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*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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