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Back To School With Steve Harvey

This content was paid for by Sony and created by Looper.

After he built up a stand-up reputation as one of the "Original Kings of Comedy," but before he became a prolific, multiple-show hosting king of daytime television, Steve Harvey starred in his own long-running sitcom. Airing from 1996 to 2002, "The Steve Harvey Show" was among the earliest and biggest hits on The WB, and it starred the charismatic and explosive comic Steve Harvey as a music teacher and administrator at Booker T. Washington High School in Chicago. 

"The Steve Harvey Show" primarily serves as a pleasant, scripted backdrop against which the titular star can do his schtick, and yet the series is also among the few successful school-set comedies in TV history, providing a warm and often honest look at American public education. As summer winds down and another school year starts up, here's a look at when "The Steve Harvey Show" took a hilarious bite out of the teacher's apple.

Steve's first day of teaching

High school students usually and often don't realize it at the time, but their teachers are fully-grown, fully-realized, well-rounded beings with a life and history outside of the classroom. In the first episode of "The Steve Harvey Show," both the students and faculty get to meet Mr. Hightower, a music (and art, and drama) teacher whose reputation and past greatly precede him. 

It's his first day of school, and, unable to get anybody to be quiet, he reaches for a saxophone and plays a smooth, jazzy riff. This is also when he gets to learn about his boisterous students, who push back and roast the new guy in the fancy red suit, caring not too much that he was a funk superstar in the early 1980s. Interrupted by his old friend, Booker T. Washington High School's athletics coach Cedric, Steve expresses his frustrations and disappointments in the new job. He doesn't want to be there, feels outclassed and disrespected by staff and students alike, but ultimately gets the urge to stay and fulfill his destiny to teach and be a mentor.

Steve finds his footing as a mentor

After speaking with Cedric and dealing with the combative principal, his old childhood friend Regina, whom he used to insultingly call "Piggy," Steve finds his aptitude for teaching right away. In his very first class on his very first day, he met many of the students for whom he'd serve as a friend, mentor, and advice dispenser, which are often the characteristics that define a truly great teacher. In the classroom, he meets his perpetual foil and mentee Romeo, who, liking to make a big entrance, shows up late and blasting music on a boombox. He further earns Steve's ire when he and his girlfriend get into a heated verbal altercation.

It would seem that today is Sofia's birthday and Romeo failed to buy her a present, as promised. Showing some tough love, Mr. Hightower throws them both out of class but winds up accidentally counseling them both later — refusing Sofia's class transfer request and putting the idea of dumping Romeo in her head, and finding out that Romeo is all about projecting an image of swagger and confidence. He admits to Steve that he didn't buy a present because he had to use the money to pay his family's electric bill. It's Steve's first day, and he's already a sympathetic teacher.

Steve is principal and in over his head

On the Season Four episode "All About Steve," Regina, Booker T. Washington's principal, attends an educational conference, granting Mr. Hightower the honor and privilege of serving as interim, temporary principal in her absence. He doesn't sweat it at all, thinking that the administrative tasks associated with running a big high school for a few days must be no big deal. But after a little bit of on-the-job trial by fire, he quickly realizes how wrong he'd been. 

He handles his first challenge with cool and aplomb, dealing with an angry mother who wants her daughter, Henrietta, a gifted blocker to play on the football team, only she's been banned from play due to an academic policy in that she's illiterate. Later, it all gets to be too much. Coming into the office after a three-hour budget meeting, Steve learns he's missed a staff meeting and five calls from the district superintendent, and that the school might also be facing a lawsuit. Being the principal, Steve realizes, is tough business.

Prom night is a magical night

Whether they're good or bad, intense or hilarious, the memories of Prom Night are among the strongest and most universal of the high school experience. In the Season Five episode "The Last Dance," virtually all of the show's main characters have a night to remember, dancing and partying in the school's delicately decorated gymnasium.

Geeky Lydia has found young love with nerdy Arthur, thanks to Mr. Hightower playing matchmaker. Arthur's eclipse facts would put off many, but Lydia finds them adorable, and they wind up sharing a romantic and dramatic kiss. "There's someone for everyone," Mr. Hightower laments, as Romeo slips date Samantha a glass of prom punch, traditionally spiked but untraditionally with mouthwash, so as to account for the lady's apparently awful halitosis. Principal Regina is tentative at first, owing to some bad prom memories from her youth, but her friends and coworkers make it up to her, and so does Bullethead, who shows up with his date: '80s dance pop superstar Tina Marie. She doesn't remember Steve, with whom she performed in 1981, mistaking him for Lionel Richie, right there in his own school. Ah, memories.

Cedric is a sore winner of the Teacher of the Year award

"Big Mouth on Campus," a Season Three episode of "The Steve Harvey Show," lavishes attention on Mr. Hightower's friend and sidekick Coach Cedrick Robinson, played by comic Cedric the Entertainer. It's time some other characters got the spotlight, and that's reflected in the plot of the episode, which finds both Mr. Hightower and Coach nominated for Booker T. Washington High School's "Teacher of the Year" award. It's a new honor for Steve, and not too meaningful for him. Coach tries to assert to colleagues that he doesn't care about it either, but really it's that he doesn't want to get his hopes up because it's the eighth time he's been nominated, and he's still never won. He literally counts his blessings, and rhetorically asks partner Lovita, who needs a trophy and quantifiable respect? He does, Coach admits, and he can't deny it anymore. He really wants this validation. 

And so, Steve, Regina, Lovita, and even some students conspire to make sure he wins, spreading a rumor that Mr. Hightower has been disqualified for some vague reason. But rather than appreciate the honor for winning the now rigged contest, Coach becomes intolerable, arrogant, and highfalutin, showing up at school dressed like a stuffy college professor and demanding to be called "Mr. Robinson."

Romeo briefly becomes a teacher

Deep into the school year, or having spent multiple years in each other's presence, teachers and students can naturally grow weary of each other. Teachers try to get through to the reluctant young learners, and those kids get tired of somebody watching their every classroom move day in and day out. In this episode of "The Steve Harvey Show," arts teacher Mr. Hightower and his cocky student (and consistently lightly adversarial figure) Romeo decide to switch places for a while, with the teacher hoping that his charge can finally get an understanding of how difficult it is to be a teacher, let alone his teacher.

While Steve promises to be the very definition of well-behaved (a not very subtle criticism of his class), Romeo doesn't get the point, and immediately brings in two "teaching assistants," midriff-baring young ladies who don't even go to that school, as an outraged assistant Lydia points out. His music lesson then proceeds, which consists of blasting some music and dancing shirtless to it. Mr. Hightower, who swore he wouldn't act up in his role as a student, can't help but get up and dance, too. After all, he's an old school funk musician, and this is a music class.

A dramatic day in staging a play

In Season Two of "The Steve Harvey Show," Mr. Hightower, primarily the music teacher, is still going through the motions of acting as Booker T. Washington High School's drama teacher, which involves overseeing a theatrical production. In the episode "Just My Imagination," he brings in Max Sundance, a young female playwright who catches the eye of student Romeo and teacher Steve. 

Steve lays it on thick in trying to attract her, claiming that the theater is his reason for living, specifically children's theater, as he stomachs numerous subpar auditions from his students, a familiar parade of underachievers and comical fools. For example, Bullethead's ridiculous tryout is a re-creation of a scene from the old "Charlie's Angels" TV series — he plays "Charlie," who only appeared as a disembodied voice, so he hides on stage under a desk, upon which he's placed a phone and a speaker. Steve is especially stymied in his pursuit of Max — and drama teacher duties — when she's so taken by Romeo's presence that she immediately casts him in the play.

Driver's ed drives Steve to frustration

As if he didn't have enough things to do around Booker T. Washington High, teaching music, drama, and art, and serving as the unofficial counselor to a handful of wayward and wacky teenagers, Mr. Hightower winds up teaching the class that's a definitively stressful rite of youthful passage: Driver's Education. In the Season Three episode "Baby You Can Drive My Car," Steve finds himself stuck in the potentially dangerous or at the very least nerve-wracking situation of sitting passenger in a car driven by flighty, immature Romeo. 

The driver-in-training's idea of safety consists of placing a religious statue on the dashboard and queuing up his special "player's theme" music, which Steve objects to until he realizes it's a song by his old funk band, the High Tops. Bullethead fares a lot worse, driving as wild and fast as an old-time moonshiner, as a terrified Mr. Hightower points out. That student's approach runs opposite, however, to that of worried Coretta, who can't believe she's driving, even though she's moving along at a speed of about five miles per hour but still manages to roll through a stop sign.

The race for class president gets complicated

In Season Three of "The Steve Harvey Show," an unlikely alliance slowly develops between two very opposite parties: sweet, studious, and dorky student and classroom assistant Lydia, and strutting, educationally negligent ladies' man Romeo. They come together and combine their talents in pursuit of something that really matters to a lot of high school kids: popularity. 

Tired of always losing the race for the class presidency to the comely Heather Gallo, Lydia proposes a secretive, shadow government-meets-puppet-master plan, proposing to Romeo that he be the face of her substantial and sensible campaign, essentially serving as a good-looking and charming front to get the study body to pay attention. Romeo agrees to help Lydia, as not only will she get what she wants, but he could feasibly attract women, who Lydia says love a man with power. However, the sketchy operation gets derailed almost immediately, as Romeo isn't a candidate who will go along with the program so easily. His speeches are a mess, what with him demeaning female voters and suggestively tugging at his crotch to emphasize salient campaign promises.

Lovita gets to teach the teachers

Lovita works in the office at Booker T. Washington High School on "The Steve Harvey Show," and while she spends virtually all of her personal time hanging out with educators (Cedric, Steve, and Regina), she doesn't get a chance to shape minds or stand the front of a classroom and hold court. In the Season Three episode "Educating Piggy," Lovita gets her chance to be in charge and teach. 

She's entrusted to lead a computer literacy class to update her colleagues and friends on how to operate some late '90s PCs, much to everyone's surprise. Steve and Cedric immediately regress to their immature teenager behavior and have a hard time taking instruction from someone they don't usually take seriously. But Lovita knows what she's doing, as a graduate of a business school/beauty school, and isn't afraid to put her boss, Regina, in her place, when she's not paying enough attention.