Saturday, September 3, 2016

Who's the Boss?

Who's the Boss? is an American sitcom created by Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter, which aired on ABC from September 20, 1984 to April 25, 1992. Produced by Embassy Television (later Embassy Communications and ELP Communications), in association with Hunter-Cohan Productions and Columbia Pictures Television, the series starred Tony Danza as a retired major league baseball player who relocates to Fairfield, Connecticut to work as a live-in housekeeper for a divorced advertising executive, played by Judith Light. Also featured were Alyssa Milano, Danny Pintauro and Katherine Helmond.
The show received positive reviews throughout most of its run, becoming one of the most popular sitcoms of the mid-to-late 1980s. The series was nominated for more than forty awards, including ten Primetime Emmy Award and five Golden Globe Award nominations, winning one of each. Also very successful in the ratings, Who's the Boss? consistently ranked in the top ten in the final primetime ratings between the years of 1985 and 1989, and has since continued in syndication worldwide.

Plot

Widower Anthony Morton "Tony" Micelli is a former second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals who was forced to retire due to a shoulder injury. He wants to move out of Brooklyn to find a better environment for his daughter, Samantha. He ends up taking a job in upscale Fairfield, Connecticut, as a live-in housekeeper for divorced advertising executive Angela Bower and her son Jonathan. The Micellis moved into the Bower residence. Also frequenting is Angela's feisty, sexually progressive mother, Mona Robinson. Mona dates all kinds of men, from college age to silver-haired CEOs. This portrayal of an "older woman" with an active social and sexual life was unusual for television at the time.
The title of the show refers to the clear role reversal of the two lead actors, where a woman was the breadwinner and a man (although he was not her husband) stayed at home and took care of the house. It challenged contemporary stereotypes of Italian-American young males as macho and boorish and wholly ignorant of life outside of urban working-class neighborhoods, as Tony was depicted as sensitive, intelligent and domestic with an interest in intellectual pursuits.
The easy-going, spontaneous Tony and the driven, self-controlled Angela are attracted to each other, though both are uncomfortable with the notion for much of the run of the show. While there is playful banter and many hints of attraction, Tony and Angela do their best to avoid facing this aspect of their developing relationship, and date other people. Angela has a steady romantic interest in Geoffrey Wells (Robin Thomas), while Tony has a variety of girlfriends who come and go, including Kathleen Sawyer (Kate Vernon) in seasons six and seven. In the meantime, however, they become best friends, relying on each other frequently for emotional support. In addition, Tony provides a male role model for Jonathan, while Angela and Mona give Samantha the womanly guidance she had been missing.
Keeping ties with Tony's and Samantha's Brooklyn roots, motherly former neighbor Mrs. Rossini (Rhoda Gemignani), who ends up becoming a thorn in Mona's side, and several other friends turn up a few times each season, sometimes in New York, sometimes in Connecticut.
Angela eventually strikes out on her own and opens her own ad firm in season three, while Tony decides to go back to school, enrolling in the same college that daughter Samantha would later attend in 1990. Samantha's best friend Bonnie (Shana Lane-Block) is a recurring character during these seasons, while romance comes into her life in the form of boyfriend Jesse Nash (Scott Bloom) during her senior year of high school and into college.
At the start of season eight, Tony and Angela finally acknowledge their love for each other. However, the series does not end with the widely expected marriage but on a more ambiguous note. This was due primarily to concerns by the network that a marriage, representing a definitive ending, could hurt syndication. Tony Danza also vehemently opposed the marriage, saying it would contradict the original purpose of the show.
During the final season, Samantha finds a new love in Hank Thomopoulous (Curnal Achilles Aulisio), who became a full-time character in January 1992. A fellow college student, Hank was originally poised to enter a medical program, but soon decides to become a puppeteer. Sam and Hank were engaged in a matter of weeks, and in February, they were married.

Cast

Main cast

Cast of Who's the Boss?

Guest appearances

Delta Burke appeared in the first season as a neighbor. Comic James Coco was a frequent guest, beginning in season one as Tony's father-in-law visiting from New York. People have credited his appearances on Who's the Boss? as a prime example of his comedic abilities on TV, despite the fact that he was not a regular and had never starred in a successful TV series of his own. When Coco died in February 1987, prior to the conclusion of season three, his character was written out as having died as well (with a funeral episode and tribute).
By the fall of 1990, with Samantha beginning college and Jonathan in high school, Who's the Boss?, like other series getting on in years, added a new younger cast member. Producers brought in five-year-old Billy (Jonathan Halyalkar), a kid from the Micellis' old Brooklyn neighborhood, whose grandmother left Billy in Tony's care. He moved in with the Bower family in season 7. Billy was a comic foil to Tony, but also attempted to get into the mix in other characters' storylines. He only lasted that season, however. In the E! True Hollywood Story about the series, Katherine Helmond remarked that Halyalkar was a gifted performer, but had difficulty catching up to the pace of the acting and timing the senior cast members had long established with each other.
Frank Sinatra made a guest appearance in a 1989 episode, as well as Ray Charles, Mike Tyson and Thomas Hearns. Betty White also made a guest appearance in the first season as a local TV director. Leslie Nielsen played Max, who was engaged to Mona in a 1988 episode. Matthew Perry played Benjamin Dawson, a roommate of Samantha's in a 1990 episode.

Background

Who's the Boss? was created by television producers and business partners Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter in 1983.[1][2] In early development, the series was titled You're the Boss, in reference to Angela employing Tony and the gender role reversal.[3] Before the fall 1984 premiere, the producers changed it to Who's the Boss?, an open ended title which hinted that any one of the leads could get their own way and be the "boss".[3] Unlike Danza, who had served as the Tony prototype from the beginning, Judith Light was one of many who auditioned for the role of Angela.[4] She was eventually cast based on her performance, which Hunter commented as "class [...] Jean Harlow type, or more of a Meryl Streep."[4] The character of Mona was initially created as an older sister to Angela, but as Cohan and Hunter struggled to handle the casting of the role, they decided on re-writing the role into "a free spirit with a quick tongue," who they envisioned Katherine Helmond to play.[4] Danny Pintauro and Alyssa Milano were also cast based on their auditions.[4]
The series' pilot was shot in November 1983, a full 10 months before the show actually went on the air.[3] ABC originally was planning to put it on mid-season in January 1984, but due to creative differences[vague] between the producers and the network, the show was delayed until the next season. The show debuted on September 20, 1984. While the show was shelved for an extended amount of time in early 1984, Danza was arrested for fighting in a New York bar after a fellow patron made a rude remark about his female companion. A few months later, Who's the Boss? resumed taping. During his court date that July, Danza faced a choice of jail time or community service as a result of battery and other charges. Danza opted for community service, which was still ongoing when the series premiered.
Later in the show's run, it was reported that Danza was exhibiting erratic behavior on the set. These stories ranged from Danza getting after the directors, to arguments with the writers over minor script revisions. While it was uncovered that only the writing became an issue for Danza, his frustrations to have the show be a "well-oiled machine" boiled over at the start of the 1989–90 season, when he staged a walkout for two weeks until he calmed down. In the meantime, the remainder of the cast filmed scenes without him. Upon his return, Danza offered an apology to everyone on the set and resumed work. However, the crew then monitored Danza's mood and a few weeks later made light of the whole incident by issuing shirts on set that said "I survived week six," according to E! True Hollywood Story.

Impact

Critical reception

Early reviews of the series were lukewarm. Jerry Buck, writing for Ocala Star-Banner, noted that while the series "doesn't have the same impact [as The Cosby Show], it's not bad, either." He compared Danza and Light's on-screen chemistry to Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.[5] The Pittsburgh Press criticized that "the show may have a universal theme [but] it's hard to find," while Duane Dudek of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel summed the series as a "pleasant little sitcom" which was not a "struggle for mastery [but] in some ways, a rather old-fashioned love story."[6] John J. O'Connor of The New York Times was complimentary of the female leads, Light and Helmond, but was concerned if Danza, who "spends a good deal of time with his shirt off and his thick weight-lifted physique" would "keep this sitcom in ratings shape."[7]

Awards and nominations

Who's the Boss? was nominated for more than forty awards, including ten Primetime Emmy Award and five Golden Globe Award nominations, winning one each;[8] Katherine Helmond received the 1989 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film, while Mark J. Levin was awarded the 1989 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lighting Direction for a Comedy Series for his work on the episode "Two on a Billboard."[8] Frequently nominated at the annual Young Artist Awards, Milano earned three awards for her portrayal of Samantha.[8] Danny Pintauro and recurring guest Scott Bloom received one award each.[8]

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