Married ... With a TV Show

Jessica Simpson, who once mistook Chicken of the Sea for canned poultry and wouldn't eat Buffalo wings, theoretically because she never saw a buffalo fly, must now debate the virtue of playing out her marriage on TV.

After months of denials, the couple announced last Friday what every tabloid seemed to already know: After three years of marriage, and three seasons of "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica," they are officially separating.

TV has a reputation for ruining relationships. Sonny and Cher ended their relationship like Abbott and Costello -- embittered performers who hardly spoke to each other. And now, in the age of reality TV, many more couples are tempted to test their wedded vows under the prying eye of a TV camera.

At least Nick and Jessica did better than Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Their union lasted 16 months, and after opening their home to VH1 camera crews in 2002, they began suing the network to get back the footage, before unleashing lawyers on each other.

Of course, reality TV has had its success stories. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are still together after 23 years. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline survived their own reality show, and they're currently caring for their newborn son.

And just as Nick and Jessica were calling it quits, Christopher "Brady Bunch" Knight announced last week that he and his co-star/girlfriend Adrianne Curry (also of "America's Next Top Model") are now planning a wedding and another season of "My Fair Brady."

Just to be sure that this is truly a match made in reality TV heaven, the couple met on VH1's "The Surreal Life."

Award-Winning Husbands and Wives

Let's be fair to Nick and Jessica. Even if "I Love Lucy" could only stave off Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball's inevitable divorce, there are more than a few happily married couples who played happy (and unhappy) couples on TV.

"St. Elsewhere" stars Bonnie Bartlett and William Daniels made Emmy history in 1986, when they became the first real-life married couple to win acting awards on the same night, for their portrayals of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Craig on the cult TV series. They've now been together 54 years.

Another married couple, "L.A. Law" stars Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry, had a torrid affair on NBC in the late 1980s, while simultaneously earning three Emmy nominations. They've been married for 33 years, even after trying to kill each other in "Assault and Matrimony."

Years earlier, Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss were Emmy-nominated husband and wife for their 1967 sitcom "He & She." Though the series only lasted one season, they recently celebrated their 44th anniversary.

Of course, when you're a TV star and you've got a famous spouse, you can always count on guest appearances. Brad Pitt showed up on "Friends." Hal Holbrook visited Dixie Carter on "Designing Women," but when a marriage fails, that no longer seams like such a good idea.

In the late 1980s, Tom Arnold joined "Roseanne," as a staff writer, and became a regular during his marriage to the show's star. Predictably, his character disappeared when their marriage hit the skids. But it should be noted that Roseanne's first and third husbands -- comedy writer Bill Pentland and bodyguard Ben Thomas -- also made guest appearances.

In the end, the set of a TV show is just like any other workplace, and it's not uncommon for husbands and wives to punch the same clock without punching each other.

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