This is a recap of the second episode of A&E’s new television program, Teach: Tony Danza. There has never in the history of television been a more serious show that is more difficult to take seriously. This show is way not joking.
You know that feeling you used to get on your second day of school? It’s that feeling where your first-day nerves have calmed down and you finally are able to come to terms with how the rest of your school year might turn out. That is what the second episode of Teach: Tony Danza is like. And, wow. What you end up coming to terms with is that this sh*t is for real; the stakes are actually very high. The terrible idea of having Tony Danza teach high school English in order to provide television entertainment is actually being done, and Tony Danza is actually these kids’ teacher, and if he doesn’t do a good job they will be stupid forever. And he’s not doing a good job. It’s really scary. Let’s get started.
The episode begins with Mrs. DeNaples asking Tony Danza to help her wrangle the kids in the morning to get them to class. Tony Danza follows her outside, and they tell a bunch of students who are already walking to class to keep walking to class. Because that’s every kid’s favorite thing about authority figures. Being told to do something while you are in the middle of doing that thing is what you really look forward to every day when you are a teenager.
A mother pulls up to drop off her late kid. Tony Danza tells her that is NOT okay.
The weird thing is… THIS would be a good reality show, a show about random used-to-be celebrities telling unsuspecting parents that they shouldn’t make their kids late to school. That, however, is not this show. This show doesn’t air a significant part of that interaction. But here’s how we can all assume it went.
TONY DANZA: Your kid is late for school. You’ve got to get him here on time in the morning.
PARENT: Tony Danza?
Tony Danza heads back inside, and the school day begins. He starts a discussion about the first book he assigned to read, Of Mice And Men by F. Scott Shakespeare. Some of the students seem to have a pretty good grasp of the story. Ben A.K.A. Kyle says he can totally relate to the characters in the book.
“I can totally relate to them too, bro!” his mustache says.
Some other students, are having a more difficult time. Howard A.K.A. Frankie is “having trouble getting it.” He is almost as confused by the book as I am by how many kids at Northeast High School have a second completely normal name as their A.K.A.
They should just go by one name A.K.A. their real name.
Tony Danza then announces that the following day, he will give his first quiz. The students are unhappy because they do not like quizzes. One student says that quizzes are a waste of her time. Another says, “When I hear that word ‘quizzes’ I always think I’m going to get a bad grade.” Then another girl is all like, “Half of my hair is awesome, but the other half of my hair is COMPLETELY AWESOME TOO!”
After class, Howard A.K.A. Frankie goes to Tony Danza to talk to him one on one about his problems understanding Of Mice and Men. Tony Danza promises him they’ll get through it together and that it will get easier. Then Howard A.K.A Frankie leaves. And remember from the first episode how Tony Danza told all of his students to sanitize their hands every time they come in or leave the class? Well Howard A.K.A. Frankie remembers the f*ck out of that.
Tony Danza is reaching the kids!!!! Either that or this kid is super gifted and he was just playing stupid to Tony Danza. Seems unlikely though, right?
Well, maybe it’s not so unlikely. When Tony Danza meets with his instructor and mentor, David Cohn, Tony Danza is given a list of all the gifted students in his class. Howard A.K.A. Frankie is on that list. Tony Danza thinks he might be getting played.
The next day, Tony Danza gives his first quiz and he is VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT! At the beginning of the quiz, a number of students approach him and ask him if they can go to the research room. These students, it is explained, are in a special ed program and they are allowed to go take tests in a separate room if they request to do so. But Tony Danza, presumably feeling burned from the Howard A.K.A Frankie incident, asks that they stay in his class room to take the test. And so begins an ongoing problem in this episode where Tony Danza refuses to recognize learning disabilities. So much more on this later.
The reactions to the quiz are mixed. Some kids think it was super easy, but other students, like mini Christine O’Donnell, think the questions were difficult.
“I’m not a student witch. I’m nothing you’ve student heard. I’m student you. That quiz was hard.” – this student.
After class, David Cohn, is like, hey, Tony Danza, you can’t not let the special ed kids use the research room because that’s ILLEGAL. Tony Danza takes this criticism very well and is such an adult about it.
Adulthood! “Maybe this will be a game changer for them!” Tony Danza continues. David Cohn is like, “Tony Danza, no!” Tony Danza then says he thinks the kids just need to put forth more effort. And that makes sense because you know who’s really good at assessing learning disabilities in children and whether or not effort is sufficient to overcome them? Former boxer/actors who have been teaching on a reality show for six days. Shut up, Tony Danza.
Tony Danza goes home and grades the quizzes. And surprise! Half the students fail. Tony Danza is upset.
The next school day, Tony Danza hands back all of the quizzes. He gives special credit to Matt Pepper who did really well. The Asian kid is like “whatever.”
Then, Tony Danza starts focusing on those in the class who did not do well. He singles out Paige who did the worst out of everyone. She’s pretty bummed about it and refuses to pay attention for the rest of the period.
The special ed kids are particularly upset because they feel the reason they did not do well was because Tony Danza wouldn’t let them use the research room. This prompts a visit to Tony Danza from the special ed teacher. Tony Danza is in trouble.
She explains to Tony Danza that effort does not eliminate a learning disability. But the explanation doesn’t take. They then have to have an ENTIRE SEMINAR to explain learning disabilities to Tony Danza.
Tony Danza tries to argue with a number of people who seem to have roughly 10,000 Ph.Ds in education about how kids might use a learning disability as a crutch. They calmly explain that he should let the special ed kids use the research room to take tests anyway because IT’S THE LAW. Tony Danza seems to finally get it. But then he totally doesn’t get it.
Jesus Christ, Tony Danza! He is called into the principal’s office to have the whole thing explained to him one more time. Nobody in the faculty is willing to point out the irony of Tony Danza being seemingly unable to learn about a learning disability.
We then jump forward to later in the day. Tony Danza has called Paige’s mom in for a conference so they can discuss her poor quiz grade and her tendency to not pay attention. In the single best moment from the show so far, Paige expresses anger at Tony Danza for calling her mom in for a meeting. Paige expresses this anger in Spanish… but in English.
Paige! That was the greatest! I watched that about 30 times in a row, and I think she’s saying, “When Mr. Danza called my mama, I think he did it behind my back because he didn’t tell me. And she didn’t tell me, so I didn’t know.” You might want to double check my math on that.
After he talks to her mom, Tony Danza talks to Paige again. She is very upset. She cries. She leaves Tony Danza feeling like he’s not breaking through to the students, so then he cries.
The thing is, it really does seem like Tony Danza cares. He genuinely cares about these kids and wants to teach them. Even if he does think that learning disabilities are fake, he is putting forth an honest effort to be an educator and make a difference. But, so far… oh, man, he’s super not good at it. I hope he gets better at it soon. Let’s check back in on him next week.
UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that what I repeatedly called a “research room” is actually called a “resource room.” I cannot even begin to tell you how sincerely I apologize for this error.