Dec 15, 2012

Who's the Boss

Many 1980s sitcoms had an anti-nuclear family
message.  Moms and dads were utterly inadequate at raising children; it took an outsider -- a college kid (Charles in Charge), a proper English butler (Mr. Belvedere), a white guy (Webster, Diff'rent Strokes) -- or a hunky working-class schmoo from Brooklyn.

Who's the Boss (1986-92) transformed Taxi hunk Tony Danza into Tony Micelli, housekeeper to uptight Angela Bower (Judith Light) and her blond waif son Jonathan (Danny Pintauro, previously Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream).  Tony's daughter Sam (Alyssa Milano) and Angela's horny mother, Mona (Katherine Helmond) filled out the household.

Let's review: Tony Danza, who played a gay-positive character on Taxi and posed for the gay magazine In Touch. Judith Light, a tireless proponent of gay rights.  Gay ally Alyssa Milano. Katherine Helmond from the gay-positive sitcom Soap.  Sounds tailor-made for a gay-positive sitcom.

Nope.  No gay characters, no gay references.  At least Tony is cool with the kids' gender-transgressive interests; Sam's passion for basketball and Jonathan's for gymnastics. But the main plot arc involved everyone trying to set up Tony and Angela, who for some reason denied that they were attracted to each other.

Meanwhile everyone in the cast, including Jonathan, was busily falling for the wrong person, cheating on their partner, accepting and then rejecting marriage proposals, worrying about prom dates.

Fortunately, there was a lot of beefcake.  Angela kept stumbling across Tony in the shower or wearing only a towel. When Danny Pintauro became a flamboyantl gay adolescent, he got some shirtless and semi-nude shots in teen magazines.

Sam had a series of hunky boyfriends, such as Jesse (Scott Bloom left, with brothers Brian and Mikey).  And the super-stud Billy Gallo had a recurring role as "Mr. Al."

In 1997, five years after the program ended, Danny Pintauro was outed in The National Enquirer.  His tv family was supportive, except for Tony, who later said "The Danny I knew died last year."  But in 2005, they reconciled enough for Danny to appear on Tony's talk show. They discussed their memories of Who's the Boss, but carefully avoided any mention of "it."