Mark Curry was working as a pharmacist in his home town of Oakland, California, when his customers talked him into trying out his routine onstage at a local comedy club. He was a hit and soon became a popular stand-up comic both in and outside the U.S. However, he is best known to television viewers as the title character on Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper.
Curry played Mark Cooper, a former basketball-player who returned to Oakland to teach at his old high school. Although he would rather have been the school’s coach, Cooper occupied himself with teaching classes like science and driver’s education.
As a former class clown who still loved practical jokes, Cooper was uniquely qualified to deal with the many would-be jokesters in his classroom. The biggest challenge in this area was the wisecracking Earvin Rodman. Another child character on the show was Jesse, a neighborhood boy who often ended up in the middle of one of Cooper’s adventures. A later addition to the school was P.J., the school’s principal, played by sitcom vet Nell Carter (Gimme A Break!).
At home, Cooper dealt with a houseful of women. Robin was a music teacher, and Vanessa was her attractive and intelligent friend. Vanessa was played by Holly Robinson, who was best known for being one of the young cops on 21 Jump Street. As the show progressed, Vanessa and Cooper fell in love and got married.
Dawnn Lewis, the actress who played Robin, left after the first season and was replaced with not one, but two characters. Geneva was Mark’s outspoken cousin, and Nicole was Geneva’s daughter, who confounded Mark’s attempts at surrogate parenting with her free-thinking tendencies and sense of humor. She was played by Raven-Symone, who had gotten her start in a similar precocious-child role on The Cosby Show.
The show’s storyline depicted Mark’s attempts to balance his school career with his home life. More often than not, he’d get caught scheming while trying to get the best from both worlds, winding up in conflict with one of the many people in his life. These plotlines gave Curry lots of room to put his stand-up comedy skills to good use. In a memorable episode called “True Lies,” Mark got caught in a lie by Nicole while trying to get out of taking her to the circus and was ‘grounded’ by the women of the house.
The show also periodically embraced serious themes. An unforgettable example of this was “Increase The Peace,” which depicted a young friend of Earvin’s being killed due to her brother’s gang-member lifestyle. The episode closed with the cast making a plea to the audience to ‘stop the violence.’
Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper was part of ABC’s early 90’s TGIF lineup and quickly became a hit with viewers. At one point, Mark Curry was declared one of TV Guide’s “favorite people on television.” The show continued for five seasons and ended its network run in August of 1997. It is still widely viewed today in syndication, remaining memorable not only for Curry’s comedic skills, but also for its pro-education slant. Curry himself was a college graduate and made sure the show presented learning in a positive light. Thus, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper is of enduring value for both its humorous and social value.
USA / ABC – Jeff Franklin Prod. – Lorimar / 93×25 minute episode / Broadcast 22 September 1992 – 30 August 1997
Creator: Jeff Franklin / Executive Producers: Jeff Franklin, William Buckley, Michael Warren
Mark Curry as Mark Cooper
Dawnn Lewis as Robin Dumars (1992-93)
Raven-Symone as Nicole Lee (1993-97)
Sandra Quarterman as Geneva Lee (1993-97)
Holly Robinson Peete as Vanessa Russell
Marquise Wilson as Tyler Foster (1993-97)
Omar Gooding as Earvin Rodman
Nell Carter as P.J. Moore (1993-97)
Roger E. Mosley as Coach Ricketts (1992-93)
Christopher Carter as Andre Bailis (1992-94)
Luis Avalos as Principal Rivas (1992)
Dominic Hoffman as Thaddeus White (1993-94)
George Lemore as Isaac (1992-93)
Ron Canada as Coach Corley (1994-97)