The series, set in Oakland, California (Mark Curry's hometown), centers on NBA player-turned-substitute teacher/gym coach (and later basketball coach) Mark Cooper. Mark is a "somewhat suave" single guy with a zany personality; he always gets a few laughs from his friends. Mark's childhood friend Robin Dumars (Dawnn Lewis) and Robin's other best friend Vanessa Russell (Holly Robinson), both female, share a rented house that they cannot afford without an additional roommate. Though the events just prior to Mark's moving in are never shown, he agreed to move in with Robin and Vanessa. His "bedroom" is the den near the living room; Robin and Vanessa occupy the only bedrooms in the house. Although living with women may not be easy at times, Mark does appreciate them. They often teach him a thing or two when he gets in over his head.
Early episodes of the series featured references by Robin of Mark possibly having a crush on Vanessa, though that was mostly de-emphasized. Near the end of season four, he and Vanessa became a couple. Almost as quickly as they started dating, they became engaged. Midway through the first season, Tyler Foster (Marquise Wilson) was introduced as Mark's annoying neighbor kid; he would become a regular character starting in season two. By the second season, Robin was phased out after Lewis's departure. Mark's two cousins from Georgia, Geneva Lee (Saundra Quarterman) and her daughter Nicole (Raven-Symoné) moved into the house. Tyler quickly became the best friend of Nicole.Mark Cooper (Mark Curry) – former NBA player for the Golden State Warriors turned high school teacher and P.E. teacher for Oakbridge High School; later became interim head coach for the Oakbridge boys' basketball team, but was originally passed over for permanent coach after being offered the job by P.J. Moore in season 3; later begins dating (and then almost immediately engaged to) roommate Vanessa Russell by the end of season four, though there are hints in season one that he is interested in her.
Vanessa Russell (Holly Robinson Peete) – Mark's roommate, who originally worked for the firm Toplyn and Toplyn, and then worked various odd jobs after quitting her job, before settling on working as an Emergency Medical Technician (which she would later be laid off from); was the daughter of rich parents, who later cut her off from her trust fund due to her extravagant spending; would later date Mark (after he successfully conspired to break up her latest relationship due to his jealousies over her boyfriend) and then be engaged to him by the end of season four.
Robin Dumars (Dawnn Lewis) – Mark's best friend since childhood, who comes up with the idea to have Mark move in with her and Vanessa in order to pay the rent; worked as a music teacher and often moonlighted as a tutor to neighborhood kids (Season 1).
Pamela Jane "P.J." Moore (Nell Carter) – Principal of Oakbridge High during seasons two and three, who was Mark's sister's best friend and his babysitter as a young kid; though it seemed to Mark that P.J. was tough on him, it was revealed later in season three that she was tough on him because she saw the potential in him to be a great teacher (Seasons 2–3).
Geneva Lee (Saundra Quarterman) – Mark's cousin from Georgia, who (with her daughter Nicole) moves in with Mark and Vanessa; seemed out of place in California in early episodes; worked as a music teacher and then principal at Oakbridge High (Seasons 2–5)
Nicole Lee (Raven-Symoné) – Mark's precocious preteen cousin, who Mark thinks of as practically a daughter; develops a friendship with next-door neighbor Tyler Foster (Seasons 2–5)
Earvin Rodman (Omar Gooding) – One of Mark's students and player on the Oakbridge Penguins boys' basketball team; was not a stellar student, but managed to graduate high school; was briefly married to his high school sweetheart; worked as a security guard after graduating high school (Seasons 4–5; recurring Seasons 1–3)
Tyler Foster (Marquise Wilson) – Mark's next-door neighbor, who Mark saw as an annoyance in the first two seasons, and saw as a little brother in later episodes; was best friends with Nicole Lee after she is introduced; he had a crush on Vanessa, which was referenced to several times, but also was briefly infatuated with Geneva (Seasons 2–5; recurring Season 1)
Coach Ricketts (Roger E. Mosley) – Coach of the Oakbridge Penguins boys' basketball team; once served in the Army (Season 1)
Issac (George Lemore) – One of Mark's students in his P.E. class (Seasons 1-2)
Andre Bailis (Christopher Carter) – One of Mark's students and player on the Oakbridge Penguins boys' basketball team (Seasons 1–2)
Thaddeus White (Dominic Hoffman) – Vanessa's boyfriend in season two, who Mark disliked (Season 2)
Bennie (Don Cheadle) – One of Mark's friends, who was not very bright; had a crush on Vanessa (Season 2; appeared in one Season 3 episode portrayed by Ruben Paul)
Chet Corley (Ron Canada) Was briefly named head coach of Oakbridge High boys' basketball team after Mark forfeits the position due to not returning P.J.'s calls about the offer; he leaves to coach a college team and names Mark as his replacement (Season 3)
Eric Thompson (Kristoff St. John) – A doctor, who Vanessa dated during season three but briefly broke up with after finding out he worked at a free clinic, though would get back together with after realizing that her materialisticness should not get in the way; would later be engaged to Vanessa and the two would move to New Guinea, but Vanessa would break off their engagement and return to Oakland (Season 3; guest star in Season 4)
Steve Warner (Steve White) – One of Mark's friends, who Mark was roommates with in college; worked as a sportswriter for a local newspaper (Season 3)
Ken Anderson (Kevin Jackson) – Geneva's first long-term serious boyfriend since her divorce; was a member of the Army Reserve, but also had a penchant for baking; would propose to Geneva in season five, but both ultimately decided to slow things down (Seasons 3–4; guest star in Season 5)
Miss Simpson (Lorraine Fields) – Worked as one of the teachers at Oakbridge High (Seasons 3–4)
Mr. Morley (Kelly Perine) – Worked as one of the teachers at Oakbridge High (Season 4)
Miss Cosgrove (Gloria Gifford) – Worked as one of the teachers at Oakbridge High (Season 4)
Lydell (Lewis Dix) – One of Mark's friends; would later marry his girlfriend Florence after only 13 weeks of dating (Seasons 4–5)
Young Coach Ricketts (Peter Brost) – As seen in one of Coach Ricketts many Army flashbacks (Season 1)
In the first season, the characters were Mark Cooper, Vanessa Russell, and Robin Dumars. They all lived as roommates in a house that was rented by Mark, Vanessa and Robin. In the pilot episode, Mark got a job as a substitute teacher for a high school science class. Later in the season, he got a job teaching physical education which was what he wanted to teach. Mark was also a basketball coach for the school's team. Robin was a music teacher at the same high school. In the middle of the season, the original landlord died and the house was purchased by the parents of Tyler Foster (who were Mark's neighbors). After purchasing the house, Tyler's father told Mark, Vanessa, and Robin that they were allowed to stay in the house for 1 month. After Tyler told his parents that he liked the trio, they decided to let them stay permanently.
Mark had briefly played basketball with the Golden State Warriors, but was soon cut from the team. His jersey number with the Warriors is # 7.
The pilot episode was filmed on the same set used by the Seavers in the sitcom Growing Pains.
The show moved to Friday nights in the second season as part of the TGIF block. It also was remodeled into more of a family-oriented show, instead of an adult oriented show, as in the first season. In the second season premiere, Tyler mentioned that Mark had purchased the house from his parents. Also in the second season premiere, Mark's cousin, Geneva Lee, and her daughter, Nicole Lee, moved in with Mark and Vanessa. Robin was no longer living with Mark and Vanessa (and the character had been dropped from the show). Geneva took over teaching music at Mark's school. Around the time Geneva and Nicole joined the show, Mark's school welcomed a new principal, P.J. Moore (played by Nell Carter), who was Mark's babysitter when he was a child. She was replaced in Season 4 by Geneva.
In 1996, Mark proposed to Vanessa in the episode "Will She or Won't She". This episode was a cliffhanger season finale that was aired on May 10, 1996. The following season premiere episode ("The Ring") was not aired until June 21, 1997, more than a year later. Vanessa accepted Mark's proposal in this episode. "The Ring" is the first episode of the fifth and last season of the series.
The entire third season and most of the fourth season's episodes were directed by Mark Linn-Baker, who portrayed Larry Appleton on the hit ABC series Perfect Strangers. Linn-Baker also appeared in a few episodes.
The last season was 13 episodes long, half the length of most television seasons, and was aired in the summer, when most television shows are in reruns. In addition, this season was aired on Saturday nights—a move away from its traditional Friday night slot on TGIF.
The series finale ("Getting Personal") was aired August 30, 1997. In this episode, Vanessa wrote a personal ad in the newspaper, and wanted Mark to figure out which ad was hers, and to answer it. Mark decided to answer all ads in the paper, tell everyone to look for the man with the rose, and then not wear a rose. Mark figured that Vanessa would be happy enough that Mark answered her ad, and would not worry about the rose, and that the other women would not get mad at him because, without a rose, they would not know that Mark is the one who answered their ads. Earvin knew about Mark's plan, and decided to go to the restaurant with the rose, so that he could get a date with one of the women whose ad Mark had answered. Vanessa and the other women figured out that the same man had answered all their ads. They decided that the man with the rose would be the dead man with the rose. When Earvin showed up, they all got mad at him, thinking he was the one who answered their ads. The finale ended with a goodbye from the cast.
While the series finale was viewed in its entirety on ABC affiliates in the Eastern, Central, and Mountain time zones, ABC pre-empted the episode on the West Coast, 5 minutes in, to break the news of the death of Princess Diana, and the finale was never re-run on ABC. Other than several complaints from viewers on the West Coast, there was little, if any, controversy, as this episode generally had low ratings, and aired on a Saturday. However, the episode eventually aired on syndication.
ABC actually intended to bring back Hangin' with Mr. Cooper and Step By Step to TGIF for the 1996–97 season as midseason replacements if freshmen series Sabrina the Teenage Witch and/or Clueless were cancelled (Clueless was cancelled by February and was replaced by Step by Step by March, Clueless was picked up by UPN the next season; while Sabrina lasted four seasons on ABC, before being picked up by The WB in 2000, where it spent its last three seasons, both show are now owned by CBS Television Distribution).
The wedding of Mark and Vanessa would have most likely been the sixth season premiere episode had the show been renewed after season five, as Mark Curry reportedly wanted the wedding to begin a new season, not be a series finale. Hangin' with Mr. Cooper was the only TGIF show cancelled after the 1996–97 season as CBS picked up Step by Step and Family Matters when that network attempted a TGIF-style comedy lineup on Fridays called the "CBS Block Party".
On August 16, 2016, Warner Bros. released Hangin' with Mr. Cooper- The Complete First Season on DVD via their Warner Archive Collection. This is a manufacture-on-demand (MOD) release, available through Warner's online store and Amazon.com.
The series was created by Jeff Franklin (who also created one-time lead-in Full House in 1987, of whose cast John Stamos, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen made a guest appearance in Mr. Cooper's second episode), the series was originally executive produced by Franklin, with Danny Kallis becoming executive producer and showrunner shortly after; Cheryl Gard became the showrunner for season two, before William Bickley and Michael Warren (who created the popular ABC sitcoms Family Matters and Step by Step, which moved to CBS in 1997) became the showrunners by the third season, continuing until the end of the series.
It is also the only videotaped sitcom produced by Bickley-Warren Productions (all other Bickley-Warren-produced comedies, all of which, except for Hangin' with Mr. Cooper and the short-lived WB sitcom Kirk, were produced in conjunction with Miller-Boyett Productions, were shot on film), and is one of only two series executive produced and/or created by Bickley and/or Warren, that Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett did not executive produce.
The show had three different theme songs throughout its run. The first season's theme song was performed by Dawnn Lewis, Holly Robinson, and the R&B quartet En Vogue, and was written by Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. Lewis and Robinson perform most of the theme, while En Vogue sings "Cooper" in the chorus. This sequence was styled similarly to a music video. This was the only opening title sequence during the show's to feature two different versions. The version used in most episodes lasted only 32 seconds. However, a couple of episodes used a minute-long version which included an extra stanza that was not included in the short version.
R&B male crooner and Shalamar lead singer Howard Hewett sang the second season theme, which was a remake of Sam & Dave's R&B Top 10 hit "Soul Man". This version was produced by singer Steve Tyrell, who also composed the scene change music used during season two. The opening sequence accompanying the theme during this season featured Mark, Geneva, Nicole and Vanessa in the kitchen getting ready to go to work and school.
Sherwood Ball, Carmen Carter and Oren Waters performed the third season theme, which became the main theme song until the series ended. This theme was written by Gary Boren and Steven Chesne, who also composed the music cues to signify scene changes and commercial breaks during the last three seasons and composed the music score of several Miller-Boyett series during the early and mid-1990s. The sequence, created by graphic design firm Creative Tool, featured shots of various places in Oakland in static and regular form with posterized shots of the cast members with clips on the opposite side of the cast members (though clips of Mark Curry are shown on both sides in his part of the sequence).
Alice Cooper was approached in the initial stages of production to create a theme song for the series, but declined due to scheduling conflicts.
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper went into off-network broadcast syndication (via Telepictures Distribution and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution) in the fall of 1996, where it lasted until the fall of 2000 (airing until the fall of 1999 in some markets). From July 2008 to January 2009 it aired on Ion Television as part of the network's Laugh Attack hour of American sitcoms, initially running from 5-6PM/ET, then moved an hour later (switching time slots with The Steve Harvey Show).
The series has also aired on cable network TNN from 2000–2002, on Noggin's teen-oriented television programming block, The N from 2002–2004, on Nickelodeon's teen-oriented television programming block, TEENick from 2001-2003, on TV One from 2007 to 2008, and the sitcom was picked up by Nick at Nite on January 13, 2014 during the 6:00AM–7:00AM morning line-up)