||WHO'S THE BOSS?
A widower takes a job as a live-in French Maid for a divorced advertising executive.
196 episodes of 30 minute duration. ABC. 1984 - 1992.
Traditional sexual roles were turned upside down on this popular 1980's sitcom. For eight years, blue-collar male housekeeper Tony Micelli (Tony Danza) and his female boss, advertising executive Angela Bower (Judith Light) fought a battle of wits, but in the end, their employer-employee relationship became a romance. Of course, their growing attraction was obvious to everyone except Tony and Angela themselves.
Who's The Boss was produced by Embassy Entertainment, the company responsible for such comedies as The Facts Of Life and Silver Spoons. Producers Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter created the series around Danza, the former boxer-turned-actor who had spent five years on the now-classic gang sitcom Taxi. Danza's Tony Micelli, a widower, wanted to provide a better life for his young daughter Samantha (Alyssa Milano) that he could provide in Brooklyn, New York. So he and Samantha packed up their old van and moved to upper-middle-class Fairfield, Connecticut, where Tony became housekeeper to divorced and high-powered advertising executive Angela Bower. (Judith Light, who played Angela, was an Emmy award winner for her work on the ABC daytime drama One Life To Live). The two didn't get along well at first, but they eventually got along; Tony became a surrogate father to Angela's young son Jonathan (Danny Pintuaro). Added to this blended family was Angela's free-spirited (and oversexed) mother Mona Robinson (Katherine Helmond, who gained fame on the comedy farce Soap); the five lived under Angela's roof.
"Boss" made its debut in September 1984; it was nearly cancelled after its first few weeks because of competition from NBC's Family Ties and CBS' Magnum, PI. But ABC moved "Boss" to its Tuesday night lineup, where it began building an audience. By its second season, "Boss" became ABC's highest-rated comedy and one of the network's few top ten hits in the mid and late 1980's. The show worked largely because of the premise, but chemistry had much to do with it as well. Danza learned his comedy lessons well during his "Taxi" years; there was something funny about seeing an overtly macho man doing chores thought by some to be women's work. Light was wonderful in her own right; she more than held her own with the domineering Danza. (During a scene where Tony accidentally walked in on Light in the bathroom, Light opened her robe and showed Danza her breasts off-camera; his stunned reaction before the studio audience was real.)
Danza was indeed dominating; he oversaw the scripts, the acting and the directing. But he was a father figure to the younger Milano and Pintuaro on the set; Danza's own marriage and fatherhood during the series' run eventually helped settle him down. One of the best-remembered "Boss" episodes came when Frank Sinatra agreed to do a guest spot.
Danza's mother had told him that when he introduced her to the "Chairman Of The Board", she would know her son was a star. So Danza invited his mom to the set to meet Sinatra; he later said Sinatra treated his mom "like a queen".
Who's The Boss spawned two short-lived spin-offs. In 1986, there was Charmed Lives, a showcase for a pre-"Nanny" Fran Drescher who shared an apartment with another woman; the two had little in common but become friends anyway. (Drescher was a friend of co-star Judith Light; some of "Boss'" producers and staff later worked on The Nanny.) Three years later, an episode of "Boss" launched Living Dolls with Michael Learned (the former Olivia Walton) as the head of a girl's modeling school. Featured in the cast was a young Leah Remini, who gained sitcom fame on The King Of Queens. (Another member of the cast was Halle Berry, who went on to Academy Award and "Bond Girl" success.) A third spin-off would have been Mona, which would have moved Helmond to her own series, where she would run a hotel with her brother. But ABC didn't pick up the series; Helmond remained a cast member and the two "Mona" shows that were taped aired as "Who's The Boss" episodes.
By the 1991-92 season, the show's ratings began to fall and the producers wanted to have Tony and Angela marry after a courtship and engagement. The network said no to the idea (Danza agreed; he felt it would be wrong to get the couple hitched). So the final episodes centered on Tony accepting a job as school principal and basketball coach. Angela agreed to leave her ad agency and go with Tony, but she could not get used to life outside the city. Tony and Angela broke up and she moved back to Connecticut. In the show's final episode, "Who's The Boss" came full circle: Tony knocked on Angela's door for a job, and Angela (fresh out of the shower wearing a robe and a towel on her head) answered--the same scene that launched the series in 1984.
Not only did Who's The Boss become a hit in other countries in its US form, there was actually a successful British version. Entitled The Upper Hand, it ran from 1990 to 1996. The "Tony" character was a former soccer player named Charlie Burrows (the US "Tony" was an ex-baseball player); "Angela Bower" was Caroline Wheatley for the UK; and the "Mona" character was portrayed by Honor Blackman, the ex-"Pussy Galore" of James Bond fame. Helmond made a guest appearance on the UK version as fortune teller, and many of the original "Boss" scripts formed the basis of The Upper Hand. Unlike the American series, the British version had the main characters marry in the final episode--and there was a reunion series, something "Boss" has yet to have. (A German version entitled A Job For Life, which also used Who's The Boss scripts, lasted only one year.)
After "Boss" went off the air, Danza starred in two unsuccessful sitcoms (Hudson Street and The Tony Danza Show) before achieving good notices on such dramas as The Practice and Family Law. He also has a cabaret act where he sings and dances; Danza occasional appears on stage in Las Vegas, New York and other venues. Light distanced herself from her Angela Bower role in various television movies and roles in such plays as "Wit" (where she shaved her head bald to portray a cancer patient). Helmond briefly appeared on the sitcom Coach as the owner of a pro football team; she occasionally can be seen as Ray Romano's mother-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond. Milano, who was a favorite of many a teenage boy during her "Boss" years, later co-starred in the fantasy drama Charmed. Pintuaro (just call him Dan, not Danny) acts and directs these days; in 1997, he surprised his "Boss" co-stars by coming out publicly as a homosexual. He told "People" magazine that Danza and Light "are still like parents" to him.
"Boss" had one of the better theme songs among 1980's sitcoms; Brand New Life (which played with words and music over the opening credits and just the music during the closing credits) was co-written by Larry Carlton, Blake Hunter and Robert Kraft; singers Steve Warnier, Larry Weiss and Jonathan Wolff performed the theme at various times during the show's 1984 to 1992 run.
Who's The Boss didn't break new ground in US comedy, but it was a pleasant, likable show with good acting, a fair share of laughs, and a strong premise that brought viewers (yours truly included) back week after week.
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