Another TV Face-Off where I take two similar shows and see which one is better. Today I am going to talk about two of my favorite family shows which aired on ABC from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. One was a role reversal comedy, and the other a more realistic sitcom than we had seen.
Whoâ€™s The Boss? was the star vehicle for Tony Danza, fresh off of Taxi. It was a role reversal sitcom as he was the housekeeper while the woman he worked for, Angela Bower, was a high profile professional. Roseanne was the star vehicle for Roseanne Barr, and it was a true working class sitcom. This may have been the first time in a family show both parents had to work, and the family had struggles and difficulties that many in middle American may experience. These shows were big hits in their time, but how do they stack up when put side by side?
Tony Miccelli vs Roseanne Connor
Normally I match the men up, but in this case it made more sense to do it this way. So which do you prefer a character that is always happy and excited or a character who is depressed half the time? That is pretty much the main difference, because take that away and these characters are pretty similar. They are both homemakers who try to keep the family and house functioning. Tony was a former Baseball player who had a career ending injury. After a few years of being a housekeeper he realized he wanted more, and went back to college. Roseanne bounced from odd job to odd job trying to giver her family all that she could. She worked at a factory, hair salon, and two restaurants before the show ended. Roseanne was a good wife and mother and Tony was a good father to Sam and the strong male role model that Jonathan needed. Of course the drive of the show was Tonyâ€™s love for Angela, which he would never admit to. Roseanne had a loyal husband that she adored. They were both ambitious, but while Tony went back to college Roseanne channeled her energies into having another child. The question is, which is the better character? Well, as I said in another article Roseanne can be real annoying and has lots of flaws. As the series went on she got so depressing at times, and her little insults were kind of mean. On the other hand Tony was always positive, and even though he would get a little nuts at time when things really upset him he always came down to Earth. I think Iâ€™ll take positive, and so I have decided that Tony wins over Roseanne for just being more likable.
Angela Bower vs. Dan Connor
Angela needs Tony; itâ€™s as simple as that. She is so rigid, so inflexible that when we meet her she has no idea how to just relax and have fun. Tony teaches her to relax and how to have confidence in herself. The problem is that makes her weak, in fact in one â€œItâ€™s a Wonderful Lifeâ€-esque episode we see what would have happened if Tony had never come into her life. She lives alone, with no loved ones or family. She had a rough childhood and a horrible marriage, but thanks to Tony she is a very different person when the series ends. On the other hand, Dan was confident and sure of himself. He never gave up even when things were tough. Dan was a real fun loving guy, but boy could he be deadly serious! One of his best episodes has to be when he finds out Fisher has been hitting Jackie. Through the series Dan and Jackie always were at odds and teased each other, but she was still family and he wasn’t going to ignore that. He proceeds to go beat the guy up like any big brother would. That episode was actually one of the best of the series; Laurie Metcalf was brilliant in it. I think Dan is just a better rounded character, sure he has flaws but with Angela her flaws are her whole character. Tony has to convince her to take vacations, form her own company, and not put so much pressure on her son. I will give credit to her for successfully evolving, itâ€™s she who decides to finally tell Tony she loves him first, but with Dan he was already there. He adored his wife and loved his kids, and did the best he could to make their lives better.
WINNER=Dan Connor (John Goodman didnâ€™t get the credit her deserved for this role)
Becky, Darlene, and D.J. vs. Sam and Jonathan
Both shows the kids were really secondary characters. Especially the younger ones. Jonathan and D.J. were really there to be cute and say silly lines. As they grew older they got more and more boring. Whoâ€™s The Boss? brought in a little child to spice up the show, which to no surprise failed. Roseanne added characters to but in a different way. Mark and David were the girlâ€™s boyfriends, and as the series went on they had more screen time then the girls did! Becky was a whiny teenager who liked obsessively worrying about things. She was a great big sister though. Darlene and Samantha were the resident teenagers, and I think were pretty good at showing the troubles that teens go through. Of course, Darlene was the classic depressed teen who is moody all the time. There were times you had to wonder why the family didnâ€™t get her some Prozac. Darlene did get funny at one point with great one liners, but she also could be unlikable a lot of the time. Samantha was a little more well adjusted, but still went through the same troubles that any teen does like dating and boys. Of course she had to deal with an overbearing father, who tried to keep her from growing up. Angela had to step in and teach Tony how to let her go, and be a second mother to Samantha. I didnâ€™t mention it in my character analysis, but that was one of the great things about Angela. So, who wins? The brooding teen or the popular one? Tough choice and as much as I like Sara Gilbert I have to go with Who’s The Boss? because I have always had a big thing for Alyssa Milano (just kidding, I am giving this to Who’s The Boss because I just didn’t like the way Becky and Darlene got treated those later years, and why were the guys in it more than they were?)
WINNER=Who’s The Boss? (just barely)
Whoâ€™s The Boss? had many guest starts through the years. The show had Betty White, Ray Charles, and even Frank Sinatra appear. However, in terms of a supporting cast there werenâ€™t any aside from Mona. Of course, I used to love Mona, she was so full of energy and life and from someone her age that was refreshing to see. Katherine Helmond did a great job making this character one of the funnest on television, even though she was flawed. She could be dishonest and didnâ€™t treat men very kindly, or her daughter for that matter as as she teased mercilessly, but deep down we knew that she loved her family more than anything. I think Mona teased Angela to get her to loosen up the same as Tony only taking a different approach. On Roseanne we had a much more diverse supporting cast. Sister Jackie was there from day one, and she was also very flawed. She slept around a lot but in her case it was from low self-esteem. Jackie was a good sister, aunt, or whatever else she needed to be. The supporting cast included Bev, the crazy mother, Nana Mary the wacky grandmother, Crystal in the early days (why did she disappear anyway?), and toward the end the openly gay Nancy and Leon, and of course Fred. There were others that came and went (including a young George Clooney as Roseanneâ€™s boss in year 1) but it would take too long to get into character descriptions for all these. So letâ€™s just say that while I loved Mona, there is no question that it was Roseanne which had a very strong supporting cast right though itâ€™s run.
Both of these shows had great opening themeâ€™s which really captured the feeling of each series. Roseanne had that saxophone tune which got lyrics toward the end, and it sucked when it did. Whoâ€™s The Boss? had the melody â€œBrand New Lifeâ€ which really explained the premise of the show, although I notice the tune got less bouncy and more serious as the series developed whereas Roseanne went the other way. I am going with Whoâ€™s The Boss?, I just like the song better and Roseanneâ€™s theme isnâ€™t as memorable to me.
WINNER=Who’s The Boss?
Here is the category which is always tough. Which show stayed more true to their formula? Whoâ€™s The Boss at its core was about the unspoken romance between Tony and Angela. I gotta say, this series did it right. Some episodes delved right in and dealt with it, but it wasnâ€™t thrown at us it was always handled delicately. For example, the episode where Tony says he loves Angela as he is being sedated starts out as a normal, run of the mill episode. On this show the relationship got to evolve naturally, as the two went from being boss/employer to best friends, to finally getting together. I also really believed in their friendship, it wasnâ€™t fake as it is in other shows. Roseanne was about a struggling middle class family, and boy did the show live up to that. The house was never cleaned, the family never had much money, but at least they knew how to laugh once in awhile. I like the first few years better, before the show started to become a soap opera with running story lines. I liked it at first but by season 5 or 6 it was enough already. However that doesnâ€™t take away from what this show accomplished. It broke many barriers such as having the first kiss between two women, talking about birth control and condoms, and bringing gay people into the forefront showing them as regular people no different from anyone else. I could do a list of all the topics covered on this show, and it was always done in a way which never offended people. Who’s The Boss was lighter, I think the most controversial topic was when Sam got a hickey (well there was one “special episode” involving a child who had been kidnapped). That was the charm, this was a series where the problems were always solved at the end of the episode. Roseanne the problems didn’t get solved at all. It got dark to, take the one where DJ steals the car and Roseanne almost beats him! That’s actually one of my favorite episodes. While Roseanne got more focused as it went on, evolving as the kids got older and the problems changed, Whoâ€™s The Boss strayed in its later years as the writers realized Tony being a housekeeper was getting boring. However, when they sent him to college that was where the show was ruined for me in many ways. For one thing, it came out of nowhere. The show just wasnâ€™t the same after that, and after awhile it was clear they were keeping Tony and Angela apart, just to keep them apart. Roseanne the changes made sense, and seemed more realistic. While Roseanne did get silly and suffered in its last year or two (more on that in a second) I think its safer to say that overall it was a just a stronger, better written program.
Jumping the Shark (that final season!)
Both of these shows got bad as the series got to the end. However, as bad as the last season of Who’s the Boss was, it canâ€™t compare to Roseanneâ€™s for sheer idiocy. If you read these articles I’ve writen you know I usually decide the winner based on the final season or two, which show stayed the course more than the other. Well, if you know Roseanne at all than you know where this is going. The show started bad the year before when it had a horrible Halloween show followed by a stupid “unseen pilot”, but that was the just the warm-up. The last season of Roseanne was AWFUL! I could buy the winning the lottery thing, it actually makes a certain amount of sense, but did the stories have to get so dumb? One episode had Roseanne in an action spoof with Steven Segal. Really! And having Dan have an affair was just WRONG!! I am not saying Who’s The Boss’s last year was perfect. There were some behind the scene issues and since it was clear ABC had given up on the show, the cast pretty just gave up trying that last year. The writing was downright silly, and Tony’s character changed, he started to actÂ like a crazy person in almost every episode. What about final episodes? Roseanne had an episode where nothing happens except the cast hanging out, until the last ten minutes when we see that everything that has happened, and there is some debate to whether it was the season or the series, was a story Roseanne had written! The whole end is oddly paced, as if even the writers had no idea what they were doing. I do give it points for trying but a good end can’t make up for a horrible season. Meanwhile Who’s The Bossâ€™s final episode had Tony taking a job miles away and he and Angela tried to keep their relationship alive. The final scenes for both shows were very good. When Roseanne won the lottery they transformed the house by remodeling and buying fancy furniture. In the last scene we see Roseanne come up the stairs, and the house has been restored to the way it had looked for eight years. Nice touch to emphasize the fact nothing we had seen that year ever happened. Who’s The Boss? recreated the opening to the very first episode, when we see Angela answering the door in the same bathrobe to find Tony there, asking for a job. He had decided being with her was more important. Sure they didn’t get married but the ending was sweet and satisfying. So, who wins? For me it comes down to one thing. If I had to choose one show to watch, right now, which would it be? This is a personal pick, but for me there is one clear winner.
Final Thoughts-Am I saying Who’s The Boss? is a better show? No, not at all. I am saying it is more enjoyable and fun to watch. Roseanne gets downright depressing and trying to follow the storylines in syndication is almost impossible. And that final season! While I enjoy both shows in general I like my sitcoms to be fun, and that’s why Who’s The Boss? has always had a higher place on my list. I know many will disagree with that, but that’s cool.