Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher
(also known as Nick Freno
) is an American sitcom
A situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a genre of comedy that features characters sharing the same common environment, such as a home or workplace, accompanied with jokes as part of the dialogue...
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
Mitch Mullany was an American comedian, actor, and screenwriter.-Career:Born in Oakland, California, Mullany began his career performing stand-up comedy. After a stint on the WB sitcom The Wayans Bros. as "White Mike," he starred in his own series, Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher from 1996 to 1998...
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
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...
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
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....
, 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
Reverse psychology is a technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what actually is desired: the opposite of what is suggested...
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
Clint Jackson is a former American boxer, who competed on behalf of the U.S. in the 1976 Summer Olympics.-Amateur highlights:*1974 National AAU Welterweight Champion...
; played by Reggie Hayes in the pilot episode
A "television pilot" is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its inception, the pilot is meant to be the "testing ground" to see if a series will be possibly desired and successful and therefore a test episode of an...
), who had been Nick's best friend since childhood; tenured shop teacher Al Yaroker (Charles Cyphers
Charles Cyphers is an American actor who has starred in many films and on television. He is known in the horror movie community for his work in the films of John Carpenter, especially his role as Sheriff Leigh Brackett in Carpenter's 1978 hit horror movie Halloween. He reprised this role in the...
), and blustery gym coach Kurt Fust (Stuart Pankin
Stuart Pankin is an American film and television actor.-Early life:Pankin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and attended Dickinson College, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Columbia University.-Career:...
). 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
Portia Lee James DeGeneres , known professionally as Portia de Rossi , is an Australian-American actress, best known for her roles as lawyer Nelle Porter on the television series Ally McBeal and Lindsay Bluth Fünke on the sitcom Arrested Development...
), 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
An on-again, off-again relationship is a form of casual relationship, usually sexual, between two people. It is where the couple concerned do not see their discontinuous affair as an ongoing or formal relationship...
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
Ross Aaron Malinger is an American actor who co-starred as Jonah Baldwin in the 1993 romantic film Sleepless In Seattle. He starred in the 1997 comedy Toothless, along with Kirstie Alley, portraying the second main character of the film...
), shy, star student Orlando Diaz (Jonathan Hernandez), who was practically the antithesis of Tyler; Jared (Arjay Smith
Arjay L. Smith is an American actor. He is perhaps best known for his teenage role portraying the titular character of the Nickelodeon children's television series, The Journey of Allen Strange. Most recently, he portrayed terrorist Laurent Dubaku during Season 7 of the Fox thriller/drama 24...
), Tyler's buddy and regular partner in crime; intellectual Sarah (Cara DeLizia
Cara Elizabeth DeLizia is an American television actress most known for her portrayal as Fiona "Fi" Phillips alongside Mackenzie Phillips in the Disney Original Series So Weird.-Early career:...
); and saxophonist Davey Marcucci (Kyle Gibson
Kyle Benjamin Gibson is a pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization. He is considered one of the top prospects in baseball.-Amateur career:...
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
Jane Moore Sibbett is an American actress and producer. Her most notable roles include Heddy on the Fox television series Herman's Head, and as Ross Geller's ex-wife, Carol Willick, on the American TV sitcom Friends....
), 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
Welcome Back, Kotter was an American television sitcom starring Gabe Kaplan and featuring a young John Travolta.It originally aired on the ABC network from September 9, 1975 to June 8, 1979.-Premise:...
. Nick's unruly high-schoolers included Sophia Del Bono (Christina Vidal
Christina Abbi Vidal is a former American film and television actress. She is best known for her roles in the films Life with Mikey, Brink! , Freaky Friday ,...
), sexually promiscuous and not as worldly as she liked to let on; socially awkward Miles Novacek (Giuseppe Andrews
Giuseppe Andrews is an American film actor, writer, and director known for his roles as Lex in the 1999 film Detroit Rock City, a bizarre sheriff's deputy in Cabin Fever , a small role in Never Been Kissed , as well as appearances in The Smashing Pumpkins videos "1979" and "Perfect".Andrews has...
); Marco Romero (Andrew Levitas
Andrew Levitas is an American painter, sculptor, filmmaker, writer, producer, photographer, and actor,A mainstay at city theatres, museums, and galleries at a very young age, Andrew was surrounded by many of the brightest and most unusual artists of a generation...
), 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
Blake Heron is an American screen actor. He starred as Marty Preston in the 1996 film Shiloh.-Biography:Heron was born in Sherman Oaks, California...
), 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
Donna D'Errico is an American actress and model. She was chosen Playboy Playmate of the Month for September 1995. Her centerfold was photographed by Richard Fegley.-Career:...
). 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 was not picked up for a third season.
|| Season premiere
|| Season finale
|| The WB
|| August 28, 1996
|| May 11, 1997
|| September 7, 1997
|| May 3, 1998
- Mitch Mullany .... Nick Freno
- Giuseppe Andrews .... Miles Novacek (1997–1998)
- Portia De Rossi .... Elana Lewis (1996–1997)
- Cara DeLizia .... Sarah (1996–1997)
- Kyle Gibson .... Davey Marcucci (1996–1997)
- Reggie Hayes .... Mezz Crosby (Pilot episode only)
- Jonathan Hernandez .... Orlando Diaz (1996–1997)
- Blake Heron .... Jordan Wells (1997–1998)
- Clinton Jackson .... Mezz Crosby
- Andrew Levitas .... Marco Romero (1997–1998)
- Ross Malinger .... Tyler Hale (1996–1997)
- Stuart Pankin .... Kurt Fust (1996–1997)
- Jane Sibbett .... Dr. Katherine Emerson (1997–1998)
- Christina Vidal .... Sophia Del Bono (1997–1998)
- Malinda Williams .... Tasha Morrison (1997–1998)
- Charles Cyphers .... Al Yaroker
- Mila Kunis
Milena "Mila" Kunis is an American actress. Her work includes the role of Jackie Burkhart on the TV series That '70s Show and the voice of Meg Griffin on the animated series Family Guy...
.... Anna-Maria Del Bono
- Sid Newman .... Phil Sussman
Awards and nominations
||Young Artist Awards
|| Best Performance in a TV Series - Young Ensemble
|| Cara DeLizia, Kyle Gibson, Jonathan Hernandez, Ross Malinger, and Arjay Smith
| Best Family TV Comedy Series
|| ALMA Award
The American Latino Media Arts Award, or ALMA Award is a distinction awarded to Latino performers who promote positive portrayals of Latinos in the entertainment field...
|| Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
|| Jonathan Hernandez