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Who's The Boss? is an American television sitcom starring Tony Danza, Judith Light, Alyssa Milano, Danny Pintauro, and Katherine Helmond. It was broadcast for eight seasons on ABC from 1984 to 1992. The show debuted on the same day as NBC's The Cosby Show in 1984.
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Widower 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 wanted to move out of Brooklyn to find a better environment for his daughter, Samantha (Alyssa Milano). He ended up taking a job in upscale Fairfield, Connecticut as a live-in housekeeper for divorced advertising executive Angela Bower (Judith Light), and Tony and his daughter move in to the Bower household (which included her son Jonathan (Danny Pintauro) and her mother Mona Robinson (Katherine Helmond)).

This series contained a number of role reversals unusual for the time period, such as a domestic setting where the woman was the breadwinner while the man stayed home and maintained the household. Additionally, the role of Angela's mother Mona as a sexually active older woman was quite unusual then. Also well known for its use of Unresolved Sexual Tension; the very slow-building romantic relationship between Tony and Angela was quite a rarity at the time.

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This series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage: After a trip to South Carolina in which they signed in to a motel as "Mr. and Mrs.", Tony and Angela somehow ended up as Common Law spouses under S.C. law. The ensuing effort to annul the marriage was less about ending the marriage than about Tony and Angela awkwardly dodging their own feelings on the subject.
  • The Alleged Car: Tony's van. Oddly, despite the Jaguar XJ's reputation, Angela's Jag *isn't* treated like one.
    • Averted later on when Tony gets a brand new Jeep.
  • And Starring: "And Katherine Helmond as Mona".
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the episode "Car and Driver" (where Samantha takes Tony's delivery van for a joyride), there's a scene in which Tony, Angela, and Mona are in the kitchen and they hear tire squeaking. Apparently there's a punk kid who likes to speed down the road of the Bower residence. Tony decides he wants to finally catch the guy who's doing it. As they run to the front door to catch him...
    Tony: Hey, you, get off that pedal! There's kids in this neighborhood! And pets! And the elderly!
    Angela: ...and sometimes I like to park my Jag in the street!
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  • The Beard: One episode had Tony and Angela pretending to be married for one person and trying to prove they weren't for another.
  • Bilingual Backfire: In one episode, Samantha's boyfriend helps her cheat on a French exam. While they're in the kitchen later with Mona, Samantha thanks her boyfriend in French for helping her cheat, unaware that Mona knows French also.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: In the episode "Not With My Client You Don't", Angela's assistant calls "hooker" an ugly word and prefers "call girl".
  • Bookends: The last scene of the last episode was more or less a reworking of the first scene of the first episode where Tony and Angela first met.
  • Broken Aesop: In "Road Scholar," Sam has her heart set on attending Tate University, a super-selective California school - a fictional Stanford, perhaps. But when she meets with an alum for her admission interview, he almost immediately shoots down any hope she has of getting in by explaining that he met with a boy earlier that day who'd been off saving the world over the summer, and what has she done lately besides being a kid? Then he reminds her that there's an excellent university just down the street from her and maybe she should consider that instead. The intended Aesop seems to be that you shouldn't overlook great opportunities by focusing only on the very best, which isn't a bad lesson; but the real Aesop is that if you're not an absolute rock star in everything you do, you shouldn't even bother aiming high. And that's not even touching on the kind of financial backing that other boy must have had and which Sam, through no fault of her own, does not.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Tony used to be a professional baseball player before he got a shoulder injury.
  • Clip Show: "Sit Down and be Counted", "Life With Father", "The Way We Was".
  • Cool Old Lady: Mona.
  • Cousin Oliver: Billy in Season 6
  • A Day in Her Apron: This is part of the show's whole concept. Angela is the high-powered advertising executive and not very good at housekeeping. Tony, on the other hand, is a retired baseball player and single father who is brilliant at cooking, cleaning, and similar tasks. They're not a married couple - he's her live-in housekeeper - but on those occasions when they have reason to switch roles, it invariably goes badly.
    • One episode has Tony and Angela helping with one of his daughter Sam's class projects, in which she and her schoolmates tag along on various careers. Sam has the option of going with one of them; she immediately picks Tony, thinking that it will be much easier to clean the house. Tony cheerfully gives her his to-do list the next day, which unrolls to spill onto the carpet, and then leaves for his college classes. When he comes home that night, he's surprised that she doesn't have dinner in the oven, which was one of the assigned tasks; she then reveals that she's on the fourth thing on his list.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Mona casually busts Tony over a fling with someone who wasn't Angela.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: In the episode Sit Down and be Counted, nearly at the end of the episode the census worker says that he'd like to write a story based on the Bower-Micelli household. Tony is upset after the last question, and leaves with Angela to the movies. Three months later, Angela and Tony are sitting in front of the TV, watching "Hank the Housekeeper", heavily based on their lives, with the main female character named Andrea. At the end of the Show Within a Show, cue the instrumental theme song. Although it only lasted for a few seconds before the real theme song plays.
  • Everybody Knew Already: When Angela finally reveals her feelings to Tony, no one is surprised, not even someone who met them both that night.
    Tony: Who could've known she felt this way?
    Mona: I knew.
    Sam: I knew.
    Jonathan: I knew.
    Mrs. Rossini: I knew.
    Sam's date: I had a hunch..
  • Everyone Can See It: Near the end of the show's run, the only people surprised by Tony and Angela's attraction to each other were Tony and Angela.
  • Fake Band: The doo-wop group "Tony and the Dreamtones" is played by actual doo-wop group "The Mighty Echoes" (plus, of course, Tony Danza).
  • Family Man: The show is about Tony, a retired MLB player, moving to Connecticut with his daughter to become a live-in housekeeper for the president of an advertising agency.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: In "A Well-Kept Housekeeper", Tony takes a job at a restaurant that features hot, nude men as the waiters. When Tony's daughter "Sam" shows up, Tony tells her that he doesn't approve of her being in such a raunchy place, to which Sam replies, "At least I have my clothes on!" Tony, the "nude waiter" is wearing shoes, long pants, and a vest, leaving only his arms and head exposed as he's so embarrassed by the outfit that he covers his chest and stomach with a tray.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: "Tony the Nanny": Tony Danza theorizes that Italian-speaking uncle Vito Scotti thinks that he's to blame for Scotti's daughter standing up to him regarding her fiancé, and he's right (according to Scotti's daughter's interpretation).
  • Game of Nerds: Averted. Tony, the former baseball player, is the manly one, and Jonathan, the geeky one, has no clue. He got a job with the Mets as a ballboy that lasted precisely one game, after he picked up a fair ball thinking it was foul and "costing the Mets the World Series".
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Jonathan's actions in the aforementioned ballgame. He picks up a fair ball thinking it was foul and gives it to a couple cute girls in the stands. Jonathan then tries to scramble to get the ball back as play continues. In an actual ball game, contact with the ball by a ballboy or by a fan reaching out onto the field would result in a dead ball, and play would be stopped.
  • Homage: The house where the main characters live was designed as an homage to the house in the last season of I Love Lucy.
  • Honorary Uncle: When Angela's college roommate comes to town for their reunion, she thinks Jonathan is absolutely precious and asks him to call her "Aunt Trish."
  • House Husband: Tony. Not a husband, but certainly qualifies.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Tony and Sam's grandfather are discussing the latter's incarceration, describing it as "Jail, the slammer, the big house, the joint."
  • If I Wanted X, I Would Y: In one episode, Jonathan decides he wants to be a stand-up comedian. His routine consists of a lot of unfunny and, at times, nonsensical "what is the deal with that?" style jokes. When talking about sushi, he says "If I wanted to eat raw fish, I'd bite a river".
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: In the episode "The Prodigal Son In Law", Jonathan asks Mona to help him with his homework as an excuse for the two to go upstairs, so that Tony can talk to Samantha about a family relative who has been sent to jail.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Tony gives this advice to a classmate when he has to give a presentation, but it backfires when he starts leering at the attractive girls in the class and ignoring the unattractive men, all the while oblivious to the questions that both sets of people are trying to ask.
  • Large Ham: Tony definitely had his moments.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: In the episode "When Worlds Collide" Angela wins loads at poker early on, and her son Jonathan gets four aces in the epilogue.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Tony is a macho meathead version of this. His fun-loving, appreciate life nature regularly conflicts with Angela's East Coast workaholic personality.
  • Marry the Nanny: Angela hires Tony as a housekeeper. She becomes a mother figure for Tony's daughter Samantha and Tony becomes a father figure for Angela's son Jonathan. They begin a long Will They or Won't They? relationship, with marriage being considered.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Downplayed with Angela and Tony, but sometimes played straight. One episode has Angela drinking beer while watching a sports show while Tony sits next to her, reading a magazine (and a magazine about dresses, at that).
    • Played straight slightly more often between Sam and Jonathan.
  • Mistaken for Dying: When Tony's father-in-law tries to tell Tony he's going to prison, he never gets the strength to finish his sentence, leading Tony to believe he's dying.
  • Mrs. Robinson: In one episode, Mona comes home with her boyfriend, who is in his twenties. When she starts to show off the gold brooch he gave her, which he pinned over her left shoulder, it's missing, so she thinks she dropped it. As the family looks for it, her grandson finds it, pinned over her right shoulder blade.
  • No Longer with Us: Tony's father-in-law tells Tony that he (the father-in-law) is going to prison. But he can't bring himself to say the word "prison" and leaves off with, "I'm going to..." So Tony assumes that "die" was the unspeakable word that he was having trouble with. Hilarity Ensues as the father-in-law spends the whole episode enjoying the sympathy that is accorded to a terminally ill person.
  • No, Except Yes: A dark version in the following exchange:
    Tony: Angela, you ... you're telling me you got canned?
    Angela: No, Tony, people at my level don't get "canned". I got fired.
  • Offscreen Crash: Episode "Daddy's Little Montague Girl": Character shoves shopping cart out of a house in rage. House happens to be in hilly San Francisco (as opposed to the usual Connecticut locale of the show). Cart heard rolling for about 30 seconds.
  • Parental Substitute: Angela becomes a mother figure to Samantha, while Tony becomes a father figure to Jonathan.
  • Parodies of Fire: A swimming example, rather than the usual running example.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: For Living Dolls, a short-lived spinoff about teenage fashion models.
  • Raised by Dudes: Before moving in with Angela, Samantha was raised solely by Tony, which led her to have a very tomboyish personality.
  • Rip Tailoring: Angela does this once for fanservice.
  • Really Gets Around: Mona.
  • Second-Hand Storytelling: In the episode "Jonathan the Gymnast", they show Danny Pintauro wearing a cast and telling Judith Light about how he got it from a nasty gymnastics fall rather than showing the fall itself.
  • Seen It All: Angela is in a funk when Tony tells her that her assistant talked smack about her behind her back. When she tells this to her mother, she correctly guesses the exact insult ("A two-bit tramp who slept her way to the top"), saying that's what all men say about women in a higher position.
  • Self-Care Epiphany: In one episode, Angela took the family to therapy to work on the kids' sibling rivalry. After observing Tony's behavior, the therapist recommended Tony join a support group for supermom burnout.
  • Sex Sells: Tony takes an advertising class and makes a commercial for women's shampoo using a sexy lady coming out of the shower in just a small towel. Then Angela, who actually works in advertising, points out that his commercial won't actually sell the product because it's marketing to men but the product is for women.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: During the series' seventh season, the producers attempted to inject new life into the episode by adding a cute kid named Billy to the household; the explanation was that the kid, who was from Tony's old neighborhood in the Bronx, had been recently orphaned. The character was immensely unpopular with audiences; that, and Jonathan Halyalkar's inability to keep up with the more experienced cast's timing and pace (this was the 6-year-old's first acting gig), he was written out of the show at the end of the season. In the fall of 1991, it was briefly explained that Billy had gone to live with another foster family.
  • Shoulders of Doom : Most of Angela and Mona's outfits. And how.
  • Shower of Awkward: In an early episode, Tony catches Angela coming out of the shower, and awkwardness ensues.
  • Silver Vixen: Mona, Angela's mother, is well into her sixties, dates a great deal, and is the sexpot on the show.
  • Single-Episode Handicap: Tony sprains one ankle and then breaks his other leg (both because of things Angela did), confining him to a wheelchair for most of the episode. He's back to normal in the next episode.
  • Slippery Swimsuit: Subverted; Angela is rescued from the surf and wrapped in a towel. When Tony comes to see if she is alright, someone from the crowd hands her her top, and Tony assumes that this trope is in play. Turns out that not only did she remove it herself, but several people from the crowd actually saw her do it, much to her surprise and embarrassment.
  • Special Guest: In the episode "Hit the Road Chad", Ray Charles comes to the Bauers' to play a few songs.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: The house was made to have a more-than-passing resemblance to the one in the last season of I Love Lucy (both were located in Connecticut, within commuting distance of NYC....).
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Angela becomes very depressed when Tony tells her that Peterson called her a "two-bit tramp" who "slept her way to the top" behind her back. When her mother comes in to cheer her up, she correctly guesses what he said, saying that's what every man says when he's jealous of a woman in a higher position.
  • Tomboyish Baseball Cap: Sam wore a baseball cap lots of times, especially in the first season.
  • Tomboyish Name: Tony's daughter Sam(antha).
  • Tranquil Fury: In the two-parter episode where Hank and Sam runs off to marry (without telling Tony).
    Sam: "His eyes! Look at his eyes!"
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: The Upper Hand (UK)/Ein Job fürs Leben (Germany)/I kto tu rządzi? (Poland). There were also Mexican, Argentine and Colombian versions.
    • Katherine Helmond guested on an episode of The Upper Hand (obviously not as Mona).
  • Truth in Television: In one episode, Tony mentions that he skipped third grade, but made up for it by repeating tenth. Studies have shown that, in Real Life, many kids who skip grades early on do end up repeating later on.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Perhaps the Trope Codifier, along with Moonlighting.
  • Verbal Tic: Tony had "eh oh, oh eh!"
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Frequently, usually in the earlier seasons.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Tony and Angela danced around the subject for so long (and in such increasingly ridiculous ways) that the supporting characters more or less hung a permanent Lampshade Hanging over it. It seemed they finally hooked up out of the desperation of the producers (they were an official couple only for half of the show's final season) than out of any real dramatic intent.
  • You're Not My Father: Subverted when Sam and Angela get into an argument, and Angela orders Sam to go to her room. Sam refuses and fires back with this trope. Tony then steps in, pointing out that he's her father, and orders her to listen to Angela.

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