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, 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 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.
Main article: List of Who's the Boss episodesWidower Anthony Morton "Tony" Micelli (Danza) 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 (Alyssa Milano). He ends up taking a job in upscale Fairfield, Connecticut, as a live-in housekeeper for divorced advertising executive Angela Bower (Judith Light). The Micellis moved into the Bower residence. Also starring were Danny Pintauro as Angela's son Jonathan and Katherine Helmond as Mona Robinson, her feisty, "sexually progressive mother". Mona dates all kinds of men, from college age to silver-haired CEOs. This portrayal of an "older woman" with an active social and sex life was most unusual for television at the time.
The title of the show referred 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 media 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) 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 the third season, 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 the eighth season, 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, too, 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. Perhaps in an attempt to get someone on the series sent off into marriage (since by now, plans for Tony and Angela to wed were nixed), with speculation from the producers that Who's the Boss? was soon coming to an end, Sam and Hank were serious and engaged in a matter of weeks, and in February, they were married.
Cast of Who's the Boss?*Tony Danza portrays Tony Micelli, a widower and retired baseball player of Italian-American heritage. A former second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals who was forced to retire due to a shoulder injury, he relocates from Brooklyn, New York to upscale Fairfield, Connecticut to find a better environment for his only daughter, Samantha, ending up taking a job as a live-in housekeeper for the Bower family.
- Judith Light portrays Angela Bower, a divorced and uptight advertising executive, who employs Tony as a live-in housekeeper at her residence.
- Alyssa Milano portrays Samantha Micelli.
- Danny Pintauro portrays Angela's son Jonathan Bower.
- Katherine Helmond portrays Mona Robinson, Angela's feisty, sexually progressive mother.
A svelte Delta Burke appeared in the first season. Rotund 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 wasn't 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, who frequently visits the Bower residence to the point that he seemingly lives there. 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.
Who's the Boss? was created by television producers and business partners Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter in 1983. In early development, the series was titled You're the Boss, in reference to Angela employing Tony and the highly unusual gender role reversal. 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". 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. She was eventually cast based on her performance, which Hunter commented as "class [...] Jean Harlowe type, or more of a Meryl Streep." 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, the decided on re-writing the role into "a free spirit with a quick tongue," who they envisioned Katherine Helmond to play. Danny Pintauro and Alyssa Milano were also cast based on their auditions.
The series' pilot was shot in November 1983, a full 10 months before the show actually went on the air. 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 a lady friend of his. 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, forcing 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, where 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.
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. 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." 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."
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; 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." Frequently nominated at the annual Young Artist Awards, Milano earned three awards for her portrayal of Samantha. Danny Pintauro and recurring guest Scott Bloom received one award each.
|Season||Season premiere||Season finale||TV seasons||Rank||Households|
|1||September 20, 1984||April 16, 1985||1984–1985||#38||15.95|
|2||September 24, 1985||May 13, 1986||1985–1986||#10||19.12|
|3||September 23, 1986||May 19, 1987||1986–1987||#10||20.22|
|4||September 22, 1987||May 17, 1988||1987–1988||#6||18.78|
|5||October 18, 1988||May 16, 1989||1988–1989||#8||18.80|
|6||September 19, 1989||May 8, 1990||1989–1990||#12||17.48|
|7||September 18, 1990||May 7, 1991||1990–1991||#23||17.96|
|8||September 28, 1991||April 25, 1992||1991–1992||#76||8.46|
The show's theme song, "Brand New Life", was written by series creators and executive producers Cohan and Hunter, with music composed by Larry Carlton and Robert Kraft. There were three versions used throughout the series' run. They were performed by Larry Weiss, Jonathan Wolff and Steve Wariner during the show's run. The second version, which was used from 1986–1990, was performed by country music singer Steve Wariner. A third version was used for the last eight episodes of season six and a very minor revision of that particular version of the theme was used the entire seventh and eighth seasons.
In the fall of 1991, after more or less seven years on its established Tuesday night slot, Who's the Boss? was moved to Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. (against NBC's The Golden Girls), along with fellow long-running sitcom Growing Pains. Originally suspected by insiders that the move to Saturday was due to the shows' waning popularity on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (respectively), ABC attempted to dispel this theory by adding another long-running show with higher ratings, Perfect Strangers, to the Saturday lineup in February 1992. All three shows, along with the new cartoon Capitol Critters, launched the new I Love Saturday Night lineup, an equivalent to the hit Friday TGIF block. At this time, Who's the Boss? moved to 8:30/7:30c, with Capital Critters as its lead-in. The I Love Saturday Night banner proved to be short-lived, folding on February 29, 1992; Who's the Boss? moved back into the Saturday 8/7c slot in early March, as the lineup resumed being promoted in standard fashion.
While Perfect Strangers saw a record ratings drop due to its move to Saturdays, Who's the Boss? (as well as Growing Pains) had been falling lower than ever all season in the Nielsens, which led to the ultimate decision to end the series that spring. The hour-long series finale aired on Saturday, April 25, 1992, along with the finales for Growing Pains and MacGyver (whose finale aired in a special Saturday 10/9c slot, outside of its usual airing on Mondays). Who's the Boss? reruns continued to air in the Saturday 8/7c slot until June, whereupon the show was briefly moved to Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30c in the summer. The series then moved into what became the final time slot of its network run, Thursdays at 8/7c, where it remained from July until the last summer rerun broadcast on September 10, 1992. Ironically, it was this Thursday time slot that Who's the Boss? first aired briefly, among its September 1984 premiere.
ABC aired reruns of Who's the Boss? during its daytime schedule from June 1, 1987 until July 1, 1988, after which the show entered into its first local syndication run (September 1989).
Who's the Boss? aired on TBS Superstation in the 1990s after it was canceled, and was also added to the ABC Family Channel lineup in the late 1990s and early 2000s (decade). Nick at Nite broadcast the show between 2004 and 2006. In 2005, TV Land broadcast the show as part of Nick at Nite's 20th Anniversary Celebration. The series also aired on ION Television from July 2007 to February 2008, airing Monday-Thursdays at 9 and 9:30 p.m. ET. It began airing on the Hallmark Channel in an early afternoon weekday block beginning on May 17, 2010. Hallmark Channel stopped airing Who's the Boss? after April 2, 2011. In Australia, the show began running on 7TWO from November, 2011
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first season of Who's the Boss? on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4. Due to poor sales, no further seasons have been released. It is unknown if the remaining seven seasons will be released at some point.
Who's the Boss? spawned one short lived spin-off, Living Dolls. Premiering and ending in 1989, the show starred Leah Remini, Michael Learned, and Halle Berry. The show featured Remini, who had appeared in two Who's the Boss? episodes as a friend of Samantha's, as a homeless model taken under the wing of an agent played by Learned. In those same Who's the Boss? episodes, Jonathan Ward played Learned's son Rick; in the Living Dolls series, David Moscow took over the role. The show lasted less than one season.
Several versions of Who's the Boss? have been produced for foreign television markets:
- In 1990, The Upper Hand aired nationally in the United Kingdom while the original version was screened regionally. It featured Honor Blackman in the role originally played by Katherine Helmond. In 1993, Helmond appeared in an episode of this version as Madame Alexandra.
- A Spanish language version, produced in Mexico by TV Azteca and Sony Pictures Television International, debuted in 1998 under the title Una familia con Ángel starring Laura Luz and Daniel Martínez. It was broadcast in the U.S. on the Telemundo network.
- Though the show had been broadcast in Germany in a dubbed version as 'Wer ist hier der Boss? since 1992 on RTL Television, a year later, the channel produced 15 early episodes with a German cast. The show was called Ein Job fürs Leben (A Life's Job). Tony was renamed Vito, an Italian guest worker from Berlin-Neukölln and former striker of soccer club Hertha BSC. Angela Bower was renamed Barbara Hoffmann. Their home was located in Hamburg's upscale suburb Othmarschen. Despite these little changes, the original scripts were used for shooting, and even the stage set was an almost identical replica of the original American set, with only minor details changed, such as paintings and bric-a-brac in German style. RTL Television gave the same treatment to Married... with Children. The two shows shared the first hour on Thursdays in the prime time slot from 8:15 pm to 10:15 pm.
- In 2005, the Argentinian network Telefé also made its own local version called ¿Quién es el Jefe?, a direct translation of the original American title/ It starred Nicolás Vázquez, Gianella Neyra and Carmen Barbieri in the adult roles.
- In 2006, Colombian network Caracol TV did the same, producing ¿Quién manda a quién? (which was the title of the original show when dubbed in Spanish).
- A Polish version, I kto tu rządzi?, debuted in 2007 on Polsat, starring Małgorzata Foremniak and Bogusław Linda.
- A Russian version, Kto v dome hoziain? (Who's the Boss in this House?) started on CTC in 2005, starring Andrej Noskov, Anna Nevskaja and Darija Bondarenko.
- Aired in France starting 1987, first on Antenne 2 (now France 2), then on M6. The show was renamed Madame est servie ("Dinner is served", but literally "Madam is served", referring to Tony being Angela's housekeeper). For the entire series, only the pilot intro was used.
- In Turkey, it is aired as Patron Kim? (Who's the Boss?) on ATV Turkey.
- In Italy the first two seasons were aired in 1989 on minor network Odeon TV as Casalingo Superpiù (Super Housekeeper); Katherine Helmond's character name was changed from Mona to Moira because in Italian "mona" has sexual reference.
- In India, a Hindi version of the show was telecast
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