The last couple months I talked a lot about how mothers and fathers are portrayed on sitcoms. But what about the professionals who work every day? Some characters on sitcoms are there to do a job, much like the example I will be discussing today. Ralph Kramden was a bus driver, Rob Petrie was a writer, Cliff Huxtable was an OBGYN, Jason Seaver was a Psychiatrist, Roseanne worked in factories and restaurants, and even Jerry Seinfeld was a stand-up comedian. Some professions transcend the sitcoms however, and become as important 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 which brought 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 much more fun the classrooms are, I donâ€™t remember my school ever being that interesting.
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 an episode or was even a recurring character in the series. One example is Punky Brewster, who had the teacher named Mike for one season. T.K.Carter played a real nice teacher who actually cared about his students and their problems. I always 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. The Simpsons had Edna Crabapple. Dougâ€™s sister is a PE teacher on The King of Queens. Several professors came and went on A Different World, some more memorable than others. Then you have The Wonder Years which had lots of teachers. Miss.White who Kevin had a crush on, Mr.Collins who was featured in one of the series best episodes, and Coach Cutlip who I know would not have a job in todayâ€™s world.
Then there are shows where a teacher is a main member of the cast. Those are the teachers we are focusing on today. Here is my top 5, and the only rule of this list is the characters have to be a title characters not just random supporting characters.
#5.Miss Bliss (Saved By The Bell aka Good Morning, Miss Bliss)
Before it was Saved by the Bell, it was Good Morning, Miss Bliss. I know it seems kind of odd to include her, the original show only lasted a year before it was retooled as Saved by the Bell. However, Hayley Mills did a good job making a memorable character. So much that they repackaged those episodes into the Saved by the Bell syndication package. What was great about Miss Bliss? She was very honest, and would go to any length to make a point. It was nice to see a teacher treat her students like intelligent people, not dumb kids. I loved Saved By The Bell, but you canâ€™t help but wonder what things would have been like it Miss Bliss had been given a longer run. The one constant in Saved By The Bell was Mr.Belding, the goofy principal from the early years right thru the agony of The New Class.
#4.Coach Lubbock (Just The Ten of Us)
Coach Lubbock got his start on Growing Pains. Even though he was a â€œcoachâ€, he seemed to also be the designated substitute teacher as he filled in for an English class and even directed the school play among other things. The coach was a regular guy who seemed to care about his students. He was the one teacher who got through to Mike, which is why when he heard Coach was being fired; he staged a sit in to keep him there. Of course he was fired and spun right into his own show. On Just The Ten of Us he taught and struggled with the fact that his girls were the one girls to attend the all male school. He had a very large family which included two very horny teenage daughters. The show was a bit different in that it depicted a struggling family who never seemed to have money not to mention other issues that came up. That may have been one of the things that doomed the show, since it was on opposite more clean cut sitcoms on TGIF such as Full House and Family Matters. While Just the Ten of Us was ok, I watched it and even recorded it (Matthew Perry starred in one classic episode), I always preferred the coach as he was on Growing Pains before we learned all about his back-story. As long as we are talking about Growing Pains I wanted to mention Mr.Dewitt, who started as a teacher but became the grumpy principal who was the sufferer of much aggravation thanks to Mike and later Ben Seaver. For a second it seemed Mike might be on the way to becoming 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 had the hardest job of them all, because he was teaching kids who were underachievers. These were the troublemakers, the kids who most everyone else had given up on. Called The Sweathogs on the show, the group was made up of a very 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. I think the cool thing about Mr.Kotter is the way he acted. He could have been serious and strict, demanding obedience from the kids. But instead he reached out to them. The kids respected him because he treated them like he was one of their own but at the same time keeping the air of authority. Like the other teachers in these shows, Kotter also got involved with the personal lives of the 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. My favorite 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 is still considered one of the best themes in TV history. The principal was the grumpy 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, itâ€™s one show I honestly miss today. I am not sure why, I guess they did a great job with the casting. 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 a permanent substitute teacher. He had a different take on education, which was perfect since he was teaching the advanced students, or IHP as they called them. He knew ways to spin a historical fact in a way which caught the geniusâ€™s by surprise. These kids were study junkies who felt they had no use for teaching because they knew everything, Mr.Moore taught them learning never stops no matter how smart you are and to always be open to new ideas and concepts. The students respected Mr.Moore, enough to go to him when their personal lives were having problems.Â Mr.Moore had more hallways chats than anyone I think, and he was so well rounded he even helped the kids perform productions of 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 â€œhis kidsâ€. But you canâ€™t argue with results, which is what he got. When Mr.Moore was written off the show I stopped watching, the show was horrible with Billy Connolly though not so much because Billy was awful as much as it just wasnâ€™t the same. Mr.Moore deserved to at least be in the final episode, alas sometimes stubborn heads rule the day and he didnâ€™t even get a mention.
#1.Mr.Feeny (Boy Meets World)
The reason he is #1 is really simple. This character was so well liked and so well done that I knew all about him even when I had hardly watched a single episode of the program. Later on I did become a fan of the show, and Mr.Feeny was the highlight of every episode. Mr.Feeny was not preachy like Mr.Moore, and kept boundaries a little better than Mr.Kotter. He was there through high school and lived across from Cory so he appeared in episodes that had nothing to do with the school so it was no wonder he followed the gang to college. Even later years when Coryâ€™s family started to be seen less and less, Mr.Feeny was there. This was acknowledged in the series finale which had a beautiful final scene set in that old classroom. If you have the chance to see it then check it out, even if youâ€™ve never seen the program I promise youâ€™ll like it. Mr.Feeny was the best part of the show, Of course, before people comment I should point out this show had another teacher. Mr.Turner was another teacher who Cory talked to a lot. I think originally he was meant to contrast with Mr.Feenyâ€™s somewhat gruff exterior. However he was finally written out of the show after he suffered a serious motorcycle accident, and then vanished from the program. There is a lot of debate on this topic which I will not get into, mostly because I never watched the show when he was on so have no opinion really. The best thing about Mr.Feeny was that William Daniels also did the voice of KITT on Knight Rider. Every time I heard him talk I couldnâ€™t help but remember that awesome 80â€™s show. Anyway, Mr.Feeny was the perfect sitcom teacher. Tough exterior with a soft center. He was a teacher, father figure, at times even best friend and will always be the most remembered part of that show for me at least.
Lots of honorable mentions. Dorothy was a substitute teacher in The Golden Girls, Hayden Fox on Coach, Mark in Hanginâ€™ w Mr.Cooper, Theo in later episodes of The Cosby Show, Herman Stiles on Evening Shade,Â C.J. on 8 Simple Rules, Aunt Vivian was a professor on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early days, Sandy was a guidance counselor on Hogan Family, Joey has a teaching license on Full House, Tony got his degree in education in Whoâ€™s The Boss?, Ross was a professor in Friends later seasons, Harry Stone gave night school a shot in later episodes of Night Court, 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? I think it comes to the obvious fact that everyone has been to school and had a lot of teachers. One sitcom has a cranky teacher, we can probably relate to that. Another sitcom has an understanding teacher; we have probably had some of those to. Whether they are mean or nice, we can relate to these characters and sometimes learn the lessons they teach right along with the students on the program.