Our Favorite 25 TV Bosses (And What We Learn From Them)

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If you think your boss is tough, wait ’till you see these guys! The scripted, non-reality TV show might be a dying breed, but shows past and present provide us with many memorable bosses and leaders. Following are some of the most unforgettable TV bosses, along with what made them so great (or not so great). Not all of them are role models, in fact many of them are good examples because they tell us precisely what not to do.

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1) Mr. Montgomery Burns

The quintessential “evil capitalist” boss, Mr. Burns is best known for pursuing money at the expensive of safety, public opinion, and the well-being of his employees. As Springfield’s richest citizen (Forbes estimated his net worth at $16.8 billion during one episode), Mr. Burns runs the town power plant with an iron fist and embodies many corporate America stereotypes, such as forgetting the names of employees, surrounding himself with sycophants (Smithers) and stopping at nothing to increase his own net worth.

2) Tony Soprano

As the boss of the DiMeo crime family, Tony Soprano cannot be as open about his wealth-creating pedigree as Mr. Burns. However, by operating under the guise of a waste management consultant, Soprano manages to carry out all the functions befitting of an organized crime ring: murdering malcontents, covering up his misdeeds, and collecting the handsome fees his line of work entitles him to. He even manages to score a little cash from sporting bets on the side.

3) Captain Kirk

Played by the legendary William Shatner, Captain Kirk is the head honcho of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek. While his time at the helm wasn’t always smooth (some turbulence is to be expected when you’re commandeering a ship through the vast reaches of space), Kirk could always be counted on as an innovative and quick-thinking leader. These qualities helped him in becoming the youngest Starfleet captain at 34 years old, as well as the first captain to bring his starship back with minimal damage following a five year mission.

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4) William Adama

From bars to battleships, William Adama earned his stripes as Commanding Officer of the Battlestar Galactica. His job responsibilities were a bit different than the average middle manager, encompassing such tasks as evading enemy fire, testing military dispositions, and going on covert, illegal surveillance missions. Make no mistake, though: the specter of constant battle and warfare made Adama a hardened and focused leader indeed!

5) Michael Scott

Michael Scott’s job as regional manager of the Dunder Mifflin paper distribution company is a bit less intense than commanding the Battlestar Galactica, but “The Office” wouldn’t be the same without him. Scott is the archetypal “social outcast” boss, woefully lacking in people skills yet still managing to hold a high opinion of himself. It is not uncommon to see Scott pouting with his head in his hands during one scene and acting like the king of the castle the next. He is also somewhat of an “office clown” who finds his jokes either miss the mark or wind up hurting the person they were aimed at. All in all, though, his employees don’t seem to mind working for him.

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  • Jim McDish

    yeah Baby! Tony Soprano! He is Da Man yo! Sopranos ROCKS!


  • Some other great TV bosses are Mark Cuban (in The Benefactor) and Richard Branson (in The Rebel Billionaire)

  • Ian

    Looks like another example of “only America matters” because there is no mention of Alan Sugar, he’s a computing pioneer and the boss in The Apprentice in the UK – that is the show which, like Big Brother, started in the UK and was copied by America.

  • Chris

    No Louie Depalma?

  • JR

    Uh, hate to break it to you, but both The Apprentice and Big Brother aired in America before they aired in the UK. The first version of The Apprentice anywhere in the world was with Trump in the USA, and the US version of Big Brother debuted a couple weeks earlier than the UK one. Look it up.

  • Eric

    Weak. Jimmy James is easily top 5.

  • sim

    Can’t Believe that You missed Dr. House

  • Sage

    No House? Dr. House is the ultimate bad / great boss

  • What, no Larry Tate? I’m going to have to report this oversight to McMann, Tate, & Stephens. ;-) (By now Darrin’s got to be on the nameplate, right?)

  • Shawn

    What about Jimmy James from News Radio, he ran for president to pick up chicks

  • trevor Belley

    no malcolm reynolds? what the crap?

  • Ian loves the cock

    Ian quit your whining. It clearly states that these are bosses off of shows which aren’t reality based.(The scripted, non-reality TV show might be a dying breed)

  • Jose Habib

    No Peterman, Pitt, or Steinbrenner?

  • Reidy

    I’m surprised they didn’t include Dr. Gregory House. He would be an amazing boss to work under…annoying…but great.

  • Ian

    Looks like Americans are full of themselves as usual. Big Brother is owned by Endemol, a european company based in the Netherlands, not America. Being American, I doubt you even know where the Netherlands is without looking it up. Don’t believe me? Look it up at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Brother_(TV_series)

  • Steve

    Lou Grant from the Mary Tyler Moore show and his own show deserves to be on this list, as does Col. Potter and Maclean Stevenson’s colonel from MASH ( i forget his colonl’s name). Oh, and I’d include Capt. Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly too since you have science fiction bosses here. His crew was more like a fmaily than employees but they all saw him as the boss. And yeah, what about Louie Depalma from Taxi! You all need to rethink this here list.

  • Gray McAdam

    I have to say that this is a pretty weak list. Out of the 25 listed, 2 are from shows that premiered prior to 1980, and Star Trek is the single example of a show that premiered before 1970!! This seems to be a major case of creating a list not based on the favourite TV Bosses of ALL TIME, but rather, favourite TV bosses from shows that are currently running new episodes or can be caught on re-runs nearly every hour somewhere in the country. (save for “Who’s the Boss” which I can only assume was at least partly included do to the fact that “Hey! The title of the show works as a joke relating to the list and therefore should be included!”) No way should Professor Farnsworth be here before someone like The Flinstone’s Mr. Slate. I like the inclusion of Buck Strickland, but why are Jack Shepherd, Philip Banks and Ari Gold on here?? They aren’t really the “bosses” of anything…rather, what I mean is that there fairly loose definitions of what a boss is and that many other deserving TV High Horses should have filled those list positions.

    Off the top of my head, the list should have included:

    Louie De Palma from TAXI
    Lou Grant from THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (Shocked this isn’t on here)
    George Steinbrenner from SEINFELD
    President Bartlett from THE WEST WING (Again, shocked)
    Mayor Randall Winston from SPIN CITY
    Lorne Michaels from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (if Simon Cowell is included, then Lorne Michaels should be no question)
    Col. Potter from M*A*S*H
    Mr. Slate from THE FLINTSONES/Mr. Spacely from THE JETSONS
    and just for pure personal enjoyment
    Danny Tripp and Matt Albee from STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP

  • Grae

    No Jed Bartlet from The West Wing?

  • Mark

    Hello! Lou Grant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • CppThis

    Something worth pointing out, McCoy is definitely a good boss but the series alludes to him having a history of sexual relations with some of his female employees/colleagues. Whether it was an abuse of authority or he’s just an irresistable silver stud is never really addressed.

  • Karim

    What about Paul McCrane as Dr. Robert ‘Rocket’ Romano of ER, far superior to the black lady on Grey’s Anatomy. Ricky Tomlinson, of Cracker.

  • Randy

    You missed “The Big Guy,” Mr. Arthur Carlson for WKRP in Cincinatti! Who would have wanted him as the boss.

  • Jan

    Jan Levinson, Michael’s former boss from the office, should be included, along with CEO of Dunder Mifflin David Wallace.

  • RodTramonte

    I just can´t accept that Mr. Spacely and Mr. Krabs are not present in the list :-(

  • Jeff Kabzinski

    I Agree!!! Jimmy James from Newsradio should have been in the top 5. He was the BEST!!!

  • No david brent? you had michael scott, but no effing david brent?!

  • steve

    3 words: Super Nintendo Chalmers

  • andrewho

    Um isn’t Ari an agent and thus an employee and not a boss? He works for the actor, not the other way around.

    Also Miranda Bailey is more of a supervisor than a boss, the boss is the chief of surgery she is his Lt.

    Jimmy James should be #1

  • SH

    It’s amazing Ian..apparently we’re “full of it” but the Americans didn’t even start this. You did.
    Oh and I’m not stupid. I know where the Netherlands are withOUT looking it up.

  • Slade

    No J. Peterman from Seinfeld??
    How about Michael Bluth from Arrested Development…or better yet GOB when he was named President of the Bluth Company?
    Mr. Carlson from WKRP?
    And shame on you for putting Michael Scott down with no mention of David Brent from the original and yes, BETTER version of The Office.

  • Jeff Singer

    Mr. Drysdale from the Bevely Hillbillies

  • EnglishNerd

    “While his time at the helm wasn’t always smooth (some turbulence is to be expected when you’re [bold]commandeering[/bold] a ship through the vast reaches of space), Kirk could always be counted on as an innovative and quick-thinking leader.”

    Try using a dictionary. That is not the correct word for what you’re trying to say.

    Otherwise, a well thought-out list.

  • Gil

    Where’s Gil Grissom?

  • CC

    I can’t help myself, I gotta pick this nit: Captain Kirk COMMANDED the Enterprise, he didn’t COMMANDEER it. To commandeer something means to take control of it by force [like when the PI takes a citizen’s car to chase the bad guy]

  • Rob Tomlin

    There’s so many holes in this list you should just scrap it and start all over. Here’s some that should’ve made the list; Mr. Grant from “Mary Tyler Moore” should’ve been number one. Also how about Alan Brady from “Dick Van Dyke Show,” Andy Taylor from “Andy Griffith Show,” Mr. Drysdale from “Beverly Hillbillies,” Dr. Bellows from “I Dream of Jeanie,” JR Ewing from “Dallas,” Louie DePalma from “Taxi,” Jack Albertson from “Chico and the Man,” and Perry White from “Superman.”

  • moonknight

    Pretty weak list. I like about ten of the choices, maybe (although it is great to see Burns at number one)
    But what about Miles from MURPHY BROWN!!?!? I mean, come on, there was a tv boss – he should be in the top five. And Stan, head of the network should probably be somewhere here as well.
    I disagree with comment that states Farnsworth shouldn’t be here if Slate and Spacely arent’ true, they came first but they were incredible one-dimensional characters.
    And i totally agree that Jimmy from NewsRadio should be here too. Top ten at least.

  • Jack

    What about Roger Sterling from “Mad Men”? He’s the man.

  • wtf

    This is the stupidest list yet. Tyra Banks??? A better title would be “25 Random People From Television.” Jimmy James lives…at least in this post.

  • Eh.

    I throw up my hands in despair at such a limited list! Television has been around for a lot longer than the last 15 years!

    Barney Miller
    Mr. Drysdale (Beverly Hillbillies)
    Mel Cooley (The Dick Van Dyke Show)
    Captain Frank Furrilo (Hill Street Blues)
    Mel (from Mel’s Diner in Alice)
    Jonathon “Oh, My God” Higgins (Magnum PI)
    Jim Phelps (Mission Impossible)
    Sgt. Bilko

    I would’ve added Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson, and both Col. Henry Potter AND Lt. Col. Henry Blake, as well as Lou Grant (same character – TWO shows), but others have already done so.

  • Dutch

    What about Louie DePalma from Taxi.

  • D

    where is Greg House? Denny Crane? and Michael Bluth?

  • Splinky

    I agree, Ian. It’s revolting that the Americans focused on American programming. I mean, it’s almost as though the guys who live in America mostly watch American TV. Really, they should TiVo everything on BBC America and be forced to watch it and comment on it as often as possible just so that you can feel included.

    It’s not a slam on foreign programming, but there are A LOT of American TV shows and, frankly, most people just don’t watch foreign shows. Personally, I’m a fan of several British shows, but don’t start piling on the “Oh, only America matters” horse-$#!+ just because the guy who wrote the article is only familiar with the, literally, hundreds of TV shows that come out of the USA.

  • Lauren

    Where’s Nathan Fillion on this list? I’d follow Malcolm Reynolds anywhere.

  • Kronner

    This list is terrible. Where is Ed Asner? And why is Jack Shepard on here. Poorly constructed.

  • Me

    First person in my mind was Lou Grant.

  • Fran

    What about Dr. Lisa Cuddy from House MD?

  • graham

    When I saw the topic of this list, Lou Grant came immediately to mind as the best boss ever on TV. I am only 32, so I was only 2 when The Mary Tyler More Show went off the air, but thanks to Nick at Nite I know this is easily the most obvious omission.

  • Steve

    What a crap list. Far too many on the list aren’t bosses at all or are on the list for being leaders in a general sense. Angela from Who’s the Boss? Really? She was shown in her work environment maybe once in the entire run of the show. Why not take out the ten or so non-bosses and call it a list of 15 favorite bosses?

  • thischarmingman


  • Jack

    What about Jack Gallo from Just Shoot Me?

  • thoma wilker

    Where is Mr. Grant.

  • Howie

    Not to be too nitpicky but Jack McCoy isn’t the executive assistant DA anymore. He’s the DA now.

  • eb

    I’d include Adam Schiff from “Law & Order” – he was the boss for most of the series. I also like Samson from “Carnivàle”.

  • nicknack

    I was always partial to Craig Ferguson’s Mr. Wick from The Drew Carey Show.

  • Jason

    David Brent is the biggest omission, IMHO.

  • Skinner is certainly one of the bests bosses.
    Thanks for the incusion

  • Cameron

    This boss list is pretty terrible. Just looking at the bosses from one channel (HBO) should knock most of the people off this list.

    Carnivale: Management, Samson and Brother Justin
    Deadwood: Swearengen, Cy Tolliver, Mr. Wu
    The Wire: Avon Barksdale, Omar, Prop Joe, Marlow

  • Irving 143

    Mr. Mooney on “The Lucy Show” – Blustered about like the proverbial Alpha male, but was no match for Alpha-Plus female Lucy Carmichael.
    Barnabas Collins on “Dark Shadows” – Loutish handyman Willie Loomis wound up in the employ of a vampire. Talk about a boss who could really put the bite on you! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
    Ironsides on “Ironsides” – Though restricted to a wheelchair, ex-cop Ironsides cracked the whip better than Captain Bligh over a picked team of operatives.
    Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” – could there ever be a more understanding boss that Sheriff Taylor in dealing with a deputy like Barney Fife?

  • Confused Citizen

    No favorite bosses list is complete without Moonlighting’s Maddie Hayes.

  • Charles Held

    Yet another meaningless list hopelessly slanted towards the past 20 years.

    Where’s Lt. Castillo (Miami Vice)? Lou Grant (Mary Tyler Moore AND his own show)? Louie DePalma (Taxi)? Skinner appeared in fewer than half the episodes of The X-Files, fercryinoutloud!

    Guess that’s what you get when the only writers you can afford to hire were born after Michael Jordan turned pro.

  • im surprised louie depalma wasnt put on there from taxi.

  • Ian is a wanker

    Looks like ‘Ian’ has what Freud would call ‘America Envy’.

    Poor chap.
    Must suck to be him.