In no particular order...
Rob Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke, on The Dick Van Dyke Show
How could any young girls not fall in love with the hilarious, urbane, supremely silly and utterly adorable Rob Petrie? Not only did he have a cool job -- TV comedy writer -- but he worked in a great office with smart entertaining colleagues...how is that not perfect? Even if we couldn't be Mrs. Petrie, I think we'd have settled for being Sally Rogers, just to be near Rob. Wouldn't you?
Adam Cartwright, played by Pernell Roberts, on Bonanza
Naturally, young girls watching the series were supposed to fall for the teen idol-ish Little Joe (Michael Landon), but there was something dangerous and sexy about Ben Cartwright's oldest son Adam. Smart as a whip and back at the Ponderosa after going away to college, this often-brooding brother had a temper and wasn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with his dynamic father (Lorne Greene). If Little Joe was the heartthrob and Hoss the safe older brother, Adam was the slightly wild card. So wild that he left the series after a few years, but while he was there, he lent a seductive air to the Cartwright clan.
Diver Dan, played by Frank Freda, on Diver Dan
Can an actor in a diving suit playing on a fake underwater set with puppet fish really make little girls' hearts flutter? Well, Diver Dan did! Whether it was his understated heroics or his "do-they-or-don't-they" -- or maybe more accurately "could-they-even-do-it" -- relationship with the elusive and beautiful mermaid Miss Minerva, Diver Dan made afterschool afternoons more exciting!
Professor Roy Thornton, played by Russell Johnson, on Gilligan's Island
Wouldn't you like to be stranded on a desert island with the Professor? Handsome and so very smart -- and not even just compared to Mr. Howell, the Skipper or Gilligan -- the Professor was also inventive, good-natured and not a bit of the aloof intellectual. I still think he's the perfect companion for a coconut-tinged retreat, though of course you'd have plenty of competition, what with Ginger and Mary Ann also having an eye for Roy. Who can blame them?
Dr. James Kildare, played by Richard Chamberlain, on Dr. Kildare
Chamberlain brought a huge dose of charisma into the corridors of Blair General Hospital and became a huge teen idol for his role as Dr. Kildare. The show was intelligent and dramatic, beautifully produced, excellently acted -- by Chamberlain, his co-star Raymond Massey and a bevy of guest stars -- but mostly we all fell in love with the appealing Dr. Kildare. Sure, Ben Casey was also a hit TV series at the time on a different network, but Casey (Vince Edwards) was gruff and grim, while Kildare was bright and inviting. Maybe the older ladies went for Casey, but Kildare got the youth vote, and how.
Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffiths, on The Andy Griffiths Show
Even those of us who grew up far from small town America -- or maybe especially us -- were drawn to Sheriff'Taylor's soft-spoken and kind-hearted brand of law enforcement. He also had the allure of being a widower, and in the show he had a couple of different steady girlfriends, including the equally likeable schoolteacher Helen Krump (Aneta Corsaut). Who could begrudge Sheriff Taylor a little Mayberry-style lovin', right? In truth he was probably more of a father figure than boyfriend, but his comforting male presence was a welcome feature of our childhoods and ever since.
Superman/Clark Kent, played by George Reeves, on The Adventures of Superman
That smile, that cape, the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound -- we're still in love with Superman! The brawny All-American good looks and personality of George Reeves gave his super-portrayal an irresistible appeal that has never died. Okay, so maybe we didn't want him for a boyfriend exactly, but if he wanted to drop by and take us for a flight around the world...well, that would have been okay with us.
Dr. Zachary Smith and the Robot, played by Jonathan Harris and Dick Tufeld, on Lost in Space
Yeah...there's no denying these two were one of the most authentic Odd Couples ever on TV, but they were also hilarious and they could have easily been, if not our boyfriends exactly, maybe our funny best friends. We sometimes think that's even better than romance, in case anybody needs to be told that.
Hercules, voiced by Jimmy Tapp, on The Mighty Hercules
Hercules, like Diver Dan and Clark Kent, was a shy guy with a big job, and little time for romance with the lovely damsel Helena who worshipped the Greek he-man. For a crudely animated show with only a dozen or so episodes, the influence of The Mighty Hercules was huge in our childhood and mostly because Hercules himself was the epitome of a classic hero. Even though it was unlikely that we would ever accompany him to Mount Olympus -- "Olympia!" he cried at the end of every segment as he ascended -- we loved to watch him vanquish evil and yet somehow never quite get the girl.
Mickey, played by Mickey Dolenz, on The Monkees
Davy Jones was the anointed "boyfriend-in-chief" of the pre-Fab Four, but if you were a young lady who loved the funny, then Mickey was your guy. Unconventionally good-looking, slightly hyperactive, and a terrific singer to boot, Mickey was my Monkee of choice and I'm sticking to it!
Illya Kuriakin, played by David McCallum, on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Open Channel D! The suave Russian Illya, Napoleon Solo's partner in spying, soon almost eclipsed his James Bond-ish co-agent in popularity and fan mail, not that Robert Vaughn was anything less than spectacular. It's just that Illya was so...so...cute, dang it all! From his fluffy blond hair to his delicate foreign accent, Illya was oh-so-seriously wonderful and most definitely won the hearts of the younger set.
Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, on The Wild Wild West
In this series, ladies who loved tight blue pants went for the ultra-suave uber-hero James West, played by Robert Conrad. Those of us who liked our heroes a little more creative, a little funnier, a little more inventive, preferred Artemus Gordon, masterfully brought to life by actor Ross Martin. If West almost always ended up with the girl, Artemus ended up with our hearts and our minds, a potent two-fer that made Mr. Gordon my personal choice for the most super secret agent.
I've saved the best for last --
Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, on Star Trek
Who might have dreamed that a half-human alien hybrid from the fictional planet Vulcan could become one of the most desirable of TV boyfriends for millions of young girls? Super smart -- there's that very cool intelligence attribute once again! -- ultra-competent, and nearly non-emotional, although Spock might have seemed an unlikely candidate for Valentine's pin-up boy, he's the logical choice. Since the late 1960's Spock has made the search for extraterrestrial life a must; how else are Sarek and Amanda, Spock's Vulcan father and Earth mother, ever going to get together? From the first moment we set eyes on him to his evidently farewell appearance as Spock in J.J. Abram's 2009 Trek franchise reboot feature, Mr. Spock has truly been one of the wonders of the TV universe.
We all have our favorites, and many newer faces have come in since these guys captured our hearts long ago, but you never forget your first love...er...loves. A Happy Valentine's Day to all of the many unforgettable characters who have made us fall in love with them!