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Helen Hunt and Tony Danza: Take Our Advice

TV news from the week of February 13, 1998

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Unsolicited advice for a recently rejected guy and a Madwoman facing a big decision

Dear Helen Hunt,

For God’s sake, don’t sign on for another awful season of Mad About You. I know NBC and studio execs are going to throw millions at you; Peacock suits are desperate since they lost Seinfeld and dropped the ball with the NFL. They may even wave Jerry’s old Thursday-at-9 o’clock time slot under your nose. But resist the temptation. You deserve much better than that painfully mundane sitcom.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a David Caruso situation; he left NYPD Blue before his I-wanna-be-a-movie-star vehicles Kiss of Death (remember, you were in it!) and Jade were even released. You’re already a big movie star, what with your recent Golden Globe win for As Good as It Gets, a likely Oscar nod, and two back-to-back cinematic smashes, including Twister.

Plus, you’ve got two sequel-ready film franchises. Sure, Twister director Jan De Bont’s Speed 2: Cruise Control tanked, but audiences won’t be able to resist getting swept up in Twister 2: The Revenge of El Niño. And Even Better Than It Gets could follow the budding romance between Jack Nicholson’s obsessive-compulsive novelist and your salt-of-the-earth waitress. Just make sure James L. Brooks writes and directs it again. Jack can tell you what happened when Brooks let someone else do the sequel to Terms of Endearment (it was called The Evening Star — maybe you rented it).

Even if your movie career hits the skids faster than you can say “The Postman,” you can always come back to TV — in your own sitcom. No more sharing the spotlight with a lesser talent like Paul Reiser. You’re funnier than Brooke Shields, Jenny McCarthy, Sharon Lawrence, and Téa Leoni combined. You could even reprise your Mad role as a wacky, freshly divorced mom in Suddenly Jamie!

Mad about you always, Bruce

Dear Tony Danza,

Chin up, ya big lug. Things may look grim now: After wooing you from longtime employer ABC with a rich deal, NBC canceled your sportswriter/single-dad sitcom, The Tony Danza Show, after only a few low-rated episodes. And ABC is dumping your Wonderful World of Disney trashman-turned-football-star movie, The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon opposite CBS’ guaranteed-blockbuster Winter Olympics coverage.

But there’s hope for you yet. Believe it or not, America is still on your side. Witness your recent surprise victory as favorite star of a new comedy at the People’s Choice Awards (Jenna Who? Calista What?). And your smolderingly malevolent performance as an ambiguously gay drug lord in Nick Gomez’s just-released indie flick illtown proves that you’ve got untapped talent to burn.

So here’s what you need to do: Quit taking those sitcom roles as lovable dumbbells named Tony. It worked well for you on Taxi and Who’s the Boss? but the shtick grew tired on your NBC show and on ABC’s 1995-96 dead-end Hudson Street. Flex your dramatic acting muscles — try to get Quentin Tarantino to turn you into his next retro-’70s reclamation project, à la John Travolta and Pam Grier. Or hit the streets in a gritty TV cop drama. Steven Bochco’s struggling CBS rookie Brooklyn South badly needs a shot of star power, and you’ve already got the dese-dem-and-dose accent down pat.

You’re still the boss, Bruce