Category Archives: Character Review

The Nanny Character Review: C.C. Babcock

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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.

When we fall in love, we hope and expect that the person we love will love us back. But, that is not always the case. On The Nanny, C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane) has been romantically chasing her widower business partner, Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) since the death of his wife. To her chagrin and the delight of Niles (Daniel Davis), Maxwell falls for and marries Fran Fine (Fran Drescher), his children’s nanny.

A socialite and the daughter of divorced parents, C.C. took every opportunity she had as a child to be spoiled. When she enters the Sheffield house, she is greeted by her less than favorite sparring partner, Niles. He takes pleasure in mocking her about her age, her lack of a romantic partner, and most importantly, her numerous failures to turn her business partner into her life partner.

Things change between C.C. and Niles when their game of “top that” insults turn into lust. That lust turns into love, a marriage proposal, and a baby. When we last see C.C., she and Niles follow Max and Fran to California and his new television producing job.

To sum it up: When the one we love rejects us, we have two choices. Choice #1 is to do fight to get them back. Choice #2 is to accept what has happened and move on. Though C.C. eventually accepts that she will never be Maxwell’s other half, it takes her a while to get there.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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The Nanny Character Review: Niles

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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.

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The Nanny Character Review: Maxwell Sheffield

*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. Losing a loved one is hard enough. But losing your spouse or partner when your children are young is another level of grief. While dealing with the fact that the person you loved most in the world is gone, you also have the responsibility of being the sole parent.

On The Nanny, Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) is a Broadway producer and a widower with three kids. Though it is never clearly stated why his wife passed, it is obvious that her loss is still palpable. Due to a very busy work schedule, he is unable to spend as much time with his kids as he would like. Which is why he hires Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) as the nanny.

In the beginning, their relationship is strictly that of employer/employee. But over the course of five years, the mutual attraction as well as a Ricky/Lucy relationship begins to emerge. In contrast to Maxwell’s gentrified, sometimes emotionally distant upper class world, Fran comes from a lower class family who does not have access to the things he has, but has the love of a close family. When they are on a return flight back from Paris turbulence hits the plane, Maxwell blurts out that he is in love with her. After they get home, he takes it back giving his butler Niles (Daniel Davis) comic meat to hold over his boss’s head.

When he finally gathers the courage to be open about his feelings and propose, his business partner C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane) has a breakdown after years of romantically chasing him. The last time we see Maxwell, he and Fran are parents to infant twins and they are moving to Los Angeles where he is going to produce a television series.

To sum it up: It takes courage to find new love after the death of one’s spouse/partner. Live in the past is easy, opening your heart to someone new is harder. In eventually revealing his feelings for Fran and marrying her, he proves that it is possible to love again while still remembering the one you lost.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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The Nanny Character Review: Fran Fine

I apologize for the delay in the publication of the new character review posts. Life, as it does, got in the way last week.

*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. When it comes to ethnic or racial stereotypes, there is line that can be easily crossed into a gross misrepresentation of the culture that person represents. However, it can also be subverted to reveal the human being who exceeds the image they represent.

At first glance, Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) is your typical Jewish woman from New York City. She has a thick Queens accent, is obsessed with finding a husband and adores Barbra Streisand. When her fiancé dumps her, she has no choice but to go back to selling cosmetics door to door. One of the doors she knocks on is Maxwell Sheffield’s (Charles Shaughnessy). Maxwell is a Broadway producer and a widower with three growing children. Though she is a square peg in a round hole, Maxwell hires Fran to be his children’s nanny. Over the years, Fran becomes much more than the hired help. She is a mother figure to her charges and encourages them to see beyond the limited reaches of their Park Avenue mansion.

Fran brings much more than herself into the WASP-y Sheffield household. She brings her entire family. Her mother Sylvia (Renee Taylor) is preoccupied with the fact that her younger daughter is both single and childless. She is also known to nosh wherever and whenever she can. Fran’s best friend Val Toriello (Rachel Chagall) is not the brightest bulb in the box. Sylvia’s mother and Fran’s grandmother Yetta Rosenberg (Ann Morgan Guilbert) is sometimes senile and sometimes not senile.

The relationship between Fran and Maxwell is not exactly the most professional relationship between employer an employee. There is a palpable chemistry between them, resulting in a will they or won’t they question that hangs over the characters for five years. When they finally get together, it is to the delight of Maxwell’s children (whose relationship with Fran is of a pseudo-parental/child nature) and the butler Niles (Daniel Davis). It is only C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane), who looks upon the relationship with disdain. Her numerous attempts to create romantic sparks with Maxwell, her business partner have never succeeded.

To sum it up: Though Fran checks all of the boxes when it comes the stereotype of a Jewish woman, she is more than a list of expected traits and interests. She is warm, adventurous and when she loves, she loves completely.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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The Jeffersons Character Review: Mother Jefferson

*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 Jeffersons. 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. When we get married, our marriage is much more than the person we said “I do” to. It is also, for better or for worse, that person’s family. I would love to say that every married person gets along with their in-laws. But that is not always the case. On The Jeffersons, Mother Olivia Jefferson, (Zara Cully) does not hide her disdain for her daughter-in-law Louise (Isabel Sanford).

In her mind, Louise is far from the ideal spouse for her son, George (Sherman Hemsley). She takes pleasure in tormenting Louise about everything. But Louise is no shrinking violet. What Mother Jefferson gives out, she gets back tenfold from Louise. But that does not mean that she is completely heartless. When George’s action cross a sexist line, his mother is quick to point out that he is wrong.

To sum it up: A mother’s love knows no bounds. That can also be said about her relationship with her daughter-in-law. Though one could easily put Mother Jefferson in the stereotypical mother-in-law role, it is her ability to step out of the 2D character occasionally that makes her stand out.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

This will be my last character review post for The Jeffersons. Come back next week for the new list of character reviews.

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The Jeffersons Character Review: Tom and Helen Willis

*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 Jeffersons. 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 2021, it is not uncommon to see a mixed marriage in which one spouse has one skin color and the other spouse has another skin color. But it was not so long ago that it was illegal for an African-American and a Caucasian person to be married in the United States. The legal case of Loving v. Virginia is only 54 years old. On The Jeffersons, Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker) were the first interracial married couple on television.

Tom is white and Helen is black. Their neighbor, George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) frequently mocks Tom for being white. Helen, who has become friends with George’s wife, Louise (Isabel Sanford), frequently has a smart comeback about George’s lack of height. After Tom and George become friends, the jokes switch to Tom’s weight. Tom and Helen have two children. Jenny, who looks like her mother, eventually marries George and Louise’s son, Lionel (Mike Evans/Damon Evans). Their son Allan (Andrew Harold Rubin/Jay Hammer), resembles his father and is frequently away from home.

Warning: the above video has the N word in it.

To sum it up: It is easy to love someone who is like you. It is harder to stay in love when your chosen partner/spouse is different and the people around you are not shy about pointing out those differences. But Tom and Helen make it work, proving that when you follow your heart and make a commitment, it is possible to stay together for what hopefully will be the rest of your lives.

Which is why they are memorable characters.

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The Jeffersons Character Review: Florence Johnston

*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 Jeffersons. 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. When one hires household help, they expect this person to be respectful and do the job they are paid to do. On The Jeffersons, Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs) is not this kind of household staff.

Florence is a smart ass, lacks some of the skills needed to complete her work, and has no problem talking back to her employers. She frequently gets into rows with George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) and complains that her paycheck is on the small side. She is saved from being fired several times by Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford), who sees Florence as part of the family instead of hired help.

Though Florence and George don’t exactly get along, both reveal their softer sides and provide assistance when needed. George stepped in before Florence could commit suicide and Florence saved George when he got involved with a couple of con artists.

To sum it up: Household help characters have been around for generations. For the most part, they have been meek, mild, and have only been in the spotlight when they are needed. Florence is a unique not only because she is a major character, but because she is not afraid to speak her mind. Even if that means mocking those who sign her paychecks.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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The Jeffersons Character Review: Louise Jefferson

*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 Jeffersons. 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. For every yin, there is a yang. The best partnerships are the one in which one person balances out the other. On The Jeffersons, Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford) is the the exact opposite of her husband, George (Sherman Hemsley).

When George is obnoxious and full of it, she is kind and openhearted. Willing to give people a chance, she becomes good friends with Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), a bi-racial couple who lives in the same building. Remembering the poverty she experienced in her childhood, she is reluctant to hire a maid. After some convincing on George’s part, she agreed to hire a maid. Over the years, the relationship between Louise and Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs) becomes less like employer and employee and more like two women who know each other well.

But even as calm and collected as Louise is, there is one person that gets under her skin: her mother-in-law. Mother Jefferson (Zara Cully) knows exactly how to push Louise’s buttons. Though Louise and George have been married for a long time, she is still the target of criticism and disapproval.

To sum it up: Without Louise, George would be just another asshole. Her presence is both a calming influence on both him and the audience, allowing us to laugh without feeling the need to knock him down a peg or two. Louise is the character the audience can connect with, giving us a natural access point and allowing us to enjoy everything this show has to offer.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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The Jeffersons Character Review: George Jefferson

*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 Jeffersons. 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. The American dream is the ability to pull yourself and your family up by your bootstraps. But as we all know, that dream still does not apply to everyone. On The Jeffersons, the patriarch of the family, George Jefferson is not exactly humble.

Descending from sharecroppers, and growing in poverty during the Depression, George became a business owner. Opening a chain of dry cleaners, he was able to move his wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and son Lionel (played by both Damon Evans and Mike Evans) from Harlem to Queens and then finally to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. There are some in his shoes who would be unassuming and appreciative. But not George.

Like his former neighbor, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), George is arrogant, full of it, and has certain ideas about certain people. Though underneath it all he is a loving and supportive husband and father, that is not the impression one gets upon meeting him for the first time. He takes pleasure in riling up his neighbors, Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), and their maid Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs). His schemes to bring in more money usually ended up in failure, to be replaced with a new idea.

To sum it up: George Jefferson should be proud of his success. In his time, what he was able to achieve is nothing to sneeze at. But there is a thin line between pride and arrogance. That being said, the reason that audiences have loved this character for nearly fifty years is the duality of being a good spouse and parent and having a large ego. Balancing both aspects, George appeals to the audience in a way that not only breaks boundaries but reveals the human side to what could easily be a dislikable man.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Uwe & Claudia Rossler

*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 World on Fire. 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. When we meet Uwe & Claudia Rossler (Johannes Zeiler and Claudia Mayer) in World on Fire, their introduction comes by way of their neighbor, Nancy Campbell (Helen Hunt). They have two children, Klaus and Hilda. While Klaus is away fighting for his country, his parents deal with an internal battle at home. Hilda is living with a medical condition, that if known to the authorities, would put her life in danger. They decide to hide their daughter’s illness and ignore what they are hearing about children being killed for having physical and mental special needs.

Uwe is a business owner who is under constant pressure to fall in line with the regime. Acting against his own conscious and the need to protect his daughter, he reluctantly joins the Nazi party. Then life forces Uwe and Claudia to deal with a fork in the road. Somehow, it gets out that their daughter is sick. Claudia makes the devastation decision to kill herself and Hilda, leaving a heartbroken husband behind. When Uwe kills one of his employees who is an avid supporter of the government, he turns to Nancy to hide the body.

To sum it up: Change only comes when we feel uncomfortable. Comfort creates complacency, for better or for worse. Uwe and Claudia are initially comfortable, safe in the knowledge that as heterosexual Christians, they will be left to live in peace. It is only when they are uncomfortable that they make certain decisions that will forever change the course of their lives.

Which is why they are memorable characters.

This will be my last Character review post for World on Fire. The next group of characters I will be writing about are…come back next week and find out.

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