Here’s a fun “Would You?” question. Would you hire an incredibly sexy woman who only dressed in tight miniskirts to raise your kids, BUT, she would have to have an equally annoying voice that would make Steve Urkele sound like Morgan Freeman? It’s quite the conundrum. Luckily for you, we here at Channel Surfer have run across a simulation, or “sitcom,” that helps answer this very question. It’s called, The Nanny.
Original Run: 1993-1999
No. of Episodes: 146
Premise: Fran Fine, a nice Jewish girl from Flushing, Queens, gets fired from her Fiancé’s Bridal Shop after he cheats on her. She starts a job selling make-up, where she meets Maxwell Sheffield, a Broadway producer in need of a nanny for his three children. Fran’s hired much to the joy of the sarcastic butler Niles, and to the chagrin of the Maxwell’s business partner C.C.
According to legend, Fran Dresher, the star of The Nanny, got the idea for the show while shopping with a friend’s teenage daughter in London. Dresher was inspired to create a sort of homage to The Sound of Music, only, in her words, “Instead of Julie Andrews, I come to the door!” Thus, the show’s basic foundation was cemented. The Nanny would become a show where a street smart woman from Queens imparts her “wisdom” on an upper-class family from Manhattan. On this count, the show’s not really that original. Charles in Charge, Hazel, Beulah, and Who’s the Boss? all had nannies that basically raised the family children themselves.
Where the show is really original is in its use of urban Jewish culture. The Nanny draws from Fran Dresher’s real life. The eccentricities of Dresher’s upper-lower class/ lower-middle class life will appeal to almost anyone from a similar background, regardless of ethnic roots. I mean, buying retail is a sucker’s game, no matter what side-dish your family eats. Some aspects, of course, are played for laughs, such as the running gag of Fran Fine always wanting to marry a doctor, or her obsession with Barbara Streisand. Dresher, as executive producer, obviously had fun pocking at her culture’s little foibles. Other running gags include Niles the butler’s wicked one liners, Maxwell Sheffield’s hatred of Andrew Lloyd Webber and commitment, and C.C.’s constant failure at seduction.
The episodes are your standard sitcom fare. A problem comes up where Fran and Mr. Sheffield disagree on the proper solution, or one of Fran’s schemes causes Mr. Sheffield trouble, etc. Due to Mr. Sheffields’s connection to Broadway, a few of the episodes are reminiscent of I Love Lucy plots, with Fran trying to either become famous, or meet someone famous. Later on, the show becomes more about Fran trying to get Mr. Sheffield to marry her. This shift didn’t do much for the characters, as it made Fran seem desperate, and Mr. Sheffield seem unsympathetic. The last season was also the weakest, as it felt more like an epilogue than final chapter. Though, in hindsight, I suppose most final seasons feel that way.
Despite my misgivings over some of the later moments of The Nanny, I still love it. As stated above, the show had an I Love Lucy quality to it, due in large part to the comedic acting of Fran Dresher. Dresher had the face of an angel, and the heart of a clown, something I like to call the “Lucy Factor.” You really are left wondering how Mr. Sheffield could have controlled himself around a woman as sexually stimulating as Fran Fine.