Between grammar lessons and literature analysis, English class can seem tedious and never-ending — except maybe when you have Tony Danza for a teacher.
Before the actor earned fame on iconic shows such as “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss,” the Brooklyn native was well on his way to a career in education.
On A&E’s “Teach: Tony Danza,” he is given the chance to see what his life would have been like had he not made a name for himself in Hollywood.
In his new venture, Danza teaches a 10th grade English class full-time at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School, designing lesson plans for 26 students in back-to-back class periods.
As an aspiring actor, Danza had a knack for choosing roles on sitcoms that became successful, such as the extremely popular “Taxi,” and “Who’s the Boss?”
This multi-talented star was also recognized for his boxing skills, playing professionally from 1976-1979.
Danza may be out of the ring, but he’s learned that taking on a group of high school students can be just as dangerous.
Because he has been known as Tony for most of his career, in real life and on the small screen, it’s odd to see him as Mr. Danza.
However strange it seems, Danza is fully qualified for the position — the actor earned a bachelor’s degree in history education at the University of Dubuque in Iowa.
With his graying hair, sleek suit and confident stance, he fit the role nicely and could almost pull off lecturing in a classroom in Oddfellows.
In the latest episode of his A&E program, the new teacher is faced with typical high school drama, be it feuds among friends or cheating students.
The show did seem a bit scripted – the students obviously cannot be themselves with cameras following their every move – but it was devoid of any over-exaggerated TV drama.
All of the conflicts were believable: the female bickering, tattle-taling and cheating can be seen in any high school in the nation. The students were entertaining to watch, and Danza seemed sincere in his attempt to help them solve their issues.
It’s hard not to like Danza. His approachable attitude and fun personality are qualities that make him easy to admire.
It was also a breath of fresh air to see that Danza wasn’t ashamed to make fun of himself – at one point he dedicated an awkward birthday rap to a co-worker.
It was refreshing to see an actor succeed in Hollywood with his ego in check.
There seems to be a trend in TV programs recently that showcase former stars and reveal their hidden passions.
For instance, Vanilla Ice’s knowledge of real estate and home renovation was revealed on TLC’s the “Vanilla Ice Project” and celebrity contestants continue to show off their surprisingly smooth moves on “Dancing with the Stars.”
A lot of these shows may just be celebrities’ attempts to try to recapture their glory days, but Danza seems committed to his new gig.
He could have just spent his 45 minutes in the Philadelphia classroom and called it a day, but he showed his full commitment to the project as he lent his efforts to other aspects of the school, such as chaperoning Northeast’s Homecoming dance.
Watching his relationship with the students in out of the classroom, it was obvious that he’s genuinely concerned with their well-being.
Although he seemed like the perfect teacher, Danza proved he wasn’t invincible when he failed at one point to quiet his classroom, ultimately storming out of class saying, “I can’t fight this battle today.”
The editing may have intentionally shown the students on their worst behavior, but the moment revealed Danza’s weakness.
Because of his inexperience, the students took advantage of him, one even admitted to cheating on his Shakespeare test.
Despite his evident weaknesses, the adversity he faced showed how much students felt about him. Concerned students made a card to say sorry for their behavior.
The sign of affection was impressive: how often do students make an apologetic card for talking too much?
It was evident Danza impacted his pupils positively.
Once in a while, however, there were amusing glimpses of his signature tough-guy attitude. When expressing suspicion that his student cheated, he said, in a mobster-like tone, “I’m gonna make them admit it…I’m pissed.”
This was not exactly the typical response one hears from an English teacher, who is often expected to speak with eloquent fluidity.
Ultimately, Mr. Danza handled the students’ issues with collected ease and his pep talks were sincere and inspiring.
Although he has a lot to learn about teaching, Danza should be applauded for taking on this real- life challenge and not just cruising on his former success.
The remaining episodes of the A&E seven-part series will air Fridays at 10 p.m. as the actor completes his final lessons.
He may not be driving taxis anymore, but Danza seems to be steering these kids in the right direction.