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Tool in Life, Treasure on TV—We Love the Office Bully
He took your lunch money. He pulled your pants down. He said that if you ever told anyone what you saw him doing in the girls' bathroom he'd beat the crap out of you. Then he beat the crap out of you anyway. The bully. Memories of your first "Melvin" light the corners of your mind. But as recent trends are showing, the brute everyone avoids is no longer a memory, and in fact, he probably occupies the cube next to yours. Recently, The New York Times, Time, and Forbes.com all ran stories on the "office bully"—how to spot, deal with, and deflect the guy you just know is going to pants you in a meeting any day now.
Yet for as much as we hate the tool at work, we do love him in our living room…on TV, that is. Think about your office jerk. Now think about your office jerk on TV. Chances are he's a lot funnier, more lovable, and somehow, he's now gone from the person you most despise to your absolute favorite person. That's the magic of television, where the office a-holes are classic characters and the everyday people are merely fuel for his fire. Here are five classic crudes from the last twenty years that we love to love then hate then love again, even if it's only because at some point we saw a different side of them.
Bill McNeal – NewsRadio
Bill-a-licious. Bill-intensive. Bill-bastic. Bill-centric. All terms used by his co-workers to explain what their job was like with him around. From taping "Spaz" signs to Matthew's back, to his battle of wills with Catherine, to his open desire to know what Lisa looked like naked, the voice of WNYX had his own agenda and little regard for anyone who stood in its way. But there wasn't a dry eye in America for the episode titled "Bill Moves On," which dealt with Bill's death, and revealed that his co-workers saw beyond the bully and loved him just as much as we did—if not more.
Bob "Bulldog" Briscoe – Frasier
"This stinks! This is total BS! This...oh, here it is. Nevermind." KACL's ass slapping, crotch grabbing, gum chewing, lady sniffing, bullhorn honking, sports show hosting ball of shivering chihuahua energy was the anti-Niles/Frasier and gave Roz her match in male form, whether she liked it or not. Bulldog may have slipped Roz the low soft one several times, but his admittance of his love for her was no joke, even if she let him down by pretending it was. And we saw no bully in that moment. Only a guy stripped down to his naked core.
He looked like a wilderness creature. He acted like one too. Louie DePalma was Sunshine Cab Company’s dispatcher from the Ninth Circle with little regard for anything beyond himself. Sans morals, guile, friends, or self respect he acted something like crazy glue for the very different personalities at the company—a gallery receptionist, an actor, a boxer, a stoned reverend, a wide-eyed foreign mechanic, and a plain cab driver—as they were all united in disdain for him. Yet regardless of the fact that he looked and acted like something that crawled out from the bottom of a compost heap, Louie managed to find a girlfriend in the serene yet no nonsense Zena. But our reaction was his reaction when Zena professed to him how she made him feel, and when she actually said, “You touch me,” there really was no response more fitting than simply “Holy crap.”
Dan Fielding – Night Court
His suits were expensive. His hair was poofy. His libido was always switched to "on." And his compassion for humankind was usually switched to "what's in it for me." Dan was a character for the 80s, the ADA who was the embodiment of greed and slick-yet-sleazy MOs. He had little use for women beyond one night and little patience for the people who occupied the same courtroom he did. But when it all caught up with him and he broke down and publicly admitted to stealing from "The Phil Foundation" we all had a feeling in three parts—one part sympathy, one part vindication, and one part relief that the thing that made the 80s ugly was surely becoming a thing of the past.
Please, he went to Cornell. Ever heard of it? Andrew Bernard, Regional Director in Charge of Sales and number 3 (or 4) at Dunder Mifflin is the classic Type A asshole's asshole who never breaks off a handshake and went through anger management to get a hold of his “grumpies.” He's the guy you don't even love to hate, you really only hate him out of pure necessity. But when he serenaded Angela in harmony with himself we all kind of felt something, didn't we? But maybe that was just gas.
The bully hasn’t evolved. He’s been holding on to the number one spot on our asshole countdown since the beginning. He hasn’t exactly devolved either. The first office bully is likely the guy who discovered fire…then used it to set his cave-mate’s loincloth aflame and since then it’s been a steady pattern of similar intimidation tactics, whether they’ve involved fire and underwear or not. The bad news is that he is our constant, and will always be in the next cube living only to remind us of his superiority. The good news? He is our constant, and will always be there to remind us that great TV characters often don’t come from the people who are vanilla and easy to swallow. We liked Mary. We loved Murray. We couldn’t get enough of Ted. We are blatant office dwelling TVviewing masochists…and loving every minute of it.
Check out Ape Culture's comparison of Murphy Brown and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
More Ape Culture Television features.
Who are some of your favorite TV office bullies?
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