Lament for the Longsuffering Boss
In the 1980 film, Any Which Way You Can, Cholla, the leader of the Black Widows motorcycle gang, raises his eyes to the heavens and cries, “Why me Lord? You made other men out of clay. Mine you made out of shit.” This quote perfectly sums up the lament of the longsuffering boss, the sitcom character trope who’s cursed with an inept, incompetent, and imbecilic staff who always manage to screw things up, leaving him to defend their screwball antics to the higher-ups. As a result, he’s usually grumpy and irritable, he often shouts, and he may suffer from ulcers or high blood pressure. Here are some examples of longsuffering bosses from my favorite sitcoms.
Chief, Get Smart (Edward Platt)
The unnamed Chief from Get Smart is forced to manage the zany antics of the clumsy and clueless Agent 86 aka Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), who would completely ruin every mission if it wasn’t for his partner (and future wife), Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon). It doesn’t help that the Chief’s assistant, Larabee (Robert Karvelas), is even dumber than Smart. As a result, the Chief can often be seen shaking his head with a bewildered expression or chugging buttermilk to calm his ulcer.
Captain Trunk, Sledge Hammer! (Harrison Page)
Poor Captain Trunk can’t keep his marriage together or his blood pressure under control because of the destructive cyclone of stupidity that is Sledge Hammer (David Rasche), a Dirty Harry wannabe who fires his gun at the drop of a hat and uses excessive force with every suspect. Sledge’s incessant aggravation frequently prompts Captain Trunk to scream, “Hammer!!”
Captain Block, Car 54 Where Are You? (Paul Reed)
Captain Block of the 53rd Precinct has to deal with not one but two goofballs: Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross) and Frances Muldoon (Fred Gwynne), who are constantly getting themselves in trouble and making the precinct look bad to the commissioner. Even when they occasionally get things right, the captain’s (usually correct) assumptions that they messed up again end up making him look bad. Toody and Muldoon’s antics are so bizarre that they often leave the captain totally speechless.
Bill, Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place (Julius Carry)
In season one of Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place, Bill is the owner of Beacon Street Pizza, where he has to put up with slackers Pete (Richard Ruccolo) and Berg (Ryan Reynolds), who constantly skip work for flimsy reasons, like watching a TV show, going to a basketball game, or having a party. When they actually show up, they spend most of their time chatting with the customers, like Sharon (Traylor Howard) and Mr. Bauer (David Ogden Stiers). Bill can regularly be heard begging Pete and Berg to do some work so he can afford to feed his family. After season one, Bill mysteriously disappears. I assume he left for his health.
Mr. Bracken, Herman’s Head (Jason Bernard)
Mr. Bracken, the head of the Research department at Waterton Publishing, is a stickler for order and organization. He tries to keep his department ship-shape, but his employees always have other things on their minds. Herman (William Ragsdale) would rather be a writer than a fact-checker, Heddy (Jane Sibbett) is only working to pay her rent until she can marry a rich man, and Louise (Yeardley Smith) is more interested in cracking jokes. In season one, the stress of his job even causes Mr. Bracken to have a heart attack, but of course he handles it in a calm and orderly fashion.