Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher
|Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher|
|Also known as||Nick Freno|
|Created by||Dennis Rinsler|
|Directed by||Scott Baio|
Portia de Rossi
|Theme music composer||Andrew Gross|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||43|
|Executive producer(s)||Richard Gurman|
|Cinematography||Joseph W. Calloway|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Warren and Rinsler Productions|
Warner Bros. Television
|Original network||The WB|
|Original release||August 28, 1996– May 3, 1998|
Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher (also known as Nick Freno) is an American sitcom which aired on The WB from 1996 until 1998. The executive producers of the program, Dennis Rinsler and Marc Warren, drew on their own experiences as former teachers in New York and actually based the character that Mitch Mullany played on their real life friend, John Freno. Freno was a music teacher in the same elementary school as Dennis and Marc and was beloved by the students of the school.
Mitch Mullany starred as the title character, an aspiring actor who, while waiting for his "big break," met his expenses as a substitute teacher at Gerald R. Ford Middle School. The storylines involved his interaction with his students, which became more plausible when he became a regular teacher. When the program was renewed, the middle school had become a high school, allowing for his interaction with slightly more mature students.
Originally, Freno substituted long-term for a single fifth-grade class, which suited him well as an actor, since he was often able to revisit the mind of a preteen through comedy routines and frenetic behavior he would often work into during lessons. Nick's free-form teaching style often relied on running mock game shows on subjects, along with sly reverse psychology when it came to advice and discipline. The kids embraced Freno and found him very approachable, even if his employers thought that his methods were not challenging enough to be taken seriously.
Nick's fellow faculty members included hip, black science teacher Mezz Crosby (Clinton Jackson; played by Reggie Hayes in the pilot episode), who had been Nick's best friend since childhood; tenured shop teacher Al Yaroker (Charles Cyphers), and blustery gym coach Kurt Fust (Stuart Pankin). Also wandering the halls was old-timer Phil (Sid Newman), the school security guard. Then there was sexy, young social studies teacher Elana Lewis (Portia de Rossi), whom Nick was interested in romantically; at first, it was strictly professional and nothing more between the two, but through the first season, figurative walls were gradually broken down, and Nick and Elana found themselves dating. Their relationship would be on-again, off-again for the rest of that year. At first, Ford Middle School's principal was referred to but not seen; midway through the first season, Mr. Fust was eventually promoted to assistant principal. The regularly featured pupils in Nick's class were class clown and chief operator Tyler Hale (Ross Malinger), shy, star student Orlando Diaz (Jonathan Hernandez), who was practically the antithesis of Tyler; Jared (Arjay Smith), Tyler's buddy and regular partner in crime; intellectual Sarah (Cara DeLizia); and saxophonist Davey Marcucci (Kyle Gibson).
In the second season, with Nick now teaching on the high school level, more adult humor made its way into the stories and there were many changes in the cast, not only with the featured students but in the faculty as well. Off camera, between the first and second seasons, Nick and Elana dissolved their romance, and the latter left her job and moved out of town. Besides Nick, the only returning characters were Mezz, Mr. Yaroker, and Phil the security guard (who had now made it to the opening credits). Mr. Fust disappeared, and so did the now-former unseen principal; arriving as the new headmaster was Dr. Katherine Emerson (Jane Sibbett), a more serious-minded administrator who became a nemesis for Nick. Despite the friction that occurred between the two, Nick developed a romantic interest in Emerson.
Nick's job as a full-time teacher stuck him with instructing remedial classes, a situation heavily inspired by Welcome Back, Kotter. Nick's unruly high-schoolers included Sophia Del Bono (Christina Vidal), sexually promiscuous and not as worldly as she liked to let on; socially awkward Miles Novacek (Giuseppe Andrews); Marco Romero (Andrew Levitas), the hunk who had been held back a couple of grades; Tasha Morrison (Malinda Williams), whose upper-middle-class standing made her feel insecure around her blue-collar classmates; and Jordan Wells (Blake Heron), a similar personality to Nick's former fifth-grade troublemaker Tyler Hale.
By the spring of 1998, when Nick's numerous attempts to court Dr. Emerson had failed, his attention switched to that of a voluptuous new manager in his apartment building, Samantha (Donna D'Errico). The two consummated their sexual tension quickly and became an item. The addition of D'Errico to Nick Freno was seen as a last-ditch attempt to save the show from cancellation, but it was not picked up for a third season.
- Mitch Mullany as Nick Freno
- Giuseppe Andrews as Miles Novacek (1997–1998)
- Portia De Rossi as Elana Lewis (1996–1997)
- Cara DeLizia as Sarah (1996–1997)
- Kyle Gibson as Davey Marcucci (1996–1997)
- Reggie Hayes as Mezz Crosby (pilot episode only)
- Jonathan Hernandez as Orlando Diaz (1996–1997)
- Blake Heron as Jordan Wells (1997–1998)
- Clinton Jackson as Mezz Crosby
- Andrew Levitas as Marco Romero (1997–1998)
- Ross Malinger as Tyler Hale (1996–1997)
- Stuart Pankin as Kurt Fust (1996–1997)
- Jane Sibbett as Dr. Katherine Emerson (1997–1998)
- Christina Vidal as Sophia Del Bono (1997–1998)
- Malinda Williams as Tasha Morrison (1997–1998)
- Charles Cyphers as Al Yaroker
- Mila Kunis as Anna-Maria Del Bono
- Sid Newman as Phil Sussman
|Season||Network||Season premiere||Season finale||Rank||Viewers|
|1||The WB||August 28, 1996||May 11, 1997||#142||3.0|
|2||The WB||September 7, 1997||May 3, 1998||#172||1.9|
Awards and nominations
|1997||Young Artist Awards||Best Family TV Comedy Series||Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher||Won|
|Best Performance in a TV Series – Young Ensemble||Cara DeLizia, Kyle Gibson, Jonathan Hernandez, Ross Malinger, and Arjay Smith||Won|
|1998||ALMA Award||Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series||Jonathan Hernandez||Nominated|