Television in the ’80s featured plenty of new family sitcoms. Some of these seriesshowcased traditional families, but other shows like “Who’s the Boss” focused onthe increasingly common blended and non-traditional households. “Who’s the Boss” brought its viewers into the home of a single working mother whose life was changed when she hired a live-in housekeeper who moved in with his daughter.
You Won’t Believe What Went On Behind the Scenes
Read on to find out where the stars are now. (And see how different they look!)
It’s A Brand New Life
This different type of family intrigued audiences (and all the romantic possibilities between Tony and Angela did so as well). Tony was a widowed and retired baseball player. He and his daughter moved from the rough streets of Brooklyn to an upscale neighborhood in Connecticut to be the Bower family’s live-in housekeeper.
The Choice Is Up To You, My Friend
Of course this premise would be a bit silly to entertain these days — would you put an ad on Craigslist? It was an expensive decision, but Angela Bower was a high-powered and highly-paid ad executive. She lived in a pretty fancy house, so money for her wasn’t an issue. Angela was a great role model for young girls to watch. She was a strong, smart, single mom who was able to take care of herself.
Who’s The Boss Had A Good Run
“Who’s the Boss” aired for eight seasons with over 196 episodes, and was considered a G-rated family program. It originally aired on Tuesday nights in a prime-time slot on ABC from 1984-1992. The length of the show’s run gave audiences the chance to watch little Samantha and Jonathan grow up.
Who Was The Boss?
“Who’s the Boss” was created by Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter, so technically they were the bosses. The show was purchased by and aired on ABC. It was a very popular show, being nominated for over 40 awards during its run and winning several awards. “Who’s the Boss” was also regularly in the top ten in the final prime time ratings from 1985 to 1989.
A Brand New Life Around The Bend
The catchy theme song, “A Brand New Life,” may still be echoing in the heads of regular viewers. It was written by the series creators Cohen & Hunter and the music was composed by Larry Carlton & Robert Kraft. The Micellis began their exciting new lives in this picturesque house.
Tony, played by Tony Danza, had a favorite saying: “Ay oh, Oh Ay.” Tony was a gentle, blue-collar, honest guy who was proud of his Italian roots. He was formerly a baseball player who retired after injuring his shoulder. He was also a widower and he really wanted to give his daughter a better life.
Tony Danza was already well-known for his character (also named Tony) on the show “Taxi.” “Taxi” ended just prior to “Who’s the Boss,” and both Tony’s were pretty similar characters. After “Who’s the Boss,” Danza went on to become a teacher in real life.
Angela Bower is a high-powered ad executive and a strong single mother who was played by Judith Light. Light was cast based on her classy, Meryl-Streep way of carrying herself, and won the role from her audition. Angela is very by-the-book, rigid, conservative and straight-forward.
Angela Bower is pretty much the polar opposite of Tony, which made for some terrific drama, comedy, and chemistry. Judith Light got her start on the stage and was most notably on “One Life to Live” before joining “Who’s the Boss.” After the series ended, she did several Lifetime movies, had a long-running role on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and was on “Ugly Betty.”
Samantha Micelli was played by Alyssa Milano, who was just 12 when she began the role (though Samantha was younger). Also known as Sam, she was a tomboy type of girl and a basketball player too. Sam was a little rough and tough around the edges in the beginning, but she became an idol to many young teens who grew up in the 1980s.
Alyssa Milano went to play on the TV show “Charmed” for several years, and also had short runs on the shows “Melrose Place” and “Mistresses.” She has starred in several films since her “Who’s the Boss” days. Milano does regular humanitarian work for different causes and is most noted for UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund). She also has dyslexia.
Jonathan Bower was Angela Bower’s young son. He was played by Danny Pintauro, who was most well-known for his time on the soap opera “As the World Turns.” Jonathan was somewhat shy, and lacked a lot of self-esteem. He was a gentle but wishy-washy type of boy who needed a father figure.
After “Who’s the Boss,” Pintauro starred in only a small number of projects including “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” He went on to manage a restaurant in Las Vegas. Pintauro is also an Eagle Scout and did a publicity campaign for people with HIV, called HIV Equal.
Mona May Have Been The Boss
Mona Robinson, played by Katherine Helmond, was Angela’s mother and she was not some demure, quiet mom from the 1950s. Mona was feisty and frisky at times, and she dated A LOT of different men. This was rather progressive for the time. The role of Mona was originally written to be Angela’s sister, but they couldn’t make it work.
Helmond was best known for her role on the TV show “Soap.” She also got her start in theater and on Broadway. After “Who’s the Boss,” she appeared in one episode of the British version, “The Upper Hand,” and later had a reoccurring role on “Everyone Loves Raymond.” Helmond even had a part on the vampire-themed show “True Blood.”
Popular Special Guests
“Who’s the Boss” had a few popular special guests during its run. Delta Burke was the next door neighbor for Season 1. Angela and Tony at one point had a disagreement about Tony overstepping his bounds on paint colors. The next door neighbor (Burke) swooped in to try to get Tony to be her new maid. It’s inferred that she was a bit hot-to-trot for him.
Another famous guest star — Frank Sinatra — appeared in Season 5. In Episode 15, Angela was going to a party in New York, where Frank Sinatra would be singing. Tony and Mona competed against each other to be her plus one. This was Frank Sinatra’s final “film credit” and he played himself.
Ray Charles guest starred as himself during Season 3 Episode 15, “Hit the Road Chad.” He was singing a song that Sam’s then boyfriend wrote for her. Charles was going to sing the song for an ad that is being produced by Angela’s agency. Sam’s boyfriend cheated on her and teenage angst ensued.
Another popular guest star was Betty White, who appeared in Season 1. White starred as the host of a scandalous TV show (think “Extra” or “Inside Edition”) called “The Bobby Barnes Show.” Angela was selected to be on the show. Chaos ensued during filming, with the kids switching beds after they both had nightmares, and Angela and Tony wound up in the same bed.
And probably the most bizarre special guest on “Who’s the Boss” was Mike Tyson (he plays himself). You can catch this rare TV sitcom appearance in Season 6 Episode 13, called “Sam Accelerates.” Sam was admitted into an acceleration program at her high school. This was very exciting to everyone at first. Later, fears set in for her and Tony when they realized she would be leaving for college a year early.
Her Father’s Daughter
This Season 6 Episode was a very popular one. Sam wanted to go to Ft. Lauderdale, and the family joins in order to chaperone her and have a vacation of their own. Sam and her friend Bonnie got hit on by two boys, but Sam is suspicious of their indentations. Bonnie and Sam got into a big fight. This episode resonated with many teens who were dealing with similar situations in their lives.
Death And Love, Part 2
Another highly-ranked episode is this one which took place in Season 8. Tony proposed to Angela at a NY Giants game via the blimp. But he was turned down by Angela for proposing for “the wrong reasons.” So he gave her space. But perhaps too much space. He walked around in a bathroom, kind of bummed, for much of the episode. Angela was just afraid of having another failed marriage and eventually she proposed to Tony.
Allergic To Love
In Season 8 Episode 16, Tony was preparing dinner for guests and suddenly got a swollen lip. This was believed to be an allergic reaction, but it happens every time he kissed Angela. So Angela thinks it’s stress over the upcoming wedding. In the end it turned out to be the wedding invitations. At least they didn’t kill him like they did to George’s fiancée on “Seinfeld.”
This episode was one of the most popular episodes of “Who’s the Boss,” and was later honored in an episode of “Family Guy.” The Griffins’ town is having its annual harvest festival parade and Peter won the chance to select the theme. So he chose The Episode of “Who’s the Boss” where Tony saw Angela in the Shower. This took place in the “Family Guy” Episode 5 of Season 2, “Love thy Trophy.”
The “Family Guy” team poked a little more fun at Tony Danza a few times during other seasons. This was one of their cut-aways to a show the Griffins are watching. It stars Sylvester Stallone and Tony Danza, and the show is called “What?” because their accents are so difficult to understand.
Who’s the Boss Taught Its Audience About Family Bonds
Families come in all shapes, sizes. Some are formed through blood, some exist through law, and others are the type we choose. Sam and Jonathan weren’t step-siblings, not until the end of the show (and even then not really). But they treated each other like they were a true brother and sister.
The TV Family Was Also A Family In Real Life
Danza was like a father to both Milano and Pintauro. It was said that he used to post their report cards on the set. He maintains close bonds with them to this day. But not Tony’s adopted child Billy. That kid was written out; you probably don’t even remember him being there.
Sam And Tony
Another thing people loved about “Who’s the Boss” was the relationship between Sam and Tony. They were great role models for what many people would want to have as a relationship with their father or daughter. Tony & Sam were very close and got into silly shenanigans on the show on a regular basis.
Danny Pintauro Fighting HIV
In addition to being the spokesperson for the campaign, Pintauro himself also has HIV. The HIV Equal campaign seeks to take away the stigma of the virus and to encourage testing. Pintauro “came out” after the show finished airing and was married in 2014.
Tony Danza Thought He Was The Boss
The characters’ roles were designed so each actor could take their turn being the boss. Tony Danza was very serious about the show and putting together a good production that he wanted to be “a well-oiled machine.” He even held a two week walk-out as a protest about the show’s writing quality near the end of the series in 1989. He eventually apologized.
Angela And Tony Married?
They never got married in the show. But in Season 8 they admitted their love for each other. The ending was purposely left ambiguous so it didn’t hurt the ratings in syndication. Samantha got married, however, to her boyfriend Hank.
The Series Finale
The final episodes were shot as a three-part story arc titled “Savor the Veal.” Tony graduated from college and gets a great opportunity in Iowa. The problem is, will Angela want to move from Connecticut to Iowa? Can a long distance relationship work? She would be giving up her life, and all the things which make her Angela.
“Who’s the Boss” was not just popular with television viewers but also a winner with television executives. “Who’s the Boss” won 10 primetime Emmy awards and at least five Golden Globes during its run. Katherine Helmond won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mona, and she also received a best supporting actress award in 1989.
“Who’s the Boss” ran in syndication on TBS for most of the 1990s. The show was later added to ABC Family, Nick at Night and then TV Land during from the late 1990s through the 2000s. It was also on the Hallmark Channel until 2013.
Where To Watch Now
You can watch some episodes from Seasons 1, 2 and 8 on the internet streaming network Crackle. There is one season for sale on DVD released by Columbia Pictures, which can be purchased on Amazon. You can also watch most of the first four seasons on YouTube.
So Popular It Went International
Many of the programs seen on TV in the US are actually remakes of shows from the UK and Europe. But in the case of “Who’s the Boss,” it went international from America. Some of the versions were just dubbed in the host country’s language and other nations created their own remakes.
The Upper Hand
One example is in the United Kingdom. The UK is among the countries who decided to do their own remake of “Who’s the Boss.” Their version was titled “The Upper Hand.” “The Upper Hand” ran for six years with a similar storyline, but the couple did get married in the end.
A Show By Any Other Name
And there are several other countries who created their own versions of “Who’s the Boss” including Mexico, Poland and Argentina. “Who’s the Boss” was originally going to be called “You’re the Boss.” It’s probably for the best that they changed it.
Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back
At the end of the series, Tony and Angela know they had issues and they just could not find time to make their relationship work long-distance. Angela moved out there but she isn’t happy. The final scene depicts Tony knocking on the door and Angela answering it in her bathrobe just like the first episode. In the end it left us to wonder if they were able to make it work or not.