In real life, you’d probably love to take a class overseen by the hilarious Danny McBride or the awe-inspiring Walton Goggins. On their new show “Vice Principals,” however, their respective characters of Neal Gamby and Lee Russell would probably be the last two guys you’d want to see at a chalkboard near you. Because in all likelihood, they’d break it, burn it, drop some 4-letter words and then probably end up throwing punches at each other.
The show (which premieres Sunday, July 17 on HBO) serves as a cautionary — yet knee-slapping — take on infighting instructors who scheme and backstab in the teacher’s lounge. But it also got us thinking about the men and women who taught us so much growing up — no, not our real-life teachers, but the fictional ones on TV!
Below, our list of the educators we wish would open a real-life school. Read on for your full syllabus, but beware: There may just be a pop quiz afterwards.
Walking the halls of Bayside High School, Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins) always offered the students a warm smile, a corny joke and an endearing obliviousness to the constant shenanigans taking place under his nose. If Mr. Belding taught a class, we’re sure it would include valuable lessons on the dangers of caffeine pills, how to stuff Screech into his locker, and pointers on looking super-cool with a brick phone.
Come to think of it, in real life Haskins has spent his post-“Bell” years developing an impressive social media presence. All these years later, he’s still the coolest principal around.
For five award-worthy seasons, Bryan Cranston’s iconic character taught us all about high school chemistry — as well as other useful things like meth production, murder and moral ambiguity. Just imagine the homework assignments!
Bart Simpson’s fourth grade teacher was smart, sarcastic and typically smoking cigarettes. But as much as she projected the image of a teacher who’d given up long ago, every few appearances “The Simpsons” would be smart enough to give us a glimpse of her genuinely bonding with Bart or getting determined to help her students pass a standardized test. Retired by the show in 2013 after voice actor Marcia Wallace passed away, Mrs. Krabappel is still teaching millions of fans daily via perpetual reruns of classic “Simpsons” episodes.
The thing about the title character on “Welcome Back, Kotter” was that he himself had once been a “Sweathog” at Buchanan High. On one hand, he was a flippant, sarcastic teacher who didn’t take too many things seriously. On the other, his return to Buchanan High (aka “that same old place that you laughed about”) allowed him to connect with the students as something of a peer — and that was when he started sneaking in lessons about much more than just his endless supply of uncles. The best part about having Mr. Kotter for a teacher? If you want to skip class, all you have to do is get a note from Epstein’s mother.
First he was an NBA player. Then he became a coach, and a substitute teacher. For five seasons in the mid-Nineties, there was no problem the character (played by Mark Curry) couldn’t solve with a smile, a supportive word and some TGIF-patented punchlines. It’s no wonder that everybody was wishing they were hangin’ with Mr. Cooper.
Looking back on the iconic sitcoms of the ’80s, people rarely mention this immensely-popular classroom show that launched to high ratings and would eventually yield more than 100 episodes. For the majority of its run, the heart and soul was Howard Hessemen’s Moore, an out-of-work actor who found himself teaching the school’s most gifted children. Determined to make them see the world as more than just a collection of textbooks, Hesseman’s rebellious teacher blazed a trail that would eventually be followed to much success by Jack Black in “School of Rock.”
Arguably the most inspiring educator on this list, Mr. Feeny always had a lesson to teach — and it would only sometimes pertain to the class curriculum. For seven seasons, “Boy Meets World” and beloved character actor William Daniels painted a memorable portrait of the best kind of teacher: One who dares you, inspires you, and provides the tools for you to become the student he thinks you can be. For Cory, Shawn, Topanga and a generation of viewers, Mr. Feeny was a welcomed presence during the formative years.