Classroom Notes - 'Teach: Tony Danza' - Season 1: Episode 7, "Teacher's Pet"

     I can't tell if the dramatic demands of each week are forcing the producers to highlight Hollywood Tony's continuing missteps in the classroom if Danza is a poor teacher, or if he's going through the usual problems any first year teacher experiences.
    On the seventh (and, apparently, final) episode of Teach, we return to the balancing act of Hollywood Tony versus Mr. Danza.
    In the classroom, with the students he's supposed to be teaching, Mr. Danza continues to work unevenly through the curriculum, assigning that old standby of high school English, the five paragraph essay, this time around on Julius Caesar. Good grief, you're asking for problems there already -- a formulaic writing assignment on a well-worn Shakespeare play.  Danza's preference for working with either boys or hard-luck cases (or both) is in full display here, as Chloe -- a bright, social girl -- is given a hard time on her essay while sulky Algernon is given a zillion chances to turn his in -- even AFTER the end of the marking period.  School administrators confer: Is Danza doing assignments just to get them done, to check them off, without actually teaching the content and skills?  I can't tell what the hell he's doing, frankly.  More and more, administrators are having to step in and teach the kids.  Danza agonizes: "What do you do with a kid that you know is smart but just won't do the work?"  You fail him, tell him kindly that you know he can do the work, and don't take it so personally.     Danza is so worried about being liked -- being popular -- that he cannot focus on the classroom.  Students are wanting to transfer out of his class.  "What you think and what you're projecting are different things," says the principal. "There's absolutely some issues."
     Also wearying is Danza's endless string of bootstrappisms with some of the students from harder backgrounds, in this episode represented by Johnny the Wanderer and his friends.  Mr. Danza offers to help Johnny, who never goes to class and has been in trouble with the law.  "It's a choice," he says for the hundredth time.  One of Johnny's friends just shakes his head: You don't understand what I've been through.  And when he tells Tony the real life horror story, Danza has no real response.  I did it, Hollywood Tony says, You can do it, too.  Well, maybe not.  Maybe the world breaks some young people in an almost permanent way.
     Never fear, there's always a talent show.  This time around, it's "ExtravaDanza," to raise money for an air conditioner for the library.  Or was it donated?  Hard to tell. Gotta have those small victories for Act Five, don't we, producers?
     The real question is, with two more episodes sitting around somewhere at A&E, will viewers ever get to see how things really worked out?  Are we done?  Has the bell rung or has Hollywood Tony just run out of things to say?

Notes on Season 1 - Episode 1, 'Back to School'

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