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Series / Who's the Boss?

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Blended family in progress.note 
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.

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.


This series contains examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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!
  • The Beard: One episode had Tony and Angela pretending to be married for one person and trying to prove they weren't for another.
  • "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".
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  • 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.
  • Clip Show: "Sit Down and be Counted", "Life With Father", "The Way We Was".
  • Cool Old Lady: Mona.
  • Cousin Oliver: Billy in Season 6
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Mona casually busts Tony over a fling with someone who wasn't Angela.
  • Everybody Knew Already: See Everyone Can See It.
  • 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).
  • 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".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Gus, Mr. March in "Hunk of the Month," asks Angela out, Wendy points out why she should say yes.
    Wendy: Are you crazy, turning him down? Don't you know March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb?
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Jonathan's actions in the afore-mentioned ballgame. He picks up a fair ball thinking it was fould 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.
  • House Husband: Tony. Not a husband, but certainly qualifies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Large Ham: Tony definitely had his moments.
  • MAD: "Boob's The Boss?," in which a social worker evaluates how fit "Toenail" is to look after the kids - and decides he's much better than "Angina" and her mother, and says they shouldn't be allowed near them!
  • 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 dress, at that).
    • Played straight slightly more often between Sam and Jonathan.
  • No Longer with Us / Mistaken for Dying: 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.
  • 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.
  • Sex Dressed
  • 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.
  • Silver Vixen: Mona, Angela's mother, is well into her sixties, dates a great deal, and is the sexpot on the show.
  • 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....).
  • Thematic Theme Tune
  • Theme Tune Cameo: 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.
  • 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.
  • You're Not My Mother: 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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