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'Taxi' to 'Hudson Street' - 13 Years in Sitcoms and Still Driving [ - ]
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Author: Bob Thomas
Source: Associated Press
Date | Issue: 09/10/1995 | NA
Topic: Tony Danza
Submitted by: mich_l81

'Taxi' to 'Hudson Street' - 13 Years in Sitcoms and Still Driving

By Bob Thomas 

"Rehearsal!" calls the director, and Tony Danza begins his high-energy drill for a scene in his new sitcom, "Hudson Street."

He dances around the kitchen of his bachelor pad to the music of "That Old Black Magic." His 10-year-old TV son, Frankie J. Galasso, enters and they exchange some adult banter. There's a knock at the door. Danza opens it to find his ex-wife (Shareen Mitchell) with a sawhorse traffic barrier.

"You can never find a parking place in this town!" she exclaims.

Danza interrupts the rehearsal and assumes the ex-wife's role. He repeats her line with emphasis, then plops the sawhorse on the living room floor. "The more frustrated you are, the funnier it is," he instructs.

The actress nods in agreement, and the director indicates her approval. After all, Danza is the star of "Hudson Street," and it's a Katie Face Production, named for his daughter ("You should see how she beams when she sees that logo on the screen").

More significantly, Danza is a veteran of 13 years of sitcoms, and he knows full well how to milk a laugh.

The rehearsal continues smoothly, and then the action moves to another set. It's a New Jersey police station where Tony Canetti (Danza) works as a detective. So there's the story line: New Jersey cop, divorced, sometime father, new romance with a crusading reporter (Lori Loughlin).

You can see it on ABC starting Tuesday, Sept. 19, following "Roseanne."

The rehearsal suspended, Danza climbs up to the handful of watchers in the audience bleachers and explains why he's back in the sitcom world after five years on "Taxi" and eight years on "Who's the Boss?"

"I had a deal with ABC that's been in place since 'Who's the Boss?,"' he began. "It's a deal unlike any others: a 22-episode commitment. This is a twofold thing here: It's one thing to star in a show, it's another to produce it. We hired the writers, we cast it, the whole thing."

The Brooklyn-born actor admitted that his primary ambitions after "Who's the Boss?" were to make his name in movies and appear on Broadway. He came thatclose to landing a role in the new Robert De Niro-Al Pacino film, "Heat." At the last moment, he was dealt a turndown.

Danza attributes his urgency to explore new fields to the skiing accident he suffered 20 months ago.

"Everything that could go wrong went wrong," he recalled. "I got airborne, and all I know is what other people told me. It was like my body said, 'You don't want to see this.' I went into a tree at 25-30 miles an hour - backwards.

"Stopped me cold. Hooked my back. Dislocated my spine. Broke eight ribs, put one in my liver, one in my lung. Bruised my kidney. Broke my leg. Tore up my knee. It was like the mob got me."

Danza, who was a wrestler at the University of Dubuque and a Golden Gloves boxer, recovered swiftly enough to go skiing last Christmas.

After the "Heat" disappointment, he decided to activate his ABC deal.

"The genesis starts with the romantic comedy, wanting to do something that I'm pretty good at, I think," he said. "Tracy-Hepburn was our prototype."

Curiously, "Hudson Street" is taped on Stage 25 of Sony Studio, formerly MGM. On that same stage, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn filmed some of their great comedies.

The head of Katie Face Productions, Melissa Goldsmith, shopped for writers and found a gem: Randi Mayem Singer, whose first produced screenplay was the smash hit "Mrs. Doubtfire."

"She wrote a pilot, and Melissa and I shepherded her through the process," said Danza. "She was right on the money. This was a romantic comedy, which is what she writes.

"She'd never written a TV show, so there was some reluctance at the network.... For the exact reason that she hadn't done TV before and hadn't that mentality, the script was really terrific.

"My whole M.O. now is to live up to that pilot, because it was so strong."

He realizes that "Hudson Street," if it clicks, may entail another long run. That doesn't bother him. He speaks fondly of his first two series.

"'Taxi' was an incredible learning experience, my first entrance to fame and some fortune - though I was broke when it was over," he said.

"'Who's the Boss?' was a joy from beginning to end. The only thing that was painful was the end. But I felt it had run its course.

"If 'Hudson Street' goes six years, I'll be pleased. Then I'll go out and do my act. I'd still like to break into movies; I'd like to have one great movie under my belt."