What making A&E's new 'Teach' taught actor Tony Danza
On Friday, A&E will premiere one of the most interesting and compelling shows of this fall season: "Teach: Tony Danza," a docu-reality show that follows the famous actor during a year of teaching sophomore English at Northeast High School in Philadelphia.
It sounds like a gimmick, yes, but Tony Danza put his heart and soul into his work with his students. The result is not just a voyeuristic look at a fascinating personal journey, but it also spotlights the disappointing state of public education in America.
Nothing about his job came easy for Danza, who was constantly tested by his students. For a taste of what we mean, here's an anecdote Danza shared with us over lunch earlier this month:
He asked his class of 26 to write a short story using six of these vocabulary words: arrogant, mollified, anguish, complacently, ominously, metaphor, hyperbole, hero, ironic, imagery and formidable.
One particularly challenging (and clever) student wrote: “My arrogant teacher told me to write a story using the words — anguish, complacently, ominously, metaphor, hyperbole, hero, ironic, imagery, and formidable — so I mollified him and did the work.”
Danza made her write it over.
"My arrogant teacher told me to write a story. So I mollified him and wrote the darn thing. I was anguished because my first story wasn’t acceptable. So I had to complacently write this one. He ominously stood over me while I started to write, which is really annoying. He’s a donkey when he does stuff like that. He will talk about it non-stop if you don’t do what he says. He’s not a hero of the school. It was ironic because the word I was thinking he is is the first word on the list of words you have to use for this darn story. The boy, Eric, in front of me is crying. Now use imagery to imagine that. This is not a formidable challenge.”
Danza approved of the revision and laughs about the moment now, but the series reveals how the first-year teacher struggled in more ways than one.
To learn more about what drove Danza to the classroom and how he coped, read my feature, "For Tony Danza, teaching is an emotional experience."
The show premieres at 10 p.m.
Here's a trailer for the show:
-- Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: Tony Danza at Taverna Tony in Malibu. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times
Video Credit: A&E