Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher

Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher
Also known as ''Nick Freno''
Genre Sitcom
Created by Richard Gurman
Marc Warren
Directed by Scott Baio
Amanda Bearse
Ellen Guylas
Shelley Jensen
Art Dielhenn
Gerren Keith
Sean Mulcahy
John Tracy
Starring Mitch Mullany
Portia de Rossi
Clinton Jackson
Arjay Smith
Cara DeLizia
Christina Vidal
Malinda Williams
Charles Cyphers
Stuart Pankin
Jane Sibbett
Theme music composer Andrew Gross
Josh Kramon
Composer(s) Josh Kramon
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 43
Executive producer(s) Richard Gurman
Dennis Rinsler
Marc Warren
Producer(s) Suzy Friendly
Gene Laufenberg
Carolyn Omine
Cinematography Joseph W. Calloway
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 2224 minutes
Production company(s) Warren and Rinsler Productions
Warner Bros. Television
Original network The WB
Original release August 28, 1996 (1996-08-28) – May 3, 1998 (1998-05-03)

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.

First season

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).

Second season

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.

Series changes

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 was not picked up for a third season.

Seasonal ratings

Season Network Season premiere Season finale Rank Viewers
(in millions)
1 The WB August 28, 1996 May 11, 1997 #142[1] 3.0[1]
2 September 7, 1997 May 3, 1998 #172[2] 1.9[2]



Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1997 Young Artist Awards Won Best Performance in a TV Series - Young Ensemble Cara DeLizia, Kyle Gibson, Jonathan Hernandez, Ross Malinger, and Arjay Smith
Best Family TV Comedy Series
1998 ALMA Award Nominated Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series Jonathan Hernandez


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