*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Nanny. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In the old days, the household staff in the homes of the wealthy were background players. They were expected to do their jobs quietly and efficiently, while remaining away from the spotlight. On The Nanny, Niles (Danny Davis) is the opposite of the traditional servant. Snarky, outspoken, a snoop, and a smartass, he is not above making a comment that others in his position would keep to themselves.
Having worked for Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) as his butler for decades, Niles feels protective of the family he serves. His best friend is Fran Fine (Fran Drescher), who works for Mr. Sheffield as his children’s nanny. He also takes pleasure is mocking C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane), Mr. Sheffield’s business partner whose many attempts to romance Maxwell have backfired.
Towards the end of the series, Niles comes to realize that the insults he has been flinging at C.C. are really flirting. When the insults turn into a kiss, it is a realization that is both hilarious and completely out of left field. When it comes to his boss and Fran, he has been rooting for them for years while undermining C.C. in claiming Maxwell for herself. Niles is also known for having a snack handy when Fran’s mother, Sylvia, (Renee Taylor) comes to visit.
To sum it up: We’ve all seen the compliant and complementary butler whose vocabulary ends with “yes sir” or “no ma’am”. While these characters are fine to watch, they’re boring. Niles shakes up the servant character, showing that there can be much more than the stock perception that many of us have of this role.
Which is why he is a memorable character.