Over the course of eight seasons, Who’s the Boss? made us laugh, smile, tear up, and also, lose our patience (because, come on, the sexual tension between Tony and Angela was a bit stretched out). The Emmy-winning sitcom ran from 1984 until 1992, and featured a host of megastars including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, and Betty White.
It captured its viewers’ hearts by introducing a completely different format – a male housekeeper and a career-driven woman. Today, this might seem like more of a given. But at the time, it made everyone question gender norms.
Let’s celebrate this nostalgic show and figure out once and for all – Who’s the Boss?
The Original Title Wasn’t Supposed to Be a Question
For eight long seasons, viewers were left wondering – who IS the boss in the house? But before the show aired, producers thought of calling the show “You’re the Boss,” referring to what Tony would tell his boss Angela. However, the lines between employer and employee became so fuzzy at one point that producers decided on a more ambiguous title.
Actress Alyssa Milano recalled in her memoir that when she first auditioned, all she knew was that she was trying out for a pilot titled “You’re the Boss” starring the “cute guy from Taxi.” We’re glad they decided to change the title, because really, the clever question mark made the name of the show so much better.
Mona Wasn’t Supposed to Be Angela’s Mom
The co-creators of the show, Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter, wanted Angela to have a free-spirited older sister as a recurring character, but they struggled with finding the right actress. It was only when they decided to switch from sister to mom that Katherine Helmond appeared.
Helmond’s fun-loving, non-conventional character made the show what it was. The funny contrast between uptight Angela and her carefree mom never failed to entertain! A sister would have been great but having a mom added to the unconventional theme Cohan and Hunter were aiming for (with a man as a housekeeper and a career-driven woman etc.…).
Judith’s Off-Script Remark Landed Her the Role
After not working for almost a year after a long reign on the show One Life to Live, Judith Light was almost too scared to audition for the sitcom. But once she arrived, she went along with the script’s instruction and marched across the stage wearing nothing but a robe.
Sensing that Tony Danza was checking out her butt, she went off script and asked, “What are you looking at?” Tony laughed and said he knew in that instant that the Judith was going to get the part. Her cheeky attitude is what made her the perfect fit for the role of Angela.
Tony Danza Was Facing Jail Time Prior to the Show’s Debut
A little before the show’s debut, Tony Danza got into an ugly fight in New York with a bouncer. The heated brawl landed him in the hospital, after which he was sentenced to 250 hours of community service. A good arrangement considering the fact that he was facing jail time!
Miraculously, his lawyer managed to get him out of it by arguing that time in prison would disrupt his work schedule and the production of his upcoming show. It’s pretty crazy that the judge agreed to take off jail time because Danza had an acting gig in the works.
A Who’s the Boss? Softball Team
The sitcom’s cast apparently formed an actual softball team, with Tony Danza as the pitcher. Even though Tony Micelli (his character) was a retired second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, it was Alyssa Milano’s father who was the team’s first baseman.
Their fun softball games together are just more proof of how tight the cast was at the time! Good to know that their love for each other went way beyond the cameras. It looks like all the hugs and kisses on screen weren’t scripted at all! They came from a genuine place of affection.
The Show Received Gifts From Fairfield Residents
The sitcom was shot in Fairfield, Connecticut. And the people of the town were so appreciative that they sent the cast gifts every now and then! Showering the show’s members with presents was their way of promoting their hometown.
Tony Danza was once sent a sweatshirt to wear on one of the show’s episodes. The sweatshirt was gray and had Fairfield University written on it in large, bold letters. To the delight of Fairfield’s residents, Danza put it on and looked great wearing it. In addition to the sweater, the cast was given mugs, stickers, and buttons in 1989 for the city’s 350th anniversary.
Tony Danza Was a Father Figure
Alyssa Milano and Danny Pintauro were both super young when they started shooting the series. Milano was ten years old when she shot the pilot, and Pintauro was a tiny eight-year-old. With the cast spending so much time together on set, Tony Danza naturally became a father figure to them.
Danza would proudly post Danny and Alyssa’s report cards from school to show off their fantastic grades and encourage them to keep up the good work. With all due respect to the show, Danza wanted to keep the kids on track and make sure they were not throwing away their education.
The Show Had Two Lame Spin-Offs
The series was such a success that producers had a hard time letting it go. This resulted in two short-lived spin-offs – Charmed Lives and Living Dolls. The former was about two female roommates, and it lasted no more than three short episodes.
Living Dolls was, believe it or not, Halle Berry’s first acting gig! It was about a group of young models living together. That, too, lasted for a short period of time, only 12 episodes. In conclusion, Who’s the Boss was one of a kind and could definitely not be replicated.
Mona Almost Had Her Own Show
Season Three’s finale had two parts, but it wasn’t originally meant to play out that way. The first part, “Mona,” was intended to be a backdoor pilot for Katherine Helmond’s character, Mona. The plan was for her to stay in New York and help run her brother’s newly acquired hotel.
But after ABC decided not to go ahead with the Mona spin-off, they wrote a second finale episode titled “A Moving Episode,” that set the tone for Mona to come back home from New York and stay there. We’re more than glad she remained on the show!
The Show Starred Frank Sinatra
Some of you might have missed this, but the legendary Frank Sinatra made a cameo appearance on the show. His surprising visit is all thanks to Tony Danza, who approached Sinatra’s daughter Tina and asked if she could throw in a word to her dad.
People were starstruck when Sinatra appeared on the set, but probably the most thrilled one was Danza’s mom, who didn’t really believe her son was a star until he introduced her to the singer. Meeting Sinatra in the flesh was an incredible experience for both the cast members and their families.
Alyssa Milano Missed Going to School
Alyssa Milano grew up before our very eyes. She spent her teenage years on the set of the show, and at one point, towards the end, she felt like she was missing out on ordinary “teen stuff.” She wanted to quit after the seventh season and told producers she wanted to experience going to school like a normal, anonymous kid.
The network wasn’t willing to let her go, and they convinced her to stay put a little longer. Ultimately, it didn’t really matter because Season Eight’s ratings plummeted enough that the series was canceled. Milano eventually got her wish!
Alyssa Milano Chopped Her Own Locks
By the eighth season, Milano had grown away from her role as Samantha. She felt that she could no longer differentiate between who she was as Alyssa and who she was on screen in front of the whole nation. Longing for an identity, Milano took drastic measures to feel more in control of her life.
Well, maybe not drastic measures. All she did was cut her hair without the network’s permission. But because her character, Samantha, was known for her gorgeous long locks, her short hairdo took many by surprise and didn’t sit so well with the producers.
Billy Was Kicked Off the Show to Make Room for Tony and Angela’s Romance
Let’s be honest, throughout the show, all of us were eagerly waiting for Tony and Angela’s romance to bloom finally. And in the eighth season, we finally got what we wished for! Producers wanted the final season to be all about Tony and Angela’s relationship, but they had to do some readjusting.
In order to make room in the script for lovey-dovey moments, some characters had to be left behind. The result? Tony’s adopted child, Billy, who was introduced just the season before, had to be written out. Bye bye Billy Boy.
Tony and Angela Were Supposed to Marry at One Point
Producers thought of marrying Tony and Angela in the middle of the show’s final season but ended up changing their minds because they were afraid that the obvious happy ending would lower ratings even more. Let’s be honest, they were right. Marriage? Nay. Unfulfilled sexual tension? Yay!
The show was left open-ended, yet it managed to achieve some closure. After working in Iowa for a bit, Tony returns to Angela’s place in Connecticut, and as he walks through the door, he says the very same line he said in the sitcom’s first episode. The show’s ending gave its viewers a wonderful, nostalgic feeling.
A British Spin-Off
Apart from two American spin-offs, Who’s the Boss? inspired another show called The Upper Hand, a British take on the plot. Unlike the original show, The Upper Hand’s finale ended quite differently, with the housekeeper and the boss eventually getting married.
The British version aired from 1990 to 1996 and centered around a retired soccer player named Charlie Burrows who moved to Oxford-shire to work as a housekeeper for a confident and successful advertising executive named Caroline Wheatley.
Alyssa Milano Was Older Than Her Character
Milano’s character, Samantha (or Sam), was a classic, no-nonsense, tomboy type of girl who loved to play basketball. Sam was supposed to be no more than ten years old. But by the time the show aired in 1984, Milano was 12 and entering her teen years.
Luckily, at first there wasn’t much of a difference in Milano’s appearance for her age to become an issue. She was adorable in the first seasons and became even more of an attraction as the seasons went by! By the time the show wrapped up, Milano was a gorgeous 19-year-old.
Mona Was the Boss
In a Reddit AMA thread, Alyssa Milano posted, “Hi! I’m here! Ask me anything.” The obvious question and the one we were all waiting for was, “Who’s the boss?” Milano didn’t think twice and instantly replied. “Mona. Duh.”
While Tony had his funny moments and Sam had some witty remarks, it was Mona who stole the show. Her open-mindedness was refreshing, and her rather promiscuous behavior never seized to surprise. But on a side note, her “peace and love” attitude wasn’t always widely accepted, being that the ‘80s was a rather conservative period compared to the flower children era of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
A Starry Spectacle
Throughout their eight-season run, Who’s the Boss? hosted an impressive lineup of famous faces, including Betty White and Mike Tyson. Another celeb is Delta Bruke, who starred in the first season as Angela’s next-door neighbor. Her character was meant to add some hype to the new show that was yet to have proved itself.
Another big name was Ray Charles, who appeared on the show’s third season in an episode called Hit the Road Chad. To everyone’s delight, Charles sang a song, a romantic tune that Sam’s boyfriend wrote for her. To have someone as big as Ray Charles appear says a lot about the sitcom’s success.
Family Guy Honored the Show
Family Guy has an interesting way of expressing their appreciation and love toward something – they make fun of it. They’re basically TV’s lovable bullies. They’re sort of like the Eminem of the small screen. And Who’s the Boss? was lucky enough to be called out by them.
In an episode called Love Thy Trophy, Peter Griffin gets to choose the theme for the town’s annual harvest festival, and he decides to go for Who’s the Boss? Specifically, the episode where Tony carelessly hums a tune as he walks in on Angela in the shower.
The Show Introduced All Types of Families
Who’s the Boss? was a captivating series for several reasons. But one of the main advantages it brought to the table was that it introduced the nation to a new kind of family. It normalized an unconventional arrangement, where the woman is the career-driven force in the house, and the man is the housekeeper.
It also expressed that family bonds go way beyond blood and race. Tony ended up falling in love with Angela’s little boy, and vice versa. Angela became Sam’s mom, and Jonathan and Sam became stepsiblings who had grown to love each other even though they randomly stumbled into each other’s lives.
The Show Collected MANY Awards
Who’s the Boss? was a lot more than an ordinary funny sitcom to pass the time with. Its script was engaging, with plenty of important and groundbreaking underlying themes. The show was deeply cherished by audiences and critics alike, snatching a total of 10 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards.
Helmond’s performance as Mona was so adored that she ended up winning a Gold Globe for it! Even though the show ended in 1992, it continuously aired all through the ‘90s, to make sure that the new generation wouldn’t miss out on this great story.
Three Different People Sang the Theme Song
The show’s theme song is an unforgettable number that has been belted out by not one, not two, but three different people! Initially, Larry Weiss’s voice was on the record, but it was later replaced by Steve Wariner, and finally, Jonathan Wolff sang it.
We have to admit, this unnecessary swapping seems like a lot for a theme song that’s less than a minute long and quite frankly, isn’t as important as the show itself. Regardless of who sang it, it was always nice to hear that “a brand-new life” was “right around the bend.”
The Show Made Up New Phrases
In a nostalgic get-together in 2016, the Who’s the Boss? cast sat down with Entertainment Weekly to share their favorite moments on set, and according to some of their remarks, it looks like the show’s writers had to get super creative when it came to certain words.
In one specific episode, Tony Danza’s character went to the store to buy Sam underwear. But because the network restricted the show from saying “bra” more than once, Tony was forced to use the term “foundation garment” instead.
Good Things Take Time
Producers had everything arranged by the time they started filming in October 1983. But they put the launch on hold for a whole year before they agreed to release it to the telly in 1984. The reason for that was simple – they wanted to debut when the time was right.
They wanted to pitch their idea to ABC in peak season, rather than just boring old mid-season. Looks like their decision to wait paid off because the show was picked up by the network and added to their impressive list of unforgettable sitcoms.
There’s a Reboot in the Making!
Three decades after the show’s finale, Who’s the Boss? is coming back for an emotional reboot! Fans everywhere are dying to know what Tony and the rest of the gang have been up to, and luckily, the network has decided to provide details. So, who will we be seeing in this exciting comeback?
Alyssa Milano and Tony Danza are surely taking part, but their co-stars Judith and Danny haven’t spoken up yet. Unfortunately, THE boss – Mona — won’t be in the reboot because Katherine Helmond passed away in 2019 from Alzheimer’s complications. We can only hope that the show’s producers will find a way to honor this beloved actress.
What Might the Reboot Be About?
The reboot will supposedly be set 30 years after the original show, with Tony retired from both baseball and his housekeeping gig and Samantha (Milano’s character) as a single mom living on her own in (maybe) the same home in which the original show was shot in.
It’s also possible, though nothing has been confirmed yet, that Tony will move in with his daughter to help her manage the house and raise her child. So, from what we know, the reboot will likely center around their adorable father-daughter relationship.
Now before we see our favorite characters come to life again on TV, let’s see what they’ve been up to since the show has ended.
Tony Danza’s Steady Reign in TV and Film
After parting ways with Tony Micelli, Tony Danza made several guest appearances on TV, as well as landing roles in a few TV movies. He was also lucky enough to be granted his own show in 2004 called the “Tony Danza Show,” and although it lasted only two seasons, it was still nice to see his wide smile on our screens.
Danza also appeared on Broadway in the musical “The Producers” where he performed as Max Bialystock. The actor changed things up once more and went from the stage to reality TV when he agreed to take part in a series called “Teach,” in which he became a 10th grade English class teacher. Following his year of teaching, Danza released a book titled “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.”
Judith Light Has Balanced Activism With Continued Stardom
After the show wrapped up, Judith took on several TV roles through the ’90s and became a favorite as Judge Elizabeth Donnelly in the hit show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Shortly after, from 2006-2012, she joined the cast of “Ugly Betty,” and, in 2010, made a comeback to Broadway, where she managed to snatch two Tony Awards.
Apart from acting-related gigs, Judith has become a fierce activist for LGBTQ rights. She managed to combine both her craft and her activism when she participated in the dark comedy Transparent, a show dealing with a father coming out as trans.
Alyssa Milano Advocates for Women’s Rights
Alyssa finished her reign as Sam when she was 19. After spending her teenage years on the set of the show, Milano decided it was time to shed her good-girl reputation and show the world a different, more risqué side to her. So, she had a few years in the ‘90s of starring in some average movies in an attempt to rid herself of her squeaky-clean image.
Ultimately, she launched herself back into a good place when she appeared in the series “Melrose Place” and later on in the hit TV show “Charmed” from 1998-2006. One of her most recent works is her part in the 2018 romantic comedy “Little Italy.”
She’s Grown More and More Outspoken
Through the years, Milano has become more and more outspoken regarding humanitarian causes. One of her recent actions has been to reignite the MeToo movement that was first initiated in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke.
By bringing attention to the sexual harassment women face, Milano helped spark a much-needed conversation on the topic and received an outpouring of reactions from women all over the world. Her bold deeds have helped many but have also made her the target of numerous critics. Luckily, similar to her Who’s the Boss? character, Milano isn’t afraid of confrontation.
Danny Pintauro Found It Hard to Deal With Child Stardom
Like Milano, Danny Pintauro grew up before our eyes and was just seven years old when he landed the part of Jonathan, Angela’s shy, geeky son. After the show, he made a conscious decision to stay out of the spotlight, but, as it turns out, after so many years as Jonathan, he struggled to find himself again.
In 1997, he came out as gay, and years later, in 2015, he appeared on an episode of Oprah’s documentary series, “Where Are They Now?” where he confessed to the struggles he dealt with after coming out.
Pinaturo also told Oprah that he had been HIV positive since 2003 due to his careless behavior, which he explained resulted from a worsening methamphetamine addiction. In conclusion, life hasn’t been easy for the former child star.
Fortunately, Danny managed to pull himself together, and as of today, he’s healthy, happy, and married to his longtime lover, Wil Tabares. He’s focusing his time on opening a bed and breakfast, while saving money working as a restaurant manager. His latest showbiz appearances have been on YouTube, where he starred in the web series The Quarantine Bunch as well as in another series called Unsure/Positive.
Katherine Helmond Passed Away From Alzheimer’s
After her scene-stealing performance as Mona, it wasn’t difficult for Katherine Helmond to find work. She landed the recurring role of Lois Whelan on Everybody Loves Raymond and appeared on the comedy series Coach.
In addition to her screen performances, Helmond lent her voice to the animated film “Cars 2” where she acted the part of Lizzie. Sadly, the remarkable actress passed away in 2019, at age 89, from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Growing Up in the Limelight Was Mortifying
Being a child star has its ups – a fun environment, money (even though, as a kid, you definitely don’t care as much), and meeting cool, famous people. But it definitely has its downs – no privacy, no normal childhood, no fooling around just for fun without having to worry about it being in the news the next day.
For Alyssa Milano, the experience was both great, and awkward. “I’d walk down the street and get recognized,” she recalled. “People would be like, ‘That bra episode! You’re getting older, you’re growing up!’ It was so mortifying.”
Tony Danza Is a Bit Scared of Doing a Reboot
While everyone is excited about the show’s reboot, Tony Danza wasn’t so eager to jump on the wagon at first. He said a firm “no” to the suggested comeback due to Katherine Helmond ‘s death. “First of all, I’ve never been a big fan of these reboots,” he told Good Day New York.
“[But] no, can’t reboot because we’ve got no Katherine Helmond, that’s why not. That’s it,” he added. As far as we know, he eventually agreed to hop on board. We’re assuming that Milano got in touch with him and worked her magic to get him to do it.
He Wishes the Show Was Still on TV
Despite his dislike of reboots, Danza admitted that he wished Who’s the Boss? was still aired on TV so the ideas and the lessons portrayed in the show could be passed on to younger generations. “I wish it was on TV,” he told People magazine. “It would be a good show for kids to see.”
But to Danza’s surprise, some kids do watch the show, thanks to their great parents. The actor told People that he was once stopped in the middle of the street by a little kid who asked him, “Are you Tony Micelli?” Surprised, Danza responded with, “How the heck do you know that?” The kid’s mother chimed in and said that her little boy watches it all the time.
Tony Is Proud of His Little Girl
Tony had nothing but good things to say about his on-screen daughter, who has become the voice of many people around the world. “This is somebody who wants to leave the world a little better than she found it,” he told People magazine.
“One of the things that happens, I think – you’re a kid from – she’s from Staten Island, I’m from Brooklyn, garbage man’s son – and you get this opportunity, you get this platform, this job, you get this career. [And you think to yourself], I gotta do something good with it. I don’t want to just sit around, and I think she feels the same way, that she feels like she should do something.”
Why She Started the MeToo Movement
Milano confessed that after filming Who’s the Boss? she was “working hard to break out of the box that my work as a child TV star was putting me in.” She started taking on more mature roles in which she acted out sex scenes. During this time, she claimed she suffered sexual abuse on the set of a film.
Even though she didn’t name the person involved, Milano reported that a man 17 years older than her, with whom she shared an intimate scene, “took advantage of a moment of complete vulnerability [and] literal exposure.”
“[He] put his hand under my underwear and [tried] to force his fingers inside of me,” she revealed. “He violated me on a set with cameras rolling.”