Vice Principal Neal Gamby
Co-vice principal of North Jackson High, Gamby is chief disciplinarian of the school. He has allied with his nemesis and fellow vice principal, Lee Russell, to take down new principal Dr. Belinda Brown. Gambys ultimate goal is to get the job himself.
- Adorkable: At his absolute most charming, Gamby manages to be this. He's a profoundly awkward person, and so on the occasions where he's actually being decent it actually becomes quite endearing.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: Gamby would be much harder to sympathize with if it weren't for Russell being so much worse of a person than him.
- Anti-Villain: Gamby is selfish, stupid and narrow-minded, but he also feels guilt over most of his line-crossing actions, is capable of getting along with just about anyone under the right circumstances, and genuinely cares about his job as an educator.
- The Atoner: Gamby genuinely feels remorse for his actions. As misguided as he is, he really does try to make things better (well, as much as he can) during season two. After seeing the life he doomed a drug-dealing student to by framing him and getting him expelled, Gamby relents and re-admits him.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: As the head of discipline, Gamby definitely gives you plenty of reasons to avoid a trip to his office. Lord help you if he catches you breaking the rules.
- Bad Liar: In sharp contrast to Russell, Gamby is terrible at covering for himself.
- Brains and Brawn: The brawn to Russell's brains.
- Comically Serious: Treats almost everything in his life as absolutely Serious Business, which is frequently mined for humor.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Gamby can actually hold his own in a fight.
- Compensating for Something: His obsession with becoming principal is heavily implied to be the result of his feelings of inadequacy as a man.
- Derailing Love Interests: Avoided answering any of Ms. Snodgrass' calls while hospitalized in the interim between seasons 1 and 2, causing their relationship to fizzle out.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: The closest you can get to one in a school setting. He's the 'disciplinarian' and takes every opportunity to take out his own frustrations on the students.
- Even Evil Has Standards: His actions throughout the season squarely place him as an Anti-Villain at best (or a Villain Protagonist at worst), but he is shown to feel conflict and guilt about the worst of them and does have a few lines that he ultimately won't cross.
- Fire-Forged Friends: By the end of Season 1, Gamby and Russell have become this.
- Freudian Excuse: His obsession with becoming principal is suggested to come from his feelings of inadequacy as both a man and as a father following his divorce.
- Hidden Heart of Gold: He's a controlling Jerkass who seems to get a power trip from punishing students and wants to be principal, no matter the cost. But he genuinely wants only the best for his daughter and legitimately cares about the school.
- Hypocritical Humor: He rails against cursing, despite being Sir Swears-a-Lot.
- It's All About Me: While Gamby does care about other people, he has problems thinking about them as people outside of himself. This causes him to act selfishly in both his relationships with Janelle and with Ms. Snodgrass.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In the words of Ms. Snodgrass, Gamby is very clearly a blowhard. He's petty, short-tempered, creepy, selfish and boiling over with innate prejudices. Despite this, he slowly reveals that there is a good person inside him screaming to get out. He has the courtesy to feel bad about his terrible actions, and starts to feel in over his head the moment he crosses the line from being an obnoxious moron into someone capable of genuine evil. He has school spirit, he cares deeply about the people in his life even when he doesn't always do right by them and it becomes increasingly clear that he might have grown to have a truly close working relationship with Dr. Brown if it wasn't for Lee Russell encouraging his worst tendencies. Tellingly, when Dr. Brown introduces a 'Rainbow Room' to help problem students talk through their feelings, Gamby ends up getting a lot out of it and growing as a person in the process.
- Karma Houdini: While not entirely unscathed, he ultimately gets away with performing several illegal activities, up to and including burning Dr. Brown's house down, without suffering very much punishment.
- Kavorka Man: He's an awkward and standoffish middle-aged guy who isn't particularly attractive, but he manages to enter into relationships with three attractive women. Played with, as only his relationship with Ms. Abbot is completely inexplicable, as his marriage with Gale ended in a rocky divorce and his relationship with Ms. Snodgrass is based around her gradually learning to love the softer and kinder touches of his personality.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Zigzagged at the beginning of season 2. While getting shot is definitely not a minor injury, Gamby's insistence in using a wheel chair long after he actually needed one makes it fall under this trope.
- Mistaken for Gay: Dayshawn the cafeteria worker is convinced Gamby & Russell sneak off to the woods to have sex during the day. Good luck telling him they're actually planning a coup. To be fair to Dayshawn, Gamby is sneaking off to the woods to stand near a mattress with the very camp Russell.
- Nice to the Waiter: One of the earliest signs that he's a better guy than Russell is his friendship with Dayshawn.
- No Social Skills: Gamby lacks even the most basic understanding of social graces, causing him to act like an awkward, standoffish blowhard at almost all times.
- Not So Different:
- At the end of the day, both Gamby and Russell are deeply insecure men who view their positions as the sole place in their lives where they have genuine power.
- When Brown's ex-husband Dascious comes to school to see his kids on staff-development day, Gamby spends most of the day kicking him out until he has a heart-to-heart with Brown about why they split up. He relents when he realizes he would do the same thing if his daughter Janelle was taken away from him.
- Only Friend: Becomes this over time to Russell. To a certain extent, Russell also counts as this to him.
- Pet the Dog: When he is asked to supervise a "team-building" exercise at the expense of the teachers, he decides it is enough and puts a stop to it and sends the sadistic Crossfit trainers home when a desperately pleading Seychelles is denied water. This act of kindness is instrumental in finally winning the respect of the teachers when it comes time for Russell's tyrany to end.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Downplayed more than you'd think, but Gamby is suggested to be at least moderately racist. When looking for possible culprits behind shooting him at the beginning of season 2, he only chooses black students.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The fiery red oni to Russell's simmering blue.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played with somewhat with Russell. While Gamby is a hard-edged disciplinarian, he's also much more prone to guilt than Russell is.
- Sir Swearsalot: This guy turns verbally abusing 16-year-olds into an art form.
- The Starscream: Functions as this towards Dr. Brown throughout season 1, alongside Russell.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Became a lot more reasonable and level-headed come the start of the second season.
- Tough Love: Gamby genuinely seems to think that his merciless and sometimes even cruel methods are the only way students will be able to learn discipline. His rationale for this is that the world outside the school will not pull any punches if they mess up, so neither will he.
- Unknown Rival: Hates Ray's guts for "stealing" his family from him, but Ray clearly only sees him as a good buddy.
- Villain Protagonist: Gamby isn't nearly as bad as Russell, and he has his fair share of sympathetic moments on his journey of Character Development, but he's still an extremely abrasive, selfish and entitled individual who is complicit in several horrible crimes and the show doesn't play down these traits.
Vice Principal Lee Russell
Russell works alongside Neal Gamby as one of North Jackson Highs vice principals. He takes a more two-faced approach to undermining new principal, Dr. Belinda Brown. Willing to ally with Gamby to clear the way, Russell hopes to eventually sit in the principals chair himself.
- Ambiguously Bi: He's a catty, campy fellow who favors bow ties and sashays everywhere he goes. During a shared hallucination between him and Gamby, he kisses another man. In-universe he is perceived as being in a Transparent Closet. Despite this, he does seem to genuinely love his wife.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Equal evidence is provided to support both him being The Sociopath and him simply faking being more deranged than he really is in order to intimidate others/attract attention to himself.
- Bad Boss: Becomes an absolute tyrant after being named temporary principal of North Jackson at the beginning of season 2, running it much more like a dictatorship than a school. The entire staff hates his guts.
- Based on a Great Big Lie: Russell's relationship with his wife Christine only began because he spread a lie around their college campus that her then-steady boyfriend was involved in a homosexual gangbang with a bunch of minors in order to make her leave him. When Christine finally figures this out, she has a complete breakdown and leaves Russell not long after.
- Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Russell's enormous ego masks a cripplingly insecure and emasculated man.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In Season 1. As a Vice Principal, Russell is highly popular among the teaching staff due to his witty, outgoing and thoughtful personality. It's all an act: he is contemptuous of far more than just Gamby. He's a vindictive, cruel man who's created intensive files on everyone in the school. His true colors come to light eventually. After becoming principal, he reveals himself as the egotistical tyrant he truly is and the staff quickly starts to despise him.
- Brains and Brawn: The brains to Gamby's brawn.
- The Charmer: While it doesn't take much to realize that he's a weasel, he's much better at superficially getting along with other people than Gamby is.
- Compensating for Something: Like Gamby, his obsession with becoming principal is heavily implied to be the result of his feelings of inadequacy as a man.
- Consummate Liar: While he's nowhere near as cunning as he believes himself to be, Russell is a fantastic liar. Even when he's genuinely trying to act kindly to others, he still can't help but lie his ass off.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: His specialty is sucking up to people in power only to toss them aside the second the opportunity to rise above them presents itself to him.
- Crazy-Prepared: Keeps detailed records on everyone even remotely connected to his life in the off chance that he has to blackmail them for something.
- Deuteragonist: While Gamby is given more attention by the narrative and is the significantly more sympathetic part of the duo, Russell is still one of the two Vice Principals referred to in the title.
- Disc-One Final Boss: Gamby's confrontation with him during the second to last episode really does feel like the climax of the series, but the very next episode reveals that Abbott was the person actually responsible for shooting Gamby, making her the series' final antagonist.
- Disney Death: Gets shot in the head by Ms. Abbott in the series finale, but still manages to recover from it.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Over time, he and Gamby develop a genuine kinship with each other.
- Flowery Insults: Compared to Gamby, who just swears like a sailor, Russell prefers to drop F-bombs as punctuation for these kinds of insults.
- Freudian Excuse: Somewhat. He was relentlessly bullied by his two older sisters and ignored by his father growing up, which led to him becoming obsessed with asserting his power and masculinity over others as an adult. Despite this, however, it is also revealed that his sisters bullied him primarily for his own outbursts as a child and that his father was ashamed of him being a liar, suggesting that he wasn't all that much different even when he was a kid.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Russel is at his happiest when he's being included in group hang outs with the other teachers, and becomes extremely devoted to his friendship with Gamby over time. Despite this, he himself doesn't seem to be aware that this is what he wants from life, as he focuses entirely on asserting his power over others rather than trying to befriend them.
- Jerkass: Russell is a horrible person who enjoys nothing more than kicking other people down.
- Karma Houdini: Less so than Gamby, as he loses his job, his wife and the use of one of his hands, but he still gets away with doing several horrendous things that he could have easily been arrested for. He also starts working as the regional manager of a clothing store at a mall, where he seems to be quite content with yelling at lazy teenage employees.
- Large Ham: Extremely so. Russell is obsessed with theatrics, and makes sure to do everything in as over the top and dramatic of a way as he possibly can.
- Made of Iron: During the finale, he survives getting shot in the head at point blank range and getting mauled by a tiger over the course of at most a few hours. He seems to have permanently lost the ability to move one of his hands afterwards, but considering what he went through, he's extremely lucky.
- Manipulative Bastard: Russell's M.O. is manipulating people into advancing his career while destroying their own.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The feminine boy to both of his older sisters' masculine girl.
- Non-Action Guy: Compared to Gamby, Russell is much more of a schemer than he is a do-er. During their physical confrontation near the end of the series, Gamby completely destroys him.
- Not So Different: At the end of the day, both Gamby and Russell are deeply insecure men who view their positions as the sole place in their lives where they have genuine power.
- Occidental Otaku: Seems to have an obsession with east Asian cultures, marrying a Korean woman and decorating both his house and his office with overly-ornate Asian items.
- The Paranoiac: Constantly operates under the assumption that every single person in the world will stab him in the back at the first opportunity they get if he doesn't stab them first, and keeps extensive dossiers on the entire staff and student body of North Jackson entirely for the sake of having ammunition in case he ever needs to blackmail any of them.
- Pet the Dog: Russell seems to genuinely love both his wife and, over time, Gamby. Despite this, though, both cases are regularly countered by his fundamentally terrible personality causing him to do wrong to them even when he's trying to be a good person.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The simmering blue oni to Gamby's fiery red.
- Red Herring: The audience is led to believe that he is the one who shot Gamby at the end of season 1, but it's later revealed to have been Ms. Abbott.
- The Rival: To Gamby, and later to Dr. Brown.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played with somewhat with Gamby. Russell is flamboyant and effeminate, but also has a much shakier moral compass than Gamby does.
- Small Name, Big Ego: He considers himself to be a cunning, manipulative mastermind who has the entire world eating from his palms. In reality, he's just an extremely paranoid snake.
- Smug Snake: Russell fancies himself a charming schemer, but in reality almost everyone can tell that he's a despicable snake in the grass the second they lay eyes on him.
- Southern Gentleman: Likes to present himself as this when trying to get in other peoples' good graces, when in reality he's cruel and catty.
- The Starscream: Functions as this towards Dr. Brown throughout season 1, alongside Gamby.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: He and Gamby hate each other's guts at the beginning of season 1, but still agree to team up to take Dr. Brown down.
- The Unfavorite: His father preferred his two older sisters over him. His mother reveals during his father's funeral that this was because he was ashamed that his son was such a dishonest person.
- Villain Protagonist: Even more so than Gamby. Russell has completely selfish motivations, is willing to do horrible things to achieve them and shows no guilt about doing them afterwards.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Part of Russell's Freudian Excuse is suggested to be his failure to ever win his father's approval.
Dr. Belinda Brown
The mother of two boys, Dr. Belinda Brown is the new principal of North Jackson High School. A recent Philadelphia transplant and Berkeley graduate, Dr. Brown is no-nonsense, and takes great pride in her job.
- Alliterative Name: Belinda Brown.
- Always Someone Better: Introduced as such to both Gamby and Russel. Neither of them has any hope of competing with her as an educator, and so the only chance that either of them has of stealing the position of principal of North Jackson away from her is through sabotage.
- Beware the Nice Ones: She's a pleasant and kind woman all around, but she can be scary and vicious when she's angered.
- Big Bad: A Hero Antagonist example in season 1. Gamby and Russel are both driven throughout the season by their desire to take her down.
- The Chew Toy: Season 1 has her life get gradually destroyed by Gamby and Russel's meddling. While Gamby and Russel's antics are Played for Laughs, her suffering most certainly isn't.
- Cool Teacher: Gets along well with her students and prefers talking out their problems with them rather than immediately punishing them for causing trouble. Despite this, she has no problem asserting her authority when she believes she needs to.
- Disc-One Final Boss: Despite season 1 setting her up as the primary antagonist of the series, the show continues for an entire season after she is taken out of the picture.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: A Bittersweet Ending variant. While she loses her job and is forced to leave the city at the end of the first season, she gets a job as principal of a prestigious all girls private school, where she seems to have happily rooted herself as the Cool Teacher that she tried to be at North Jackson. Most importantly, she's away from Gamby and Russel.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Learning that Gamby was Russel's accomplice shortly after she started becoming good friends with him leads their relationship to becoming permanently and irreconcilably damaged.
- Friendly Enemy: While Gamby is initially enitirely hostile towards Dr. Brown, spending time working alongside her causes him to realize that he genuinely likes her and start to have second thoughts about destroying her career. He ends up doing so anyway, which prevents the two of them from ever having any hope of ever becoming friends.
- Good Is Not Soft: She's a pretty upstanding woman, but she has absolutely no qualms with playing dirty when she feels threatened. As soon as she's made aware of Russel's scheming, she immediately takes action to shut him down.
- Hero Antagonist: She's Gamby and Russel's mutual enemy in season 1 entirely as a result of her getting the principal job that they both wanted. Outside of this, Dr. Brown is a much better person than either of the two, and is shown to be a better fit for the position.
- Humiliation Conga: The entire first season consists of Russel orchestrating one for her in order to discredit her and make her lose her job.
- Mama Bear: Threatening her kids is a good way of provoking the otherwise even-tempered Dr. Brown.
- Nerves of Steel: Doesn't show an ounce of fear when confronted directly by either Gamby or Russel, to the point of staring down Gamby when he holds her at gunpoint.
- Out of Focus: Only appears once near the beginning of season 2, due to no longer working at North Jackson.
- Parents as People: Dr. Brown clearly has a hard time making it as a single mother of two trouble-making boys, and is much harsher towards them than she is her own students, but she is shown to love and want the best for them all the same, and seems much more concerned about their safety than her own when it becomes clear that someone is out to get her.
- Positive Discrimination: Played straight, but also taken apart to the point of deconstruction. Dr. Brown is a highly accomplished black woman who is clearly both a much better person and educator than either of the white male leads. Despite this, it's made clear that she has struggled and continues to struggle to maintain her glowing reputation as an educator through the internalized racism that stems from the stereotypes associated with black women.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: An even-tempered principal who is liked by both her students and her employees for her willingness to listen to their problems. The glaring exceptions to her charms are Gamby and Russel, and even Gamby begins to bond with her during the second half of season 1.
- The Rival: To both Gamby and Russel in season 1. While the two have traces of being Unknown Rivals to her early on into the season, she immediately takes action against them upon learning of their true intentions.
- Sassy Black Woman: While she's usually calm and erudite, she enters this state when sufficiently frustrated. The negative stereotypes associated with this trope are likely the reason why she attempts to keep it under wraps.
- Save Our Students: Dr. Brown would be a fairly standard example of a charismatic and caring teacher coming in and improving the lives of the students at North Jackson high, but the series instead chooses to focus on Gamby and Russel's efforts to undermine her efforts.
- Self-Made Man: Became a prestigious and acclaimed educator despite also being a single mother of two from an economically disadvantaged background.
- Villainy-Free Villain: She's the first season's main antagonist entirely because she's a more qualified principal than either Gamby or Russel is.
- Visit by Divorced Dad: Her ex-husband Dascious periodically visits her in an attempt to gain custody over their kids. While Dr. Brown resents him for being an unreliable father and husband, she still can't completely reconcile her feelings for him, causing her to constantly allow him to re-enter her life before coming to her senses and kicking him out once again.
Ms. Amanda Snodgrass
Ms. Snodgrass teaches English at North Jackson. Unlike the more rigid Gamby, she prefers to look at students and situations case-by-case when it comes to the rules.
Dayshawn is in charge of the cafeteria at North Jackson High. Hes Gambys eyes and ears at North Jackson, and often encourages him to try to socialize more with the rest of the faculty.
Eager to please, Nash is the new co-vice principal of North Jackson high school. Her intensity and disciplinary instincts take a page from Gamby's book.
Gale is Neal Gambys ex-wife, with whom he has an very bitter relationship with. She and Neal have a 13-year-old daughter, Janelle. Gale is now married to Ray Liptrapp.
Married to Gambys ex-wife, Gale, Ray is much more tolerant of Neal than Neal is of him. Ray is a motocrosser, and has encouraged his stepdaughter, Janelle, to try it out.
- Nice Guy: Despite "stealing" another man's wife, Ray is a genuinely nice and thoughtful guy who sincerely wants to be a good stepfather to Janelle while respecting Neal. He's never anything less than completely supportive no matter what kind of abuse he takes from Gamby.
An emotionally unstable civics teacher at North Jackson.
- Ax-Crazy: She's deeply, deeply unhinged. Her behavior escalates into violence.
Neal and Gales 13-year-old daughter, Janelle loves her dad. Although she rides horses, she has expressed interest in motocross, like her stepfather Ray.
Mr. Hayden is a history teacher at North Jackson.
- Bastard Boyfriend: To Amanda, although their relationship is short-lived. He doesn't care much for her as a human being and is deeply callous about her feelings for him, ditching her the second another woman gains his interest.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He's handsome and charming, and his students clearly love him, but he's also rather thoughtless and mean.
- Cool Teacher: Hayden's students seem to love him due to his good looks and easy charm.
- Really Gets Around: He moves swiftly on from Amanda to a younger teacher's assistant, implying he's something of a womanizer.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Hayden is a self-absorbed jackass, but he's loved by the students.
The recently retired principal of North Jackson, Welles left to care for his sick wife.