Sitcom bosses are often played for laughs, and much of the time that means that they’re crazy, mean, incompetent or all three. The most memorable sitcom bosses tend to be the ones that create the most chaos, although sometimes they turn around and do something nice and sensible. Here’s a look at the top 10 sitcom bosses.
1. Michael Scott, 'The Office'
Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) is probably the first person that comes to mind when you think of sitcom bosses, because The Office is built around how clueless and inconsiderate Michael is as the manager of the Dunder Mifflin paper company. Although he often has good intentions, Michael frequently makes employees uncomfortable with his jokes, brings his personal life to the office and derails business with his ludicrous ideas. Still, he makes for a strangely effective boss, because he cares so much about what happens to his employees, even if they can’t stand him.
2. Jimmy James, 'NewsRadio'
The richer a boss is, the more eccentric they’re likely to be. In the case of Jimmy James (played by Stephen Root), owner of New York City radio station WNYX on NewsRadio, his vast wealth allows him to indulge in micromanaging the goings-on at the station, even though he has a whole corporate empire to attend to. Despite his eccentricities, though, Jimmy is a friendly guy who wants to do what’s best for his employees, including helping them in their personal lives. If he overreaches, it’s just because he’s making his best effort to do what he thinks is the right thing.
3. Jack Donaghy, '30 Rock'
Although Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) projects an air of being a ruthless corporate titan, he really has a soft spot for losers like Liz Lemon. As an NBC executive on 30 Rock, Jack should have no time for Liz, the head writer of the lame, low-rated sketch-comedy series TGS With Tracy Jordan. But Jack feels the need to be a mentor, and even when his advice to Liz is completely mismatched with her personality, he’s only trying to help. Jack is merciless when it comes to most business decisions, but his weakness for helping the underdog actually keeps him from ascending to the throne he aspires to.
4. Dr. Bob Kelso, 'Scrubs'
Dr. Kelso (played by Ken Jenkins) is the kind of guy who seems friendly and fun if you meet him for only a couple of minutes, but when you get to know him turns out to be mean and demanding. As the chief of medicine on Scrubs, Dr. Kelso lords over the interns with cruelty and venom, always favoring cost-cutting measures and bureaucratic politics over what’s best for doctors or patients at Sacred Heart Hospital. It’s only after he’s forced to retire and no longer has to deal with the pressures of running the hospital that his (slightly) softer side comes out.
5. Louie De Palma, 'Taxi'
From his position of power inside the dispatcher’s office, Louie De Palma (played by Danny DeVito) bullies the drivers on Taxi, reveling in his own meanness and bad behavior. He has no scruples whatsoever, and isn’t above stealing from the company itself if the situation arises. The best that the drivers can do is try to stay out of his way and hope he doesn’t take out his wrath on them. It’s just another in a long line of indignities of life as a cab driver, something that Louie’s employees deal with every day.
6. Larry Tate, 'Bewitched'
Although Darrin Stephens is the one who works outside of the home on Bewitched, it’s clearly his witchy wife Samantha who’s in charge. That principle extends to Darrin’s workplace, the McMann & Tate advertising agency, where his boss Larry Tate (played by David White) is often the unwitting victim of one of Samantha’s spells gone awry. But that’s only because Larry is so craven and money-hungry that he sets up unrealistic expectations for Darrin to meet in order to please clients, and the only way for Darrin to hold on to his job is to ask Samantha to weave a spell. That’s not exactly an effective managerial style.
7. Artie, 'The Larry Sanders Show'
Although Artie (played by Rip Torn) may technically work for Larry Sanders, host of the late-night talk show within the show on The Larry Sanders Show, he really runs things himself, since Larry’s so insecure and neurotic. A veteran of both the Marines and the early days of television, Artie is happy to use manipulation and blackmail if necessary to get what he wants from agents, managers and network executives, and he isn’t afraid to show his distaste for people like Larry’s ex-wife. He’s also canny enough to hide his dislike for people when it serves his interests or the interests of the show, the mark of a truly devious operator.
8. J. Peterman, 'Seinfeld'
As far as rich, crazy bosses go, Seinfeld’s J. Peterman (played by John O’Hurley) is mostly harmless. He’s more of a pontificator than anything else, carrying on at length about the various exotic adventures he has, which he channels into listings for the outdoor items in his eponymous catalog. Poor Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is often at his mercy, and she has to channel his ramblings into coherent writing for the catalog, but he’s so thoroughly immersed in his own world that it’s just as easy for his employees to get something out of him as it is for him to exploit them.
9. Sam Malone, 'Cheers'
Sam Malone (played by Ted Danson) is the boss everyone wishes they could have: A former professional baseball player, Sam buys the eponymous bar on Cheers because he likes bartending and he likes talking to people, and he treats the place more like a hang-out than a business. He leaves the bookkeeping to his managers (first Shelley Long’s Diane, then Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca), while he pours out beers, chats with patrons and hits on all the good-looking ladies who show up for a drink. Who wouldn’t want to work for that guy?
As someone who does actual work, Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) on Parks and Recreation is kind of a failure. Although he’s the head of the Parks Department in Pawnee, Indiana, Ron is a staunch libertarian who believes that government should be reduced or eliminated, and thus he uses his position to advocate for doing as little as possible. But even though he’s stubborn and ineffectual, he also knows when to step aside and let go-getter employees like Leslie Knope do what he’s unwilling to do, and help people in the process -- all while he sits back and eats a hamburger.