I used to watch a lot of Lifetime Television (The Golden Girls), so it is no surprise that I just loved The Nanny, featuring Fran Drescher as Fran Fine. And yes, the Jewishness of her character was well-noticed.
According to the Culture Smash DVD Review:
The Nanny probably has one of the best and most iconic theme songs of all time. Yes, it’s corny, but it just sets the mood for the corniness of the show. You liter-ally get the entire origin story of The Nanny in less than 45 seconds. Fran (Drescher), a Jewish Queens native, is kicked out of her job and home by her then boyfriend, and has to start selling make-up door to door. She ends up at the Sheffield mansion right when they need a new nanny, and Mr. Maxwell Sheffield (Shaughnessy), at the end of his rope, employs Fran, although she does not look like any nanny that anyone has seen before.
Throughout the series, you see Fran help raise the shy Maggie (Tom), the incor-rigible Brighton (Salisbury), and the youngest, and yet the most mature, Grace (Zima). She also slowly falls for her boss, Maxwell Sheffield, a widower and successful Broadway producer, who is always at war with his arch nemesis, An-drew Lloyd Webber. Fran also befriends the incredibly snarky Butler, Niles (Da-vis), who is in a constant battle of wits with Mr. Sheffield’s business partner, the icy, cool blonde, CeCe (Lane).
The series can be corny if you look at it from a real perspective. But, look at the series as a play on I Love Lucy meets The Sound of Music, and you truly see the magic and genius that this show produced. I absolutely loved going back through the series to the episodes that I remembered and loved, like the episode where Mr. Sheffield was on Hollywood Squares or when Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop guest starred on an episode.
I had forgotten how much I love Fran’s family. Fran’s nagging mother, Sylvia, her delightfully senile grandmother, Yetta, and her ditzy best friend, Val, make for some of the biggest laughs on the series. I have a personal affinity to Yetta… just because. Whether she thinks that the Sheffield’s mansion is actually the Four Seasons or constantly forgets everyone’s name around her, she is so in-credibly endearing. An episode that I forgot about was when Yetta gets married… TO RAY CHARLES! Well, Ray Charles guest stars as Yetta’s love, but nonetheless, it’s pure comedy gold. Another I had forgotten about was when Ray Charles’s character asks Fran if his son, a “rapper,” can get a job on Broad-way. When Fran hears that Maxwell and Cece are having difficulty casting the lead for their new hip hop musical, she thinks that she has a winning idea to cast the “rapper” grandson. Sadly, they find out that the grandson, played by Coolio, is a GIFT-wrapper. Now, Fran must teach Coolio how to be cool. Obviously, hi-larity ensues.
Speaking of Coolio and Ray Charles, I had forgotten how many big celebrities this show had. From Elizabeth Taylor to the Clintons, you see nearly every big star of the 90’s at the Sheffield Mansion. But the biggest star is indeed Fran Drescher. Holy Moley Guacamoley, this woman is an incredible comedienne. Harkening back to Lucille Ball, between her raised eyebrows to the camera or her witty asides to the audience, Drescher never lets up for one second.
I found it very difficult to stop watching the series, once I started. There’s some-thing incredibly comforting about a corny sitcom with big belly laughs. It’s like a big warm blanket of canned laughter knowing that something crazy is going to happen in the Sheffield house, but that it will always be magically resolved in thir-ty minutes. The series truly was lighting captured in a bottle, and still stands the tests of time with witty repartee and loads of physical comedy. Shows like this make me miss the good ol’ family sitcoms of the 90’s.