Best Bosses on TV: Saul Berenson vs. Jack McCoy

Or should I say…Mandy vs. Sam?

Homeland is, for my money, the best show on TV, which gives Saul a leg up on Jack before they even get out of their fictional beds in the morning. However, the sheer amount of data that we have about Jack McCoy as a boss (15 seasons of Law & Order) gives us a lot of information to work with.

But we are dealing with two strong, intelligent men who have very powerful jobs. They trade in life and death (when New York state had the death penalty, which effectively ended in 2004 according to Wikipedia). They work with strong female counterparts and subordinates. They can both drink a scotch (I only assume this is true of Saul, but it seems likely). And honestly, they both seems like really awesome bosses.

Saul Berenson is the dad or uncle you never had. He guides and protects Carrie (Clare Danes) despite her difficult and sometimes dangerous and erratic behavior. He cares for her deeply, and sympathizes with her obsessions. Their relationship is deeply emotional. They are linked not only by their shares background in intelligence, as he used to run her as an agent in the Middle East, but also by their shared sense of failure at not having stopped the September 11, 2011 attacks. I don’t get the impression that Saul feels responsible for Carrie’s mental illness, but he does take pains to keep her in line, when she cannot do so for herself. He creates boundaries when she cannot. He takes care of her when she cannot care for herself. Saul is also clearly extremely good at his job, refusing to put Carrie in danger, for instance, when he sees that a meeting has been compromised; or in his repeated attempts to navigate the CIA bureaucracy on her behalf.

Jack McCoy on the other hand has a bad habit of sleeping with (almost) all of his pretty, female ADAs. He is your office husband, and you are his work-wife (be you male or female). He loves to work until all hours, drink at the office, and he definitely slept with ADA Claire in the 90s. (Rizzoli/Isles, the one from Texas,  probably not, and another one was definitely a lesbian). You guys, he’s kind of slutty. But in a fun, rascal-y kind of way. I think that Jack has virtually no boundaries in this regard; he stays late, he sleeps with his coworkers, he yells. If you don’t take his behavior personally, working for him could be boatloads of fun. It seems like the expense accounts for EADAs are pretty sweet. They are always eating dinner at fancy restaurants when they run into opposing counsel.

In all honesty, I would rather be a CIA agent than a lawyer, so I would rather work for Saul than Jack. I like Saul’s style of mentorship, and his calm presence.

But it’s not to say that being sidekick to the floppiest haired lawyer in New York City wouldn’t be a blast.

You’re welcome, Meg. You are the best.

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