Tag Archives: Sylvia Fine

The Nanny Character Review: Yetta Rosenberg

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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. The general on screen image of a grandmother is that of a loving, openhearted woman whose focus is her family. On The Nanny, Fran Fine‘s (Fran Drescher) grandmother, Yetta Rosenberg (the late Ann Morgan Guilbert) is not one of these women.

As a young girl, Yetta immigrated to the United States, where she was supposed to marry the man chosen for her. Though she fell in love with another man, she decided to marry her husband when the man her heart was set on disappeared. Later in life, she would travel between Europe and America, experiencing quite a few major historical events of the first half of the 20th century.

When we meet Yetta as a woman in her sunset years, her mind has started to slip. She is known to frequently smoke, in spite of her ailing health. Unaware that Fran is working for Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy), she believes that he is her grandson-in-law and that his children are her great-grandchildren. But if the viewer knows nothing else about Yetta, she loves her granddaughter intensely. When Fran eventually marries Max and brings their children into the world, she is there as a only proud grandmother can be. Yetta also re-marries before Fran walks down the aisle, creating a running joke. Her new husband is Sammy, played by the late Ray Charles.

To sum it up: Though Yetta is far from the grandmotherly character type we expect to see, she feels like she could be anyone’s grandmother. Her love of her grandchildren is obvious, her mind is not what it was, and she still has conflicts with her children.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

This will be my last character review post for the The Nanny. Come back next week to find out which group of characters I will be reviewing next.

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The Nanny Character Review: Sylvia Fine

*I apologize for not posting last week. Life, as it sometimes does, got in the way.

*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. Our parents hopefully want the best for us. The problem is when their ideas for how our life should turn out conflict with reality.

On The Nanny, Sylvia Fine (Renee Taylor), has one wish for her younger daughter, Fran (Fran Drescher): to get married and give her grandchildren. But neither appears in the be in the cards for Fran’s immediate future, to both of their dismay. She appears to be the stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother. She clearly loves her children, but does not recognize or understand personal and emotional boundaries. Other than eating and worrying about Fran’s marital status, she spends her time playing Canasta. For a short time, Maxwell’s son, Brighton (Benjamin Salisbury) was her teammate.

When Fran is employed by Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) to be his children’s nanny, her relationship with her charges goes well beyond that of a paid employee. The running joke about Sylvia is that she is rarely without a plate of food in front of her. When Fran and Max married towards the end of the series, she dared guests to object and was thrilled when she finally became a grandmother.

To sum it up: Though Sylvia is a comic character and can be seen as a predictable cliché, her heart is in the right place. The maternal feelings are obvious, even when her actions are a bit over the top.

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: 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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