One of the things I love about this job is that I get to find all sorts of new things to enjoy and basically get to immerse myself in it and call it research – it is just one of the perks our wonderful Editor is able to provide us with.
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – this is a review beginning with a commendation of The Editor, rather than a jokey complaint. The Editor really isn’t scary unless you catch her first thing in the morning …
But that’s another story. Because today, dear readers, I introduce you to (or reacquaint you with) a blast from the past.
The Nanny was a sitcom that ran from 1993 to 1999, starring Fran Drescher (who also created and co-produced the show) as Fran Fine, a Jewish-American who accidentally becomes the nanny for a widowed musical theatre producer and his three children.
Having been fired from her job at a bridal shop by the owner and dumped by her boyfriend (sounds like an unlucky coincidence, until you take into account that they’re the same person), Fran takes a job selling cosmetics door-to-door and winds up at the house (mansion) of Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy).
Four years on from losing his wife, Maxwell (long-time rival of Andrew Lloyd Webber, having given up the chance of producing Cats and bitterly regretting it) is still in mourning, and finds dealing with his children a difficult task, both in balancing it with work (even though he works from home) and coping with their own grief.
Already, the children have scared off several nannies and, although Fran has no childcare experience, her down-to-earth mannerisms may well be just what the children need, although they also completely bewilder their father.
The oldest, Margaret, or “Maggie” (Nicholle Toms), is painfully shy with equally painfully low self-esteem, and Fran gradually coaxes her out of her shell. Brighton (Benjamin Salisbury), the only boy, is just as bitter over the loss of his mother and the absence of his father, but with the added pressure of being the middle child with two sisters, and responds by acting out and picking on the girls. Gracie (Madeline Zima), the youngest, has been in therapy since her mother’s death and it shows occasionally (okay, a lot) in the way she speaks.
Overseeing the household and making sure that nothing untoward is going on (at least without his knowing about it) is Niles the butler (Daniel Davis), whose father was Maxwell’s father’s butler and who is often treated more as part of the family than part of the help. The thorn in Niles’ side comes in the form of CC Babcock (Lauren Lane), Maxwell’s business partner who fully intends to be the next Mrs Sheffield despite the fact that she can’t even remember his children’s names, and Niles becomes every shipper in the world as he tries to keep Maxwell and CC apart and bring Maxwell and Fran together. The love-hate bickering and bantering between Niles and CC is one very big reason to watch the show, but there are so many others.
While the show revolves around the seven aforementioned characters, Fran’s family play a large part in it, from her mother Sylvia (Renee Taylor), who is constantly eating, to her grandmother, Yetta (Ann Morgan Guilbert) who lives in a home but constantly forgets who she is (she often mistakes the Sheffield children for her own great-grandchildren), to Val Toriello (Rachel Chagall), Fran’s sweet but air-headed best friend. Maxwell, for his part, seems resigned to the fact that Fran’s family has invaded his life as much as she has, and that the children have become as much a part of the Fine family as the Fine have of theirs.
The show also has an abundance of guest stars, sometimes playing themselves as part of Maxwell’s work; notable examples include Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Midler, Roger Clinton, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Barbara Streisand (who is also part of the running gag that she is Fran’s idol – when asked, Fran admits she would save her mother if both were drowning because “Barbara can walk on water”).
Watching these two very different cultures come together is both heart-warming and hilarious, and the only fault I can find is that it’s so difficult to actually get hold of in England (side note – if anyone does happen to know where we can find Region 2 DVDs, please let us know in the comments!).
I would give this show 4.5 out of 5, as the continuity does lapse sometimes!
Roxanne Williams (can’t stop singing the theme tune!)