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Who’s the boss? HE’s the boss.

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On a day when the U.S. cable networks served up chats with and glimpses of the most dubious class of celebrities — the Kardashians, and the cast of Jersey Shore — it took former boxer turned sitcom star turned song-and-dance man turned high-school teacher, in the person of Tony Danza, to put this latest strain of stardom into perspective.

Danza, best known for his lengthy sitcom runs on Taxi (1978-83) and Who’s the Boss? (1984-92), is returning to prime time this fall in an A&E reality series called Teach, which follows him through a year in which he leaves his showbiz career behind and becomes a certified, full-time teacher at a Philadelphia high school.

When met with TV critics here during A&E’s portion of the U.S. networks’ summer press tour, he had lots to say about the difficult process of reaching and inspiring kids in the 21st-century educational environment. Given his Italian-American background, it was inevitable that Danza would be asked about the sudden celebrity of the twentysomething "Guidos" and "Guidettes" on the hyper-tacky MTV series Jersey Shore.

"I think shows like Jersey Shore make it harder on teachers in general," Danza offered. "Every day I tell kids, ‘Good behaviour will pay off. I promise. Good behaviour will pay off.’ And then they go home and watch that show and say, ‘Mr. Danza, you’re wrong. Bad behaviour pays off.’ That’s what really hurts us.

"And by the way, that’s where we get into the cultural end of this. What is our responsibility? We yell about bad schools and bad teachers and failing grades, and then we put on shows like that that give kids the wrong kind of role models, and then we’re surprised when they act out."

Later in the session, Danza felt compelled to return to the Jersey Shore issue, making it clear that it’s not just the antics of Snooki and The Situation and JWoww and their ilk that we should be distressed about.

"I hate to go back to Jersey Shore, but I can’t help it," he said. "I was in the gymnasium, working out right after I got back from school, and there was a discussion of Jersey Shore and I pointed out that it’s tough on teachers. ... And this very, very wealthy woman, wealthy beyond what we can imagine, said, ‘Oh, I despise those people on that show.’

"I had to point out to her, ‘How do you feel about the guys in suits you had dinner with last night who put that show on?’ I mean, because you can hate the kids, but it’s Viacom. It’s the big companies."

Class dismissed.

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About Brad Oswald

Way back when Brad Oswald was TV-inclined little kid, his exasperated mother used to say things like, "Would you PLEASE turn that thing off and go OUTSIDE and play? If you insist on watching that IDIOT box day after day after day, you will NEVER amount to ANYTHING in this world!"

Well, go figure.

Brad joined the Free Press in 1987 and has spent most of the last two decades getting paid to watch the television as the paper’s resident TV critic. In addition to previewing and reviewing all the latest prime-time shows and covering the local TV industry, he also usually spends a few weeks per year in L.A., interviewing TV stars and attending Big Phony Hollywood Parties.

Brad also writes about comedy and other assorted entertainment topics, and has been known to wander onto local stages try out his own standup material as part of an ongoing quest to satisfy his deep-rooted need for affirmation. He was the winner of Rumor’s Comedy Club’s first Funniest Person With a Day Job contest.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Brad grew up in St. Vital, attended Dakota Collegiate and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba before enrolling in Red River College’s Creative Communications program. He played rugby for more than 20 years, which, quite frankly, amounts to a whole lot of blows to the unprotected noggin.

Despite that, during his two-decades-plus at the Free Press, he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about television and other pop-culture topics, and would certainly not be the worst person to pick for your trivia-contest team.

For some reason, he firmly believes his Mom really would be proud of all this.

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