Whatever else, Tony Danza certainly deserves credit for allowing the good, the bad and the unflattering to show on his Friday (10/1)-debuting A&E reality series, “Teach.” The former “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss” star had the cameras with him for his full semester of teaching English at an urban Philadelphia high school – and it wasn’t pretty. Viewers will see 10th graders complaining that he talks too much, asking impertinent questions, worrying that he’s incompetent, and saying they didn’t have a clue who he was. They will see Tony crying.
How did he deal with this ego bruising? “I never thought about anything except trying to be a good teacher,” he tells us. “I very rarely even considered the show. I don’t mean to denigrate it, dismiss it or discount it. I thought the show would only be good if I was good teacher or a real car wreck.
“By the way, I felt a tremendous responsibility to these kids, to the other teachers, and to the school. It was overwhelming. Hence the crying. I became the crybaby of all time,” he goes on. “The kids call me crybaby. You start to care so much, it breaks your heart every minute.”
He’s learned, “When you’re a performer, you think of yourself all the time – how’s my hair, my body, my face? When you become a teacher, you have no time to think about yourself.”
As Tony explains on the show, he hopes to shine a light on the demands and difficulties facing teachers in these days of electronics-toting teens. He earned a teaching degree before becoming a TV star and, at 59, wanted to do something meaningful.
Divorced in 2007, the father of four children (the eldest born in 1971, the youngest in ’93) says his family “was a little bit, like, befuddled” by his plan. “But they know me. I’ve always admired teachers. Even on ‘Who’s the Boss’ — Tony Micelli became a teacher at the end.”
This week, Tony will be doing promo chores in New York and Philadelphia, and says “I just might pop down to the school and say ‘Hi’ to everybody. I’m missing it very badly right now.” He’s also missing acting. “I’m shopping agents,” he reveals. As for the future of “Teach,” there are seven installments ready to air, and more in the can, according to Tony. “The hope is that the show goes well and we get to go all the way through commencement.”