasonably pleasant moments, such as when Michael opened up in counseling, shared lunch in court, and Toby talked about his parent’s divorce. However, it was short-lived when Michael pushed his lunch tray onto the floor.
Sworn enemies occasionally shifted to the enemies-to-lovers cliche, adding depth and comedic intricacy to the plot. Similar to Living Single’s couple Maxine Shaw and Kyle Barker. Bitter neighbors (technically, Max just casually raids her friends’ house) who eventually grow unlikely attraction and romantic entanglements.
These small-screen mayhems showed us relatable pettiness to identify, like executing an elaborate plan and sacrificing time and effort just for a silly person you dislike to feel a slight discomfort.
Nothing ignites motivation more than a burning passion for someone’s downfall.
Aubrey is a budding writer that covers facets of the entertainment industry— but television is what she's most passionate about. She grew up watching reruns of old sitcoms like Malcolm in the Middle, Girlfriends, and Everybody Hates Chris. Aubrey also enjoys watching video essays on Youtube in her downtime.