Paramount; Fox

Cheers Faces New Girl In The Battle Of The Best TV Bar Bosses

Sam Malone and Nick Miller battle it out to see who wins the 'World's Best Boss' coffee mug.

I like bars -- all kinds of bars. Dives that still let you smoke; holes-in-the-wall that serve bottled beer of a questionable vintage; sports bars that have specialized ice collars that are worth more than the cheap pitcher of beer they go in; English pubs; Irish pubs; hotel bars that use fancy glasses to justify charging $20 for a gin and tonic; Scottish pubs. I love them all.

What I definitely know I would not love is working at a bar. I've had a few friends over the years who worked at or owned bars, and none of them considered it anything more than an occasionally interesting but mostly annoying temporary stop on the career ladder. And I should know, because I spent hours watching them deal with drunken customers and tip-swiping staff as I sat at the bar graciously accepting free or heavily discounted drinks. (What? I always tipped them big -- I'm opportunistic, not ungrateful.)

That's not to say I haven't wondered from time to time what it might be like to work at a bar. Not a real bar! That would be hell. I mean bars on TV. TV bars are fun places with interesting people! Wouldn't it be great to work at the King Kamehameha Club beach bar on Magnum P.I.? Or MacLaren's Pub from How I Met Your Mother? Or, heaven forbid -- The Regal Beagle?

The experience of working at a great TV bar, though, comes down not so much to where you work but whom you work for. As with most jobs, a boss can make your job a daily slice of heaven or a living hell on earth. Get the right one and you're pulling quality shifts on major drinking days. Get the wrong one and you're pouring cheap shots for two smelly old drunks and a desperate recent divorcée on Thanksgiving morning.

After conducting a highly random and completely unscientific survey of TV bar bosses I would like to work for, I've narrowed down the choices to two -- Sam Malone from the classic Cheers, and Nick Miller from the slightly less venerated New Girl. So let's take a quick trip to where everybody knows your name -- or least how crappy a tipper you really are -- and size up how well these two potential bosses meet my basic employee needs.

Which will be the absentee boss I've always wanted?

Most of us just want to do our jobs and be left alone. The last thing we need is some micromanager staring over our shoulders, double-checking our pours and asking us to pull a double on Mother's Day. In fact, the less the boss is around, the better. Sam Malone was always at work. Always. (Which, since he was a recovering alcoholic, never made much sense to me.) It didn't matter what time of day it was: there he was, behind the bar, pulling beers, sipping coffee and cracking wise. Anytime a boss is around that much, tensions are going to increase, stresses will be created, tempers will flare. Which could, possibly, lead to slap fights and nose-pulling. And then you lose your job.

Paramount

Paramount

Nick, on the other hand, seems to go to work, at best, occasionally. He's at the bar so infrequently that we don't know the name of the bar, and probably nobody else knows it either. Regardless: Nick seems to like it that way. Having an absentee boss might not be the best for the long-term health of a business, but it certainly makes the employees happy, including me.

Winner: New Girl's Nick Miller.

Which boss minimizes the potential for an inappropriate sexual relationship?

Sleeping with your boss is never a good idea. Really -- N.E.V.E.R. Please, just don't do it. If you are doing it right now, stop. Go find a decent person who can't ruin your career. If you think it's occasionally difficult avoiding these hook-ups at a regular, boring, cubicle-filled office, it's damn near impossible when you work at a bar. It's science: the possibility of inappropriate workplace relationships only goes up when you add alcohol to the mix. Remember that random hook-up in the copy room at last year's office Christmas party? Well, guess what? Working at a bar is just one long version of that party. If I want to have any chance at keeping my commute to work from turning into a daily walk of shame, I need a boss who lacks social grace, charm, a decent fashion sense, and maturity. I think the winner here is obvious. Even if both of us weren't straight, do you think I want to sleep with this guy?

Fox

Fox

I don't. Lotharios make bad bosses.

Winner: Nick.

Which boss would overlook my pouring the "occasional" free drink for a friend?

Getting free drinks is one of the perks of being a regular at a bar. Get friendly with your bartender, drop a few Hamiltons in the tip jar from time to time, and your efforts are usually rewarded. As far as I can tell, Sam Malone seemed fine with this practice. In fact, he appears generally uninterested in making his regulars pay for drinks at all. Think about how much beer Norm and Cliff consumed.

Paramount

Paramount

Gallons a week, at least. You think they could afford that enormous tab on what they made as a postal worker and self-employed accountant/housepainter? No sir. Sam was definitely sliding more than few mugs down the bar to Norm free-of-charge. And I'm sure Carla was doing the same -- as long as you were nice with her tips. Seriously -- don't mess with Carla.

Winner: Cheers's Sam Malone.

Who is best at hiring tolerable co-workers?

I may be a rock, but I ain't no Appletini-mixing island. I'm going to have co-workers, and they need to be good ones -- jovial, flexible, interesting in a non-creepy way, willing to give me a ride home after I've accepted one too many shots from drunk customers. Possibly the next most important trait for a good boss besides not being a dick himself is not hiring dicks. Sam was less than stellar in this department. Diane? Seriously? I work in academia. I've had more than my fair share of run-ins with pretentious, vocabulary-addicted, know-it-all jerks. They are not fun people. Coach was fun, but only because I didn't have to work with the man. Creeping dementia is not a trait you want in a co-worker. Carla, while she had your back if some drunk tried to take a swing at you after getting cut off, was also probably swiping your tips when you weren't looking.

Nick, on the other hand, hired CeCe.

Winner: Nick.

Which boss would minimize the likelihood of inappropriate drunken shenanigans?

Serving alcohol to people for several hours straight creates the potential for some unexpected wackiness. This can be fun, like the time my friend Vince and I played tag -- yes, grown men play tag -- at 2 in the morning outside another friend's bar. (He won, BTW, because he is built like an Asian gymnast and I more closely resemble a heavyweight Russian wrestler.) This can also be bad -- like the time I had to stop playing drums in the middle of a song when some drunk biker starting beating up the lead singer because he didn't like our version of Dust In The Wind. I want my job to be fun -- not dangerous and annoyingly unpredictable. Nick's bar always seems one bachelorette party away from potential chaos. Plus, it's possible they are real close to moving True American from the apartment to the bar as some weird Monday night promo to boost business. And it won't be pretty when they do.

Fox

Fox

Sam and his solidly staid, middle-class clientele keep their shenanigans within reasonably acceptable workplace boundaries. Which, of course, is what we all do once we have regular jobs and children.

Winner: Sam.

Verdict

Sure, Sam runs a tighter, more reasonable, profit-making ship but, then again, we are not on the high seas looking to make our fortune. We are working in a bar. Bars should be fun! And, quite frankly, if at this point in my life I find myself working at a bar, I want it to appear as little like a real job as possible, because I would have screwed up really bad to be there. And, without question, Nick Miller would win handily as the best boss for turning a crap job into a fun place to rebuild after my life took a turn for the worse. Just ask CeCe.

Winner: Nick.

Discussion

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