Tag Archives: Queens

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*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, New York City, Television

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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Filed under Character Review, New York City, Television

It’s About Common Sense, Not Religion

If we have learned nothing else about Covid-19 since March, it is that the virus neither knows or cares about the labels and boundaries that human beings have created.

In New York City, there are about a dozen zip codes in both Brooklyn and Queens in which there is a rise in Covid-19 cases. Most of these neighborhoods have a large population of Orthodox Jews. Some have claimed that the city’s response is anti-Semitic.

My personal reaction is the claim is mixed. If I felt it was truly anti-Semitic response, I would be direct in saying so. But it is not antisemitism, it is common sense. If anything, their reactions only amplify the anti-Semitic lies and imagery. Being learned in the text and customs of any religion does not stop this disease. Wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands frequently will stop this disease.

However, the residents of these zip codes are not completely to blame. If the news reports are true, there are not enough Yiddish speaking tracers to reach out to the community. That failure falls firmly on the shoulders of the Mayor and other officials.

The problem with Covid-19 is that common sense and logic are replaced by fear and anxiety. While those responses are normal, given the circumstances, they will not help us in the long run. We need a clear head and a well constructed plan if we are able to return to some sense of normalcy.

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Filed under National News, New York City

All in the Family Character Review: Archie Bunker

The new characters I will be reviewing are from…All in the Family.

*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 All in the FamilyRead 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.

From a writer’s perspective, it would be too easy to create a one note character that is entirely predictable. It is much harder to create a fully rounded character who the audience can relate to in-spite of that person’s flaws and imperfect humanity.

Archie Bunker (the late Carroll O’Connor) is very much an every man. A veteran of World War II and a blue collar worker, Archie lives in Queens with his wife Edith (the late Jean Stapleton), his daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and his son-in-law Mike “Meathead” Stivic (Rob Reiner).

The world around Archie is changing. When change happens, there are two ways to respond. You can either accept it or entirely reject it. Archie is not shy in admitting that he would prefer that life went back to the way it was. He also is not shy about using not so politically correct terms that some might refer to as racist or sexist.

Archie is a dyed in the wool supporter of the Republican Party and then President Richard Nixon. Which often leads to clashes with Mike and Gloria, who politics are on the more liberal spectrum. He also refers to Edith as “dingbat” and loves to sit in his favorite chair while sharing his opinions about the world around him.

But underneath that gruff and bravado is a man who loves his family and at the end of the day, would do anything for them.

To sum it up: No one is just all good or all bad. It is that in between of good and bad that makes us human. Though Archie Bunker may appear to be a racist and sexist hard-ass, he is in reality a man trying to process the transformation of everything that is in front of him.

That is why he is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, History, New York City, Politics, Television

The Museum Of The Moving Image

I think it is pretty safe to say that the visual mediums that are the movies and television have changed our culture forever.

The Museum Of The Moving Images,  located in Astoria, Queens, celebrated the impact that movies and television have had on our culture.

A few blocks from the 36th Ave N/Q  subway station and Steinway Street subway R/M subway station, the museum is housed in the building that once was the  old Kaufman Astoria studios.

This museum has everything that the movie and television loving audience adores. From props to costumes to makeup, memorabilia and sets, this museum is good for the kids and the kids at heart.

It is feast for the eyes and ears.

I highly recommend it.

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Filed under New York City