Welcome back to another stirring installment of Retro Rerun Review. This week, I attempt to answer the age old question we have all asked at one time or another: who, exactly, is the boss?
The Show: Who’s the Boss
Ran for: 196 episodes (8 seasons) from 1984 to 1992
What it’s about: In order to give his daughter a better life, a rough-around-the-edges but lovable Brooklyn widower moves to Connecticut to be a housekeeper for a prudish advertising executive, her plain son and her slutty mother.
My relationship with it: I’ve seen a number of episodes. It’s Who’s the Boss— who hasn’t?
This Episode: Season 2, Episode 10: “The Prodigal Father-in-Law” Originally aired December 3rd, 1985.
First of all, this theme song is the shit. Man, they don’t write tv ditties like this anymore. Nonsense lyrics, jaunty vocals, inoffensive lite guitar., horny synthesizer. God, it’s good. We open with Mona playing cards with Jonathan. Strangely, she’s not trying to fuck the cards, or the boy. He wins a large sum of money, but she offers him ice cream instead, which he declines.
Angela, Tony and Samantha arrive with groceries. Jonathan relays messages, including someone who left the really bad fake phone number “555-6789.” So, I mean, I get that they have to use 555 or whatever, but seriously? 6789? Christ.
He also casually mentions that someone called about “Nick Milano’s parole” and Samantha is like, “that’s my grandpa, but it can’t be parole— he’s in Florida.” And Tony stammers through a non-response, which I’m guessing means he’s been lying to his daughter. Slick.
Anyway, there are a lot of lazy jokes involving wordplay like “parole/payroll” and “penitentiary/Pensacola.” Oy, was the writing alway this awful? Jonathan and Angela leave the room, and Mona is off fucking something in the kitchen, so Tony and Samantha chat. We learn that grandpa went to prison for selling “used” auto parts (Samantha: “But what’s wrong with that?” Tony: “The people weren’t exactly done using them yet.” Audience: *shits pants with uproarious laughter*) and that he also bribed the judge. Sam is rightfully upset that Tony lied to her and she announces angrily that she never wants to see her grandpa again.
Next, we’re at the prison. Angela, Tony and Mona are there to speak to the parole board on Nick’s behalf. Seems strange, because I wonder if Angela and Mona even know him. Oh well, who cares about a plot hole now and then. There are a bunch of random hardcore looking prisoners milling about the reception area, which seems unrealistic. One of them, who looks like a young, scrawny Razor Ramon keeps leering sexually at Angela. The prisoners all get excited when Nick is on his way. They start chanting “NICK! NICK! NICK!”
Nick comes in and is very… gay. He’s just gay. He’s wearing an ascot (with a matching pocket square!) and moving daintily and and he sounds like a toned-down Harvey Fierstein. And that’s all fine and well— I support everyone’s right to love whoever they want to love— but the thing here is, I don’t think he’s supposed to be gay. He’s flirting with Mona, for starters. Anyway, he’s eager to get out and see Samantha. But then Tony tells him that, well, Samantha knows the truth. Nick and Tony shout Italian insults at one another.
In the next scene, we’re at the parole hearing and Torch, the skeezy Razor Ramon gangster, is crying and talking about how great Nick is. Again, I’m not sure this is how parole hearings work. Torch calls Nick “Cupcake,” so maybe they are a whole gay prison gang? Then it’s Tony’s turn and his speech is sort of all over the place. He calls Nick a rotten guy, but then also says that he’s proud to call him his father-in-law. Everyone applauds at the end of the speech. Sure, why not.
Everyone is smiling and happy, so it comes as no surprise when the parole is denied.
In the next scene, Angela, Tony and Mona are walking through the door talking about what an injustice the parole hearing was. They go into the kitchen where, wouldn’t you know it, Nick is at the table drinking wine and eating a large turkey drumstick. Despite only having 8 months left on his sentence, he broke out. He said he asked God to give him a sign about whether he should leave, and when he didn’t receive one, he left. He couldn’t stand having Sam mad at him, he explains.
Tony and Angela go to talk in the other room. Angela is mad that Tony won’t turn Nick in. He explains that snitches get stitches, only in a way that doesn’t use a phrase that wouldn’t be a thing for another 20+ years.
Back in the kitchen, Nick is hugging Mona’s breasts and pretending to not be gay. Then Tony and Angela reenter and Nick has to pretend he is composed and not like he was just pretending to be attracted to Mona. Tony tells him he has to leave. Samantha shows up and she isn’t interested in seeing her escaped-convict grandfather. TEENS, amirite???
She flees the room and Tony follows her. He is trying to convince her that it’s OK to love the recent prison escapee when said escapee comes in. Samantha says she’ll talk to him. Nick and Samantha have a heart-to-heart and Nick charms her into thinking he’s an okay guy. Then he lets slip that he escaped from prison and she’s pissed again, but maybe a little less than she was earlier.
Jonathan comes in listening to an AM/FM Walkman. He nonchalantly says hello to Nick. He’s like “how was prison, yo?” Anyway, Tony asks to listen to the Walkman for prison news and then there is immediately prison news on the radio. BUT IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK! (Provided you thought it was about Nick’s escape.) Due to overcrowding, the governor states that anyone with a sentence of less than a year will be out by the end of the week. Only problem is, of course, Nick already busted out. But because bed-check isn’t until 10pm, Nick plans on sneaking back in. Mona offers to drive him because she doesn’t know he’s gay and she plans on rubbing units with him on the way. They leave and Tony coyly admits to Angela that the whole thing about the radio report was made up. BOY WON’T NICK’S FACE BE RED WHEN HE VOLUNTARILY GOES BACK TO PRISON FOR THE ENTIRETY OF HIS SENTENCE!
In the next scene, Tony and Samantha are returning from visiting Nick. Samantha has a license place with “SAMBINA,” on it. It’s the nickname he calls her. Tony explains that Angela also has a gift from prison, a love note from a secret admirer. She goes to open it and it bursts into flames— the note was from Torch.
Would I Watch Another Episode? Totally. Despite some of this particular episode’s ham-fisted writing, Who’s the Boss is still a classic 80’s sitcom with plenty to offer. (Plus, it’s been off the air for 27 years and I still haven’t figured out who the boss was. [It was Jesus, right? I feel like it’s always Jesus.])