|Posted by richb on June 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM|
The last couple months I talked a lot about how mothers andfathers are portrayed on sitcoms. But what about the professionals who work everyday? Some characters on sitcoms are there to do a job, much like the example Iwill be discussing today. Ralph Kramden was a bus driver, Rob Petrie was awriter, Cliff Huxtable was an OBGYN, and even Jerry Seinfeld was a stand-upcomedian. Some professions transcend the sitcoms however, and become asimportant a part of the show as the parents. More so, in some cases. Today we look at sitcom teachers.
Teachers in sitcoms go all the way back to Our Miss Brooks whichbrought teachers to life as a radio program before it became a television show.TV is full of teachers who try to make a difference. I always love how muchmore fun the classrooms are, I don’t remember my school ever being thatinteresting.
Teachers have a long history on sitcoms as guest characters.In fact chances are if a show has kids in it then a teacher appeared on anepisode or was even a recurring character in the series. One example is PunkyBrewster, who had the teacher named Mike for one season. T.K.Carter played areal nice teacher who actually cared about his students and their problems. Ialways love how teachers in these shows get involved with the characters lives,when does that happen in real life? Sabrina had Mr.Kraft and Mrs. Quick. TheSimpsons had Edna Crabapple. Doug’s sister is a PE teacher on The King ofQueens. Several professors came and went on A Different World, some morememorable than others. Then you have The Wonder Years which had lots ofteachers. Miss.White who Kevin had a crush on, Mr.Collins who was featured inone of the series best episodes, and Coach Cutlip who I know would not have ajob in today’s world.
Then there are shows where a teacher is a main member of thecast. Those are the teachers we are focusing on today. Here is my top 5, andthe only rule of this list is the characters have to be a title characters notjust random supporting characters.
#5.Miss Bliss (Saved By The Bell aka Good Morning, MissBliss)
Before it was Saved by the Bell, it was Good Morning, MissBliss. I know it seems kind of odd to include her, the original show onlylasted a year before it was retooled as Saved by the Bell. However, HayleyMills did a good job making a memorable character. So much that they repackagedthose episodes into the Saved by the Bell syndication package. What was greatabout Miss Bliss? She was very honest, and would go to any length to make apoint. It was nice to see a teacher treat her students like intelligent people,not dumb kids. I loved Saved By TheBell, but you can’t help but wonder what things would have been like it MissBliss had been given a longer run. The one constant in Saved By The Bell wasMr.Belding, the goofy principal from the early years right thru the agony ofThe New Class.
#4.Coach Lubbock (Just The Ten of Us)
Coach Lubbock got his start on Growing Pains. Even though hewas a “coach”, he seemed to also be the designated substitute teacher as hefilled in for an English class and even directed the school play among otherthings. The coach was a regular guy who seemed to care about his students. Hewas the one teacher who got through to Mike, which is why when he heard Coachwas being fired; he staged a sit in to keep him there. Of course he was firedand spun right into his own show. On Just The Ten of Us he taught and struggledwith the fact that his girls were the one girls to attend the all male school. Hehad a very large family which included two very horny teenage daughters. Theshow was a bit different in that it depicted a struggling family who neverseemed to have money not to mention other issues that came up. That may havebeen one of the things that doomed the show, since it was on opposite moreclean cut sitcoms on TGIF such as Full House and Family Matters. While Just theTen of Us was ok, I watched it and even recorded it (Matthew Perry starred inone classic episode), I always preferred the coach as he was on Growing Painsbefore we learned all about his back-story. As long as we are talking aboutGrowing Pains I wanted to mention Mr.Dewitt, who started as a teacher butbecame the grumpy principal who was the sufferer of much aggravation thanks toMike and later Ben Seaver. For a second it seemed Mike might be on the way tobecoming a perfect teacher, but that never materialized as he stuck with acting(despite the fact he sucked at it).
#3.Mr.Kotter (Welcome Back, Kotter)
Yeah, like I could leave him off this list. Mr.Kotter hadthe hardest job of them all, because he was teaching kids who wereunderachievers. These were the troublemakers, the kids who most everyone elsehad given up on. Called The Sweathogs on the show, the group was made up of avery eclectic group of kids (including John Travolta as Barbarino, of course). Gabe Kaplan brought just the right amount humor to the role, although I could have done without the jokes in every teaser and tag of every episode. Ithink the cool thing about Mr.Kotter is the way he acted. He could have been seriousand strict, demanding obedience from the kids. But instead he reached out tothem. The kids respected him because he treated them like he was one of theirown but at the same time keeping the air of authority. Like the otherteachers in these shows, Kotter also got involved with the personal lives ofthe kids and some, especially Epstein, would often go to his home for dinner.When Gabe Kaplan left the show, it never recovered and was just plain bad. Myfavorite thing about this show was the great theme song, it really captured the spirit of the series and its no wonder it was released as a single and isstill considered one of the best themes in TV history. The principal was thegrumpy Mr.Woodman, who was strict but in a lovable kind of way. He didn't approve of Kotter's teaching style and even tried to get him fired. Of course it didn't work.
#2.Mr.Moore (Head of the Class)
I loved Head of the Class. I really did, it’s one show Ihonestly miss today. I am not sure why, I guess they did a great job with thecasting. Of course the main draw was Howard Hesseman as the quirky Mr.Moore.Charlie Moore was a bit of an odd duck. He was actually an actor who became apermanent substitute teacher. He had a different take on education, which wasperfect since he was teaching the advanced students, or IHP as they calledthem. He knew ways to spin a historical fact in a way which caught the genius’sby surprise. These kids were study junkies who felt they had no use forteaching because they knew everything, Mr.Moore taught them learning neverstops no matter how smart you are and to always be open to new ideas and concepts. The students respected Mr.Moore, enough togo to him when their personal lives were having problems. Mr.Moore had more hallways chats than anyoneI think, and he was so well rounded he even helped the kids perform productionsof Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, and Grease. The principal was Dr.Samuels and,like Mr.Woodman before him, did not like the quirky way Mr.Moore taught “hiskids”. But you can’t argue with results, which is what he got. When Mr.Moorewas written off the show I stopped watching, the show was horrible with BillyConnolly though not so much because Billy was awful as much as it just wasn’tthe same. Mr.Moore deserved to at least be in the final episode, alas sometimesstubborn heads rule the day and he didn’t even get a mention.
#1.Mr.Feeny (Boy Meets World)
The reason he is #1 is really simple. This character was sowell liked and so well done that I knew all about him even when I had hardlywatched a single episode of the program. Later on I did become a fan of theshow, and Mr.Feeny was the highlight of every episode. Mr.Feeny was not preachylike Mr.Moore, and kept boundaries a little better than Mr.Kotter. He was therethrough high school and lived across from Cory so he appeared in episodes thathad nothing to do with the school so it was no wonder he followed the gang tocollege. Even later years when Cory’s family started to be seen less and less,Mr.Feeny was there. This was acknowledged in the series finale which had abeautiful final scene set in that old classroom. If you have the chance to seeit then check it out, even if you’ve never seen the program I promise you’lllike it. Mr.Feeny was the best part of the show, Of course, before peoplecomment I should point out this show had another teacher. Mr.Turner was anotherteacher who Cory talked to a lot. I think originally he was meant to contrastwith Mr.Feeny’s somewhat gruff exterior. However he was finally written out ofthe show after he suffered a serious motorcycle accident, and then vanishedfrom the program. There is a lot of debate on this topic which I will not getinto, mostly because I never watched the show when he was on so have no opinionreally. The best thing about Mr.Feeny was that William Daniels also did thevoice of KITT on Knight Rider. Every time I heard him talk I couldn’t help butremember that awesome 80’s show. Anyway, Mr.Feeny was the perfect sitcomteacher. Tough exterior with a soft center. He was a teacher, father figure, attimes even best friend and will always be the most remembered part of that showfor me at least.
Lots of honorable mentions. Dorothy was a substitute teacherin The Golden Girls, Hayden Fox on Coach, Mark in Hangin’ w Mr.Cooper, Theo inlater episodes of The Cosby Show, Herman Stiles on Evening Shade, C.J. on 8 Simple Rules, Aunt Vivian was aprofessor on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early days, Sandy was a guidancecounselor on Hogan Family, Joey has a teaching license on Full House, Tony gothis degree in education in Who’s The Boss?, Ross was a professor in Friendslater seasons, Harry Stone gave night school a shot in later episodes of NightCourt, and Bill Cosby actually played a PE teacher in the old (and forgotten)The Bill Cosby Show.
So why are teachers such a popular profession in sitcoms? Ithink it comes to the obvious fact that everyone has been to school and had alot of teachers. One sitcom has a cranky teacher, we can probably relate tothat. Another sitcom has an understanding teacher; we have probably had some ofthose to. Whether they are mean or nice, we can relate to these characters andsometimes learn the lessons they teach right along with the students on theprogram.
Categories: 80's and 90's central