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Who’s the Boss: The Complete First Season (review)

If there’s one thing that makes this 20-year-old sitcom worth revisiting — and there is only the one thing — it’s its value as an ethnographic specimen. What’s all the more startling is that such a thing is unlikely ever to be said in the vicinity of a Tony Danza vehicle again. But look how much our culture has changed in the last two decades: Here we have Tony Micelli (Danza), a blue-collar guy from Brooklyn who used to play major-league baseball, working as a housekeeper, babysitter, and cook for a successful advertising executive and single mother (Judith Light) in ritzy suburban Connecticut. And while the humor is the cardboard-cutout type typical of sitcoms — mistaken identities, unspoken romantic attraction, and the wisecracking of precocious gradeschoolers the likes of which exist only in sitcoms — none, none of it is about denigrating the man — a stereotypically macho, ultramasculine man at that — for his domestic skills, which are numerous, varied, and accomplished. In fact, it’s offered as a given that a guy like Tony would admonish the kids for eating junk food and can bake a cake like Betty Crocker. We simply don’t see stuff like this anymore, now that women’s lib has run out of steam and “sensitive” men are out of fashion and the pendulum of gender roles is swinging back toward the conservative. Of course, you only need to watch one or two of these 22 episodes — crisp and clear, despite the fact that they date from 1984-5 — to marvel at such a cultural shift. Then you can use the discs as coasters to keep those unsightly moisture rings off your coffee table.

MPAA: not rated

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