Few things propel a television show’s momentum as well as a little unconsummated romantic tension: just ask the producers of Cheers, Moonlighting, or The X-Files. Just give us the hope that the leads will end up together, but don’t tell us where, when or how, and the mixture of fascination and frustration will keep us tuning in week after week. With a little help from cute kids and a wisecracking matron, Tony Micelli and Angela Bower turned this principle into a long-running ABC hit, Who’s The Boss?
Tony (played by Tony Danza, in his second of four TV roles so far as a “Tony”) was a widower, father, and former baseball player who got tired of New York City and decided to escape to the suburbs. To do so, he applied for the unlikely job of live-in housekeeper for Angela, a divorced woman living in Connecticut. This household also included Angela’s young son Jonathan and her randy mother Mona. Also added to the mix was Tony’s pre-teen daughter, Samantha (“Sam” to her friends).
Tony took on the job and did it well, and he and Angela slowly (and we do mean slowly) took notice of each other. All too often, we’d see the two approaching the brink of becoming romantically involved, only to get spooked and decide to see other people. Each took on many significant others during the course of the show: the most notable for Angela was Geoffrey Wells, and the most notable for Tony was Kathleen Sawyer. Samantha found several boyfriends, the longest-lasting being Jesse, and even man-hungry Mona got into the act with an on-off boyfriend named Max Muldoon.
Other plot developments had Angela creating her own agency with the help of Mona after being fired from her ad-executive job, and Tony deciding to continue his education with college classes (including an advertising class taught by…you guessed it). When the show’s two child stars grew too old to indulge in kiddie antics (although the pin-up value of Alyssa Milano as a teenaged Sam was a nice trade-off), a new kid named Billy was briefly added to the show in 1990.
Tony and Angela finally admitted their attraction to each other in 1991, after more than six seasons of the ol’ romance tease. But surprisingly, in a departure from standard sitcom send-offs, Who’s the Boss? ended its run in September of 1992 without a wedding. Instead, viewers had to settle for Tony’s college graduation. After living in the same house for eight TV seasons, maybe this “are they or aren’t they” twosome just decided the title question was better left unanswered.
The UK show The Upper Hand is an adaption of this show.
USA / ABC – Hunter-Cohan – Columbia – Embassy / 195×25 minute episode 1×50 minute episode / Broadcast 20 September 1984 – 10 September 1992
Creators: Blake Hunter, Martin Cohan / Executive Producers: Martin Cohan, Blake Hunter, Danny Kallis, Phil Doran, Bud Wiser
Tony Danza as Tony Micelli
Judith Light as Angela Bower
Alyssa Milano as Samantha Micelli
Danny Pintauro as Jonathan Bower
Katherine Helmond as Mona Robinson
Robin Thomas as Geoffrey Wells (1986-1987)
Shana Lane-Block as Bonnie (1986-1992)
Scott Bloom as Jesse Nash (1987-1988)
Rhoda Gemignani as Mrs. Rossini
Jonathan Halyalkar as Billy (age 5) (1990-1991)
Kate Vernon as Kathleen Sawyer (1990)
Doug Ballard as Andy (1990)
Curnal Achilles Aulisio as Hank Thomopalous (1992)
Candy Azzara as Fran Thomopalous (1992)
William Gallo as Al
Vic Polizos as Joe Thomopalous (1992)