TV’s most notable authority figures never rely on badge or rank as they lay down the law. Instead, they employ moral authority, on an almost biblical level, to get folks to do the right thing.
Rural peacekeepers like Marshal Matt Dillon and Sheriff Andy Taylor attend go-to-meetin’ every Sunday, in order to pick up the life lessons they’ll promote in Dodge City or Mayberry the rest of the week. Roman Catholic doctrines of respect for life and service to others shape the leadership of Hill Street’s Capt. Frank Furillo and President Jed Bartlet, though each is always prepared to defy orthodox dogma if that’s what his conscience demands.
Less spiritually driven commanders, like captains James T. Kirk and Barney Miller, lead by the very same principles of brotherhood and tolerance held by the faithful of all stripes. And speaking of stripes, the most worldly, rascally boss of them all — Sgt. Ernest T. Bilko – only runs his bunko schemes for the joy they’ll bring to the mangy dogfaces in his platoon.
All the great TV sachems wield power for others’ benefit, rather than for personal gain or ego gratification. That’s why people followed them then, and why we continue to revere them today.
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