Whether it’s marital problems, flunking out of school, or even being afraid of a simple trip to the dentist, television always gave us great Sages to guide our characters through the tough times. The age of the TV mentor is nearly dead, as today’s television advice givers are seriously flawed individuals. Look at Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation (Nick Offerman), or Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) on 30 Rock. While they are mentors for the protagonist, they aren’t exactly the perfect human beings. The days of Mike Brady are long gone. But let’s look back at a time when television did give us those flawless human beings: My Top 5 Favorite Television Mentors…
5) Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) – Growing Pains:
-Well, the man was a psychiatrist, so obviously he’s going to be able to dish out some good advice. While I have him #5 on the list, he kind of failed more often than not. Let’s be honest – his only challenge was his slacker son Mike (Kirk Cameron). How successful really was Jason with Mike overall? He barely graduated, and he remained lazy for much of his time at Alf Landon Junior College. Eventually, he got it together, but it was a long battle for Jason Seaver. In the end, Jason deserves a spot on this list because Mike was a tough adversary. But I think the real evidence of his wise teachings came later in the series when Mike mentored troubled homeless teen Luke, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The student becomes the Master. Well done, Jason.
Go to Method of Advice Giving: Jason often took the ‘you have so much potential’ approach with Mike.
Vintage Jason Moment: In the sixth season premiere, ‘Mike’s Choice,’ him and Jason have an epic showdown, where Mike is threatening to drop out of college and move to New York to become a star on Broadway. Jason really goes all out here, but the result is Mike’s room being completely emptied out the next morning. Even though Jason failed, Mike eventually returns, and their bond is stronger than ever.
4) Master Splinter (Peter Renaday, voice) – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Original Series):
-You can’t have a Television Mentor list without Master Splinter. When the ooze affected both him and the Turtles, Splinter knew there was a deeper purpose for why this happened. Once known as the great Ninja Master Hamato Yoshi, Splinter teaches the four turtles martial arts, and the rest is history. Splinter was always one for wise advice, but when it came to training the turtles, that’s where he really shined. Oh, and Splinter was not averse to kicking some ass himself.
Go to Method of Advice Giving: Meditation was Splinter’s forte, as well as constantly trying to get the Turtles to eat sushi rather than pizza. He failed on that one.
Vintage Splinter Moment: In the final episode, ‘Divide and Conquer,’ the Turtles have finally defeated the evil Lord Dregg. At the end of the episode, Splinter tells his sons he is no longer their sensei, as they are now equals. Wow…that’s some heavy stuff. I probably would have held Michelangelo (Townsend Coleman, voice) back though.
3) Wilson Wilson, Jr. (Earl Hindman) – Home Improvement:
-First of all, his name is Wilson Wilson…let’s reflect on that for a moment. Out of everyone on this list,Wilson was probably counted on the most to give advice. Seriously, if Tim (Tim Allen) wasn’t next door neighbors with this guy, he’d probably be divorced. No doubt about it. But it wasn’t just Tim who relied on the eccentric weird-o. Jill (Patricia Richardson) also used him from time to time, and sometimes even the Taylor boys would drop by the famous fence. I think Al (Richard Karn) even sought his advice later in the series. But whether he was testing his maracas, or squeezing his apples late at night, it was never a bother for good ole Wilson. And the fact that you never see his face just adds to the mystic…
Go to Method of Advice Giving: Very obscure philosophical references.
Vintage Wilson Moment: I can’t really pinpoint to one, they all kind of ran together. There are a few episodes where we see the inside of his house, and that really sums up the character.
2) Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) – Full House:
-I think Danny had the benefit of being aided by really cheesy and sappy music. This really elevated his legendary speeches. Danny Tanner was a simple man. He loved his family, wanted his house clean, and always appreciated a good hug. Proof that he’s a wise sage is when the mom of Stephanie’s (Jodie Sweetin) friend asks him, ‘Do you always sound like a fortune cookie?’ Yup, that’s Danny Tanner. Whether he’s giving his three daughters advice, Jesse (John Stamos), Joey (Dave Coulier), or even a total stranger, Danny didn’t mess around. He wanted to solve any problem that came his way.
Go to Method of Advice Giving: He’s all about the long speeches that never end.
Vintage Danny Moment: Honestly, it’s the very first episode titled ‘Our Very First Show.’ This was really his first big test. DJ (Candace Cameron) wants to move down to the basement because she doesn’t want to live with Stephanie. But Danny senses there are bigger issues at foot. This is Danny’s first big speech about family togetherness…now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to grab a box of tissues. I’m getting a little misty eyed.
1) George Feeny (William Daniels) – Boy Meets World:
-It’s not even close. The guy has his own call (The Feeny Call) for crying out loud! Feeney was more than just a teacher: He was a living breathing Master. Plus, this guy by far had the biggest challenge. He had to deal with Cory (Ben Savage) whining about his girlfriend all the time, Shawn (Rider Strong), who was just a complete mess, and then Cory’s brother, Eric (Will Friedle), a total crazy person. Feeny strongly believed in the teacher/student bond, and in the last episode where he sends off all the main characters with one final speech, he is vindicated. If everyone had a George Feeny telling them what to do, we’d all be kicking ass at life.
Go to Method of Advice Giving: He’s really a combination of all the previous methods. Everything is in his repute.
Vintage Feeny Moment: In the Season 4 episode, ‘Quiz Show,’ Cory, Shawn, and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) keep winning on a game show by answering useless pop-culture questions. When their arrogance gets them in trouble in class while Feeny tries to teach them about Gutenberg and the printing press, Feeny goes on a glorious rant about their generation, and how they all use such great technology for useless information. It was epic.
Well, there you have it. My favorite TV Mentors. As the great Feeny once said, ‘Class dismissed.’