THE NANNY is an American sitcom that debuted in 1993.
It ran for six seasons ending in 1999.
The sitcom is set in New York City and revolves around the life of Fran Fine, a cosmetics saleswoman who one day, unexpectedly, becomes nanny to the children of a wealthy widower.
Fran is an attractive thirty-something woman from Flushing, Queens.
Freshly dumped and fired by her fiance and boss from the bridal shop where she worked as a bridal consultant, Fran starts selling make-up door to door. She arrives at a Maxwell Sheffield's mansion where, rather unlikely, she is hired as his children's nanny on a trial basis, since he is in urgent need of one and no one else is available.
Maxwell Sheffield is a Broadway theatrical producer.
He is a handsome, upper class British man, whose formal and stiff ways contrast greatly with Fran's spontaneity and irreverence.
The three Sheffield children are Maggie, Brighton and Gracie.
Maggie is fourteen. She is a very pretty girl, but lacks confidence and is very shy.
Brighton is twelve. He is a smart, bratty boy who loves to play pranks and has driven all the previous nannies to quit with his antics.
Gracie is six years old. She is a precocious little girl who has imaginary friends and regularly attends psychotherapy sessions.
The Sheffields have a live-in butler, Niles, who has been with the family for so long he is almost another member.
Maxwell's partner at his production company is C.C. Babcock, a tall blonde with rather cold and unpleasant manners, who (not so) secretly pines after Maxwell and lives in hope of one day seducing him.
C.C. and Niles cannot stand each other and are constatly bickering and putting each other down, much to everyone else's amusement.
When Fran is hired as the nanny, she moves in with the family, who from day one marvel at her unorthodox ways of dealing with day to day life.
Fran Fine - Fran Drescher
Maxwell Sheffield - Charles Shaughnessy
Niles - Daniel Davis
C.C. Babcock - Lauren Lane
Maggie - Nicholle Tom
Brighton - Benjamin Salisbury
Gracie - Madeline Zima
Throughout the course of the series there are a few secondary characters that appear in almost every episode, as well as many one-off characters as required by the storylines.
The most frequently recurring characters are:
Sylvia (Renee Taylor): Fran's meddling mother
Val Toriello (Rachel Chagall): Fran's ditzy best friend since high school.
Yetta (Ann Guilbert): Fran's semi-senile grandmother.
Stories / Themes
A lot of the humourous situations in this first series arise from the clash of Fran's blue collar Jewish culture, and the Sheffields' upper class British background.
The sitcom was created and produced by Fran Drescher and her husband Peter Marc Jacobson, who based her on-screen character and on-screen relatives on herself and her real life family.
She even named the characters after their real-life counterparts.
Drescher, who is Jewish and from Queens, incorporated many stereotypical Jewish behaviours into her characters and plays up these as well as Queens' reputed unsophistication to comical effect.
Some of the show's running jokes include:
* Fran's colourful and extravagant dress sense and volumous hairstyles (like the theme song says: "She's the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan") and every one of her outfits is an event in itself.
* Fran and Fran's family's ravenous appetite. They seem to be always hungry and ready to eat. Fran's mother even carries around her own bananas and peanut butter jar in her purse, sometimes.
* Fran lying about her age.
* Niles making snide remarks about C.C.'s manliness and beastliness (the actress is actually a very attractive, if very tall, woman, but the character is supposed to be unfeminine).
* Maxwell's resentment of Andrew Lloyd Weber's greater success as a theatrical producer.
One comic element the protagonist Fran provides is her extremely nasal, whiney-sounding voice. This is actually Fran Drescher's natural tone of voice, and is something that is the butt of many jokes along the series.
Throughout this first series, we see that there is an obvious, yet unspoken attraction between Fran and Maxwell. This drives C.C. crazy with jealousy (much to Niles's delight), and she keeps trying to get Maxwell to fire his new nanny.
Fran also tries to help each child cope with their individual issues, such as Maggie's insecurity and Gracie missing her mother.
THE NANNY is without a doubt one of my favourite sitcoms of all time.
It has some truly hilarious scenes, and the characters are very strong and very well played by the actors.
On the negative side, not all the storylines are good. In fact, some are quite lame - but thankfully, these are a minority.
The characters are extremely funny and mostly very warm (even C.C. is endearing in her unrequited passion for Maxwell and absolute indifference to his children), and with time they become so familiar that watching their antics on screen is like spending time with good old friends, and so each 22-minute episode seems to progress very quickly and end too soon, leaving us wanting to watch some more.
This is not a "naturalistic" sitcom, in the vein of FRIENDS or SEINFELD, for example - this has a more cartoonish style to it, with plenty of slapstick moments and some physical comedy to be found in any many episodes.
[Coincidence or not, the opening credits are actually a cartoon version of the characters set to a 1930s-style theme song]
List of episodes
Ep. 1: "The Nanny"
The pilot episode. Fran knocks on the Sheffields' door to try to sell them cosmetics.
She recognises Maxwell from Esquire's 10 Most Eligible Widowers list, and when she realises he is desperate to find a nanny she convinces him she can do the job.
Ep. 2: "Smoke Gets in your Eyes"
Brighton is trying to fit in at school. He hears Fran and Val talk about a kid at their school who used to smoke, drink and have tattoos.
In order to appear cool, Brighton tries smoking and gets caught, and Fran is scared of Maxwell finding out that he got the idea from her.
Ep. 3: "My Fair Nanny"
Maxwell is trying to convince a wealthy woman to invest in his play.
Fran decides to throw a party for mothers and daughters (including the wealthy woman and Maggie's schoolfriends), but as she is afraid her unsophisticated manners and unusual voice will embarrass the family, she gets Niles to teach her how to be a "lady".
This is definitely one of my favourite episodes! The scenes where Niles is instructing Fran how to talk and how to laugh are priceless.
Ep. 4: "The Nuchslep"
Maxwell makes Fran chaperone Maggie on a date. This doesn't turn out to be a good idea, as Maggie's date likes Fran more than Maggie.
Ep. 5: "Here Comes the Brood"
C.C. tries to show Maxwell that she can be just as motherly towards his children as Fran, so she takes them to the zoo.
When they complain that they are not having fun she tells them that Fran only spends time with them because she is paid to do it, and Gracie runs away to Sylvia's house.
Gracie to Fran: "I ran away. I took the limo."
Fran: *Huge gasp* "I ran away, I took a banana!"
Ep. 6: "The Butler, the Husband, the Wife and Her Mother"
Fran's rich cousin comes to visit her. Wanting to impress her, Fran pretends that she owns the mansion and that the butler Niles is her husband.
When Maxwell arrives, he is forced to pretend he is the butler in order not to show Fran up.
As if the situation isn't complicated enough, the Butler Association arrives to assess the butler at work, putting pressure on Maxwell not to make Niles look bad.
Ep. 7: "Imaginary Friend"
Little Gracie has an imaginary friend, which Fran accidentaly "kills" when they are baking cookies.
Ep. 8: "Christmas Episode"
This is a very busy episode: Maxwell will be away on business during Christmas. Fran is surprised to find out that Maxwell doesn't choose his children's presents himself but gets a personal shopper to do it instead.
Meanwhile, expecting a big cash bonus for Christmas from Maxwell, Fran buys everyone expensive presents.
When Maxwell's bonus turns out to be a vase, she has to pawn an antique watch to pay for everything...
Ep. 9: "Personal Business"
Maxwell wants star Brock Storm to appear in his show, but he will only do it if Maxwell sets him up with Fran.
Ep. 10: "The Nanny-in-Law"
Maxwell's very strict childhood nanny comes to visit him. Soon she starts controlling the children, making them dress alike and implementing a regimented life.
Ep. 11: "A Plot for Nanny"
Fran starts dating a funeral director, but he surprises her by deciding to become a clown.
Ep. 12: "The Show Must Go On"
Fran convinces Gracie's teacher to let her direct the school play, by saying that she will get Maxwell to produce it.
Ep. 13: "Maggie the Model"
Maggie becomes a model, but the experience is not what she had imagined.
Ep. 14: "The Family Plumbing"
When they need a plumber, Fran calls her cousin who brings his grandaughter along.
She and Brighton kiss, and Maxwell is quite proud of his son, so Fran confronts him about his double standards of not wanting Maggie to date.
Ep. 15: "Deep Throat"
Fran needs to have an operation to take her tonsils out.
C.C. is going to her sorority reunion and has asked Maxwell to go with her, but he ends up staying longer than expected at the hospital keeping Fran company.
Ep. 16: "Schlepped Away"
The family decide to go on vacation to the Caribbean.
They drop by Sylvia's house for a quick visit but end up stuck there due to a blizzard.
Ep. 17: "Stop the Wedding, I Want to Get Off"
Maxwell's sister comes to visit, just before her wedding to the Duke of Salisbury. But Fran notices that she is actually in love with the driver, not her fiance.
Ep. 18: "Sunday in the Park with Fran"
Maxwell is convinced that the success of his new play will depend on whether a certain critic gives it a good review or not.
Fran takes said critic's son to the park, and ends up accidently hitting him with a baguette.
Ep. 19: "The Gym Teacher"
Maggie has been feigning an injury to avoid gym class, but now her teacher wants her to take a fitness test to prove that she is really injured.
Fran goes to the school to speak to her and finds out that it is her old gym teacher of whom she was terrified in high school (the gym teacher is played by Rita Moreno!).
Ep. 20: "Ode to Barbra Joan"
C.C.'s father comes to visit. C.C. has said that he is a very cold, distant person, but he turns out to be very kind.
C.C. says she doesn't want to spend time with him, so Fran ends up keeping him company, and he gives her many presents, including tickets to see Barbra Streisand in concert.
Fran really wants to go, but realises that C.C. is secretly jealous so she gives up her tickets so that C.C. can go with her father.
Ep. 21: "Frannie's Choice"
Danny Imperiale, Fran's ex-fiance, shows up and says he wants her back. He asks her to marry him - will she accept?
Ep. 22: "I Don't Remember Mama"
Mother Day is coming and Maxwell has planned a very busy day out to keep his children's mind away from it, but Fran convinces him to let her and Gracie enter a Mother & Daughter beauty pageant at their country club.
This is a very funny, heartwarming show, recommended for all the family.