Ask you to name a memorable TV teacher and you can probably rattle off two or three right off the bat, right? Now what if you were asked to name the Principal of the schools where those TV teachers instructed class? It might take you a few more minutes, but probably you could come up with some of those names. Principals on TV shows don’t get nearly the respect that teachers do. Which is only as it should be in real life, in my experience.
The Stu Erwin Show
The real place in TV history occupied by “The Stu Erwin Show” is as one of the first really successful sitcoms to portray the father as something of a bungler. The clueless dad would quickly become one of the most omnipresent stereotypes in TV history, but Stu Erwin, playing a character named Stu Erwin, was there first. Even if he hadn’t been, “The Stu Erwin Show” would have made history by having its bumbling father be one of the most authoritative and respected figures in the community: the Principal at Hamilton High School.
Our Miss Brooks
In contrast to the bumbling Principal of Erwin would also eventually become something of a stereotype, “Our Miss Brooks” forwarded to TV land the portrait of a Principal that probably rang a bit truer to viewers. Osgood P. Conklin was played by the same cranky actor who played Mr. Mooney, the banker who was weekly given fits by the antics of Lucy. In “Our Miss Brooks” Principal Conklin was equally devoid of a sense of humor and was the target of ongoing wisecracking attacks by the teacher of the title.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” presents a cautionary tale for all high school Principals who go too far in their delusions of grandeur and power and authority. Principal Snyder is in over his head and doesn’t really seem to get it. And that’s even before we add in the fact that he’s Principal of a school sitting over a Hellmouth from evil escapes on a regular basis. But such is Snyder’s pathetic clinging to absolute ideals of authority and the compulsive need to try to impose order on a world clearly made without it that Snyder’s final act is to actually use his Principal’s voice on the town’s Mayor who has just turned into a gigantic serpent of powerful evil.
Principal Skinner is not far removed from Principal Snyder. He, too, wishes to impose authority and order on the world and he, too, finds this desire stymied at every turn. Of course, the reality is that Principal Seymour Skinner isn’t really Seymour Skinner at all, but that fact changes nothing.