Head of the Class

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Head of the Class
Head of the Class (title card).jpg
Title card
GenreSitcom
Created by
Starring
Theme music composerEd Alton
ComposerEd Alton
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes114 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Michael Elias
  • Rich Eustis
Producers
  • Alan Rosen
  • Frank Pace
  • Larry Spencer
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companies
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original networkABC
Original releaseSeptember 17, 1986 (1986-09-17) –
June 25, 1991 (1991-06-25)
Chronology
Related showsBilly

Head of the Class is an American sitcom television series that ran from 1986 to 1991 on the ABC television network.[1][2]

The series follows a group of gifted students in the Individualized Honors Program (IHP) at the fictional Millard Fillmore High School in Manhattan, and their history teacher Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman). The program was ostensibly a vehicle for Hesseman, best known for his role as radio DJ Dr. Johnny Fever on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati (1978–1982). Hesseman left Head of the Class in 1990 and was replaced by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly (in his first major American production) as teacher Billy MacGregor for the final season. After the series ended, Connolly appeared in a short-lived spin-off titled Billy.

The series was created and executive produced by Richard Eustis and Michael Elias. Elias had previously worked as a New York City substitute teacher while hoping to become an actor.

A revival of the series was ordered and was co-produced by Bill Lawrence's Doozer and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, and airs on HBO Max.

Synopsis[edit]

Head of the Class is mainly set in the classroom of academically gifted high school students, all in the Individualized Honors Program at Millard Fillmore High School in New York City. The IHP students comprised a diverse range of personalities, ethnicities, and academic specialties.

For the first three years of the show, the IHP class had ten students. Arvid Engen (Dan Frischman) was a skinny, bespectacled nerd, mathematics expert, and budding scientist. Arvid's best friend was the overweight, wisecracking cynic Dennis Blunden (Dan Schneider), a computer whiz whose fields were chemistry and physics and who had a knack for getting the socially inept Arvid involved in various schemes. Both of them wanted to go to M.I.T. Alan Pinkard (Tony O'Dell) was an ultra-conservative preppy and egotist; his area of expertise was political science and he was a devout fan of Ronald Reagan. Alan competed for the highest grades in the class with Darlene Merriman (Robin Givens), a spoiled rich girl who was probably even more self-centered than Alan and whose specialties were speech and debate. Both Alan and Darlene held the ambition of being named class valedictorian. Sarah Nevins (Kimberly Russell) did not have any one particular area of expertise; she was the most down-to-earth of the IHP class and was once cited as having the lowest G.P.A. Maria Borges (Leslie Bega) was very passionate about getting A's (going as far as grounding herself in the pilot episode for getting a 'B'), and Jawaharlal Choudhury (Jory Husain aka Joher Coleman) was an exchange student from India whose expertise was natural science. Eleven-year-old Janice Lazarotto (Tannis Vallely), despite her young age, was in high school and the IHP class because of her advanced intellect. Arts student Simone Foster (Khrystyne Haje) was a quiet, sensitive redhead with a particular fondness for poetry. A notable development in the show was the relationship between Simone and Eric Mardian (Brian Robbins), an aspiring writer and, outwardly, the most unlikely member of the IHP - Eric wore black leather, drove a motorcycle who is a greaser, acted tough, and ostensibly disliked anything academic (to Dr. Samuels's delight, he was the only one in the class not on the academic team, although he would never leave the IHP). Eric constantly hit on Simone (on whom he had a crush) and the two eventually had an on-again-off-again romance.

There was some turnover in the cast in seasons four and five. Janice left for Harvard, Maria went to Performing Arts High School, and Jawaharlal moved to California with his family. New students included Aristotle McKenzie (De'voreaux White), described by Dennis as "this reject from Do the Right Thing" for his dreadlocks, Vicky Amory (Lara Piper), a new-ager interested in quantum physics and skin-revealing clothing, and Alex Torres (Michael DeLorenzo), who had transferred from parochial school. T.J. Jones (Rain Pryor), who had first appeared as a potential IHP member in season three, was eventually added to the program and the cast. Jasper Kwong (Jonathan Ke Quan) was introduced as a new transfer student late in season four.

Appearing as regulars throughout all five seasons were school administrators Dr. Harold Samuels (William G. Schilling) the principal of Filmore High and Bernadette Meara (Jeannetta Arnette). Dr. Samuels was the blustery, overweight principal of the school. His attitude towards the IHP students was one of ambivalence: on the one hand, Dr. Samuels distrusted the kids (and had a particularly antagonistic relationship with Dennis, and tried to avoid Eric), but at the same time he was proud of their achievements and valued the prestige they brought to the school. He also distrusted the teaching methods of the class's teacher, Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman), concerned that Charlie's methods – which often involved helping the IHP students branch out of their comfort zones and help them deal with the typical problems of kids their age, as well as using unorthodox methods of teaching the class subject at hand – might distract them too much from their studies. Ms. Meara was the level-headed assistant principal. There was some romantic tension between her and Charlie, although this ultimately came to nothing, and she later had a romantic friendship with Billy.

In season 5, Mr Moore got his big break in Broadway and decide to quit. Billy Mcgregor is Mr Moore replacement and he is from Scotland. Unlike in the series, the students are allowed to call their new teacher Billy. Miss Meara has a crush on him in the final series. The students get to prepare for Senior Year and the closing of Filmore High School.

In the series, the students often faced off against the rival Bronx High School of Science. Also, in every season, the IHP students produced the school musical. Musicals staged by the students included Grease, Little Shop of Horrors, and Hair. A number of someday-famous actors made appearances on the show, including Brad Pitt.[3]

Show open[edit]

The opening of the show features various New York landmarks as well as Charlie Moore's journey to work every day. Charlie lives in a building in Hell's Kitchen occupied by a plant distributor on the first floor, who gives him a ride to the subway at 50th Street on the back of the truck before he makes his first delivery of the day. After Charlie grabs a hot dog for breakfast, he begins running into trouble as the subway station is on fire and he cannot hail any taxis to take him to the school. Forced to walk out of frustration, Charlie arrives late to class to the chagrin of Dr. Samuels but once he enters the classroom, his expression immediately brightens as he sees the students. It wouldn't be until season two that the credits include adding the names of the characters portrayed by their respective actors/actresses. After three seasons with the same opening, it was changed to a group photo of the class for season four. After Hesseman left the show, it was changed to notebook graphics for its final season.

Characters[edit]

Main[edit]

  • Charles P. "Charlie" Moore – Howard Hesseman (seasons 1–4): the history and social studies teacher who teaches the honors program to intellectual geniuses and help them aim for their dreams.
  • Harold Samuels – William G. Schilling: the high school principal and also like a pushy academic parent who wants their IHP students to win academic bowl. He is Mr. Moore's boss and friend.
  • Bernadette Meara – Jeannetta Arnette: the vice principal or secretary of the school and is friends with Charlie Moore.
  • Maria Borges – Leslie Bega (seasons 1–3)
  • Arvid Engen – Dan Frischman
  • Darlene Merriman – Robin Givens
  • Simone Foster – Khrystyne Haje
  • Jawaharlal Choudhury – Jory Husain (aka Joher Coleman) (seasons 1–3)
  • Alan Pinkard – Tony O'Dell
  • Eric Mardian – Brian Robbins
  • Sarah Nevins – Kimberly Russell (not in the pilot)
  • Dennis Blunden - Dan Schneider
  • Janice Lazarotto – Tannis Vallely (seasons 1–3; guest, season 5)
  • Theola June "T.J." Jones – Rain Pryor (seasons 3–5)
  • Alex Torres – Michael DeLorenzo (seasons 4–5)
  • Viki Amory – Lara Piper (seasons 4–5)
  • Jasper Kwong – Jonathan Ke Quan (seasons 4–5)
  • Aristotle McKenzie – De'voreaux White (seasons 4–5)
  • Billy MacGregor – Billy Connolly (season 5): took over Mr. Moore's class in season 5. He is from Scotland and just like Mr. Moore he helps them aim for the stars.

Recurring[edit]

Season synopses[edit]

Season 1 (1986–1987)[edit]

Out-of-work actor Charlie Moore began the first season as a substitute teacher, but warmed to the IHP class immediately, making it his mission to get them to think rather than merely to know. Although they are gifted academically, the IHP students had plenty of problems in their personal lives, and Mr. Moore not only is there to listen, he shows an unswerving ability to get the students to solve their own problems while making it seem like they came up with the answers on their own. By Episode 6 ("Teacher's Teacher"), the class's original teacher Mr. Thomas (Roscoe Lee Browne) had returned to Fillmore High, seemingly ready to return to the IHP class once Mr. Moore's tenure ended. After observing Mr. Moore's unorthodox teaching methods for most of the episode (much to Charlie's chagrin, as it also made apparent how much he would miss the IHP students), Mr. Thomas ultimately reveals he had no intention to return but came to observe Mr. Moore after hearing concerns about him from Dr. Samuels. Seeing Mr. Moore in action, Mr. Thomas gives him his blessing, leaving Mr. Moore to become their full-time teacher, knowing the IHP will be in good hands. Throughout the first season, Mr. Moore attempted to get the class involved in more than just their studies, encouraging them to play volleyball and make a music video for the school's time capsule (this marks the first foray into the fondness of Head of the Class for musical production numbers). At the same time, the class brought Mr. Moore into the present, acclimating him to the importance of personal computers. Near the end of the season, the IHP faces their Russian counterparts in an academic tournament, foreshadowing their famous trip to Moscow in season three.

Season 2 (1987–1988)[edit]

Season 2 began involving the IHP in the school as a whole, with Mr. Moore involving the class in the school literary journal and encouraging a lampoon of the school newspaper. Mr. Moore also decides to put on a school production of the musical Grease, and encourages the IHP (who are initially reluctant) to participate, alongside other Fillmore students.

While first season had some episodes that showed Charlie's personal life outside school, these become increasingly rare as the series continues. In season 2 (and thereafter), episodes consistently focus on the lives of the IHP students, with only a very few focusing specifically on Charlie; this is the last season in which we see Charlie's apartment.

Season 3 (1988–1989)[edit]

"Mission to Moscow"[edit]

In 1988, Head of the Class broke new ground as it became the first American sitcom to be filmed in the Soviet Union with an episode filmed entirely in Moscow.[1]

The IHP is invited to come to the country for a rematch of the academic meet that happened in season one, which ended in a tie. The class has a lot of experiences while in Moscow: Dennis and Arvid take an interest in two beautiful women, until they realize they might be KGB spies; Eric meets up with his relatives in what is a very positive experience for him; capitalist Alan has an argument with a die-hard socialist in a store (who is also on the opposing Russian academic team); Sarah and Darlene decide to record the sights and sounds of Moscow; Simone goes to put flowers on a poet's grave and meets up with a charming Russian musician; Dr. Samuels believes that his hotel room is bugged, but ends up making a fool of himself; and Charlie has a brief romance with a schoolteacher.

The IHP eventually wins the meet and the respect of the Russian team. The episode concludes with both teams attending a concert in Gorky Park swaying to the song "Far Away Lands" (written and performed by American David Pomeranz and Russian rock star Sasha Malinin).

Season 4 (1989–1990)[edit]

The fourth season saw some significant changes to the cast of characters – Maria, Jawaharlal and Janice left (Maria went to a performing arts school, Jawaharlal moved to California, and Janice went to Harvard as a sophomore). Several new characters took their place: Alex Torres (Michael DeLorenzo) was a Hispanic athletics student, somewhat stereotypically portrayed as having an eye for the ladies. Although Alex seemed attracted to Darlene particularly, both he and Eric competed for the affections of another new IHP student, the blonde hippie Viki Amory (Lara Piper). Another new character was aspiring filmmaker Aristotle McKenzie (De'voreaux White). T.J. Jones (Rain Pryor), a recurring character since the third season, joined the IHP in the fourth season (a remedial student with a streetwise attitude, T.J. was found to be smart enough to join the IHP). Also, the character of Jasper Kwong (Jonathan Ke Quan) was added to the IHP class late in the season. The season also showed them film a two-part episode at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The students' final year of high school was split over seasons four and five. Howard Hesseman left the show after the fourth season. As Hesseman noted in a 1989 interview, "We're not doing the show that I was led to believe I'd do, and it's difficult for me to get off that."[4]

Season 5 (1990–1991)[edit]

In the first episode of season 5, Scottish teacher Billy MacGregor (Billy Connolly) arrived to replace the departed Charlie Moore (in the first episode of the season, it is explained to the dismayed IHP students that Mr. Moore's acting career finally took off). Despite initial uncertainty and some hostility from the students, Billy proved to be a successful replacement for Charlie. He usually comes into the class bringing his bike. He insisted that the students refer to him by his first name, and although he was more rousing and less laid-back than his predecessor, he proved to be just as wise and caring (Billy also had a habit of boisterously greeting his class every morning with the phrase, "good morning, geniuses", and facetiously barking to his students to, "get out of here", when the bell rang at the end of the class. He also taught his class in a manner more akin to a stand-up comedian than a teacher). Many episodes from this season focused on Billy having to adapt to living in America, and his attempts to romance Ms. Meara. Other aspects of Billy were his dislike of an outdated French textbook, which actually prompted one student to take a spur-of-the-moment jaunt to Paris, and his encouragement to the male students that the best way to get girls was to be themselves. The season (and the program itself) concluded with the IHP students graduating from high school. Janice Lazarotto (from seasons one–three) returned for a guest appearance in the finale, in which T.J. is named class valedictorian and the school is closed down and demolished.

Episodes[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
122September 17, 1986 (1986-09-17)May 6, 1987 (1987-05-06)3016.4
222September 23, 1987 (1987-09-23)May 11, 1988 (1988-05-11)2316.7
(Tied with The NBC Sunday Night Movie)
322October 19, 1988 (1988-10-19)May 10, 1989 (1989-05-10)2017.1
426September 27, 1989 (1989-09-27)May 2, 1990 (1990-05-02)2614.8
522September 11, 1990 (1990-09-11)June 25, 1991 (1991-06-25)2614.5

Novel tie-in[edit]

One major novelization was released, with the plotlines based on six episodes of the show.[citation needed] The book makes all the chapters flow together as one story, even though they didn't happen one right after the other on the show. It was written by Susan Beth Pfeffer and released in December 1989 by Bantam Books. The book is 120 pages long, with six chapters, each based on a different episode.[citation needed]

  • Chapter 1 – "First Day", based on the 1986 episode "First Day", written by Lisa Rosenthal (otherwise known as the pilot)
  • Chapter 2 – "A Problem Like Maria" is based on the 1986 episode "A Problem Like Maria" written by Cynthia Thompson
  • Chapter 3 – "Crimes of the Heart" is based on the 1987 episode "Crimes of the Heart" written by Valri Bromfield
  • Chapter 4 – "Cello Fever" is based on the 1987 episode "Cello Fever" written by show creators Rich Eustis and Michael Elias
  • Chapter 5 – "Trouble in Perfectville" is based on the 1987 episode "Trouble in Perfectville" written by George Beckerman
  • Chapter 6 – "Parents Day" is based on the 1987 episode "Parents Day" written by Ellis Bufton and Scott Glaze

All copyrights belong to Warner Bros. The novelization erroneously credits "First Day" as having been made in 1988 rather than 1986.

Spin-off[edit]

A year after Head of the Class left the air, Billy Connolly reprised the role of Billy MacGregor for a short-lived spin-off series, Billy.

Revival[edit]

In May 2020, a revival of the series was ordered, co-produced by Bill Lawrence's Doozer and Warner Horizon Scripted Television. The order includes a pilot episode plus five additional scripts and will air on HBO Max.[5] In March 2021, it was announced that a 10-episode first season was officially greenlit.[6] In October 2021, a first look clip was released, with a November 4, 2021 series premiere date attached.[7]

Casting[edit]

In November 2020, it was reported that Isabella Gomez was cast in the lead role as teacher Alicia Adams. Coincidentally, Gomez and Howard Hesseman (who played Charlie Moore in the original series' first four seasons), had both starred on the television series One Day at a Time, with Hesseman starring in the original series' final two seasons as Barbara Cooper's father-in-law Sam Royer, while Gomez starred in the 2017 reboot as Elena Alvarez.[8] It was also announced that Watchmen actress Jolie Hoang-Rappaport will join the cast as student Makayla Washington.[9] In December 2020, it was announced that Little Fires Everywhere actor Gavin Lewis will join the cast as student Luke Burrows.[10] In January 2021, Jorge Diaz, Dior Goodjohn, Brandon Severs, Adrian Matthew Escalona and Christa Miller joined the cast.[11] The October first look revealed that Givens would be reprising her role as Darlene from the original series.[12]

Home media and syndication[edit]

Head of the Class has appeared infrequently in syndicated reruns, airing on local stations and then briefly on TBS during the 1990s, and on Nick at Nite in the early 2000s. Antenna TV began airing the series in January 2018. As of February 2020, the show was streaming on Roku Channel. The show is also streaming on HBO Max, and Rewind TV.

In 2020, it was announced that season 1 of Head of the Class would be released as a "manufacture on demand" (MOD) DVD by Warner Archive, starting on June 9, 2020.[13] The show had previously not seen any release on home media.[14][15] The show had multiple musical episodes, thereby making music rights licensing difficult, a common problem when preparing series for home release. Another series, WKRP in Cincinnati (also starring Hesseman), encountered similar issues.[16][17]

The Season 2 DVD set included season three episodes "Radio Activity" and "I Am the King," because they were originally made during the second season. The Season 3 DVD set not only have "Radio Activity" and "I Am the King" in their release order, it also included season four episodes "Reel Problems" and "Recruitment Day," which were originally made during the third season. The upcoming Season 4 DVD set will include "Reel Problems" and "Recruitment Day" in their release order.

DVD Season Ep # Release date
Season 1 22 June 9, 2020
Season 2 24 October 27, 2020
Season 3 24 July 20, 2021
Season 4 24 TBA
Season 5 22 TBA

International broadcasts[edit]

  • In Canada, the series was simulcast on the Global Television Network throughout its original run.
  • In Australia, the series aired on the Nine Network.
  • In the UK the show aired on BBC One and in Ireland on RTÉ One.[18]
  • In Indonesia, it was aired by RCTI.
  • In Italy, the series arrived in 1989 and first season was aired by Telemontecarlo. Then it was aired by Italia 1, from 1992 to 1993.
  • In Mexico, the series aired on Televisa between 1994 and 1996, under the name Mi Profesor Favorito.
  • In Latin America, the series aired on Warner Channel during mid-late 1990s.
  • In Chile, the series aired on TVN.
  • In New Zealand, the series aired on TVNZ.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b O'Connor, John J. (November 2, 1988). "Review/Television; 'Head of the Class' Goes to Moscow". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Head of the Class". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Mike Tyson: 'Brad Pitt had sex with my wife'". December 3, 2012.
  4. ^ Lee, Luaine. "Hesseman Gives "Head of the Class" a Low Grade". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  5. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 12, 2020). "'Head Of The Class' Reboot Produced By Bill Lawrence Gets Pilot Order & Backup Scripts At HBO Max". Deadline Hollywood.
  6. ^ White, Peter (March 31, 2021). "'Head Of The Class' From Bill Lawrence, Amy Pocha & Seth Cohen Lands Series Order At HBO Max". Deadline Hollywood.
  7. ^ Grobar, Matt (October 12, 2021). "'Head Of The Class' Reboot Gets HBO Max Premiere Date, First Look Image & Clip Featuring Robin Givens". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  8. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (November 25, 2020). "Isabella Gomez To Headline 'Head of The Class' Reboot Pilot For HBO Max". Deadline Hollywood.
  9. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (November 30, 2020). "Jolie Hoang-Rappaport Joins HBO Max 'Head Of The Class' Reboot". Deadline Hollywood.
  10. ^ Petski, Denise (December 17, 2020). "Gavin Lewis Joins 'Head Of The Class' Reboot Pilot For HBO Max". Deadline Hollywood.
  11. ^ Petski, Denise (January 19, 2021). "'Head Of The Class': Jorge Diaz, Christa Miller Among 5 Cast In HBO Max Reboot Pilot". Deadline Hollywood.
  12. ^ HBO Max (October 12, 2021). "Head of the Class | First Look Clip ft. Robin Givens". YouTube.
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "Head of the Class (1986)". TV Shows on Demand. Archived from the original on 2017-08-11.
  15. ^ Humphrey, Amber (May 30, 2012). "5 TV Shows That Aren't On DVD — And Should Be". Film School Rejects.
  16. ^ Bylund, Anders (December 29, 2005). "How TV shows on DVD suffer from music licensing". ars TECHNICA.
  17. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd (March 26, 2015). "The weird legal reason many of your favorite shows aren't on DVD". Vox.
  18. ^ "BBC - Comedy Guide - Head of the Class". Archived from the original on April 8, 2005. Retrieved 2015-07-26.

External links[edit]