Executive Producers: Fran Drescher and Peter Marc Jacobson
Starring: Fran Drescher, Charles Shaughnessy, Nicholle Tom, Ben-jamin Salisbury, Madeline Zima, Lauren Lane, and Daniel Davis
“She had style. She had flair. She was there! That’s how she became The Nanny!” And with those words, I am jettisoned back to my childhood with every-one’s favorite, fabulously dressed, nasally nanny, Fran Fine. Shout Factory! has released all six seasons of the wacky adventures of Nanny Fine and her adopted family, the Sheffields in a special edition box set, and I was more than happy to test it out for everyone. But the question plaguing me was, will I still love this se-ries? Or will I be hitting my head, questioning my tastes as a child?
The Nanny probably has one of the best and most iconic theme songs of all time. Yes, it’s corny, but it just sets the mood for the corniness of the show. You liter-ally get the entire origin story of The Nanny in less than 45 seconds. Fran (Drescher), a Jewish Queens native, is kicked out of her job and home by her then boyfriend, and has to start selling make-up door to door. She ends up at the Sheffield mansion right when they need a new nanny, and Mr. Maxwell Sheffield (Shaughnessy), at the end of his rope, employs Fran, although she does not look like any nanny that anyone has seen before.
Throughout the series, you see Fran help raise the shy Maggie (Tom), the incor-rigible Brighton (Salisbury), and the youngest, and yet the most mature, Grace (Zima). She also slowly falls for her boss, Maxwell Sheffield, a widower and successful Broadway producer, who is always at war with his arch nemesis, An-drew Lloyd Webber. Fran also befriends the incredibly snarky Butler, Niles (Da-vis), who is in a constant battle of wits with Mr. Sheffield’s business partner, the icy, cool blonde, CeCe (Lane).
The series can be corny if you look at it from a real perspective. But, look at the series as a play on I Love Lucy meets The Sound of Music, and you truly see the magic and genius that this show produced. I absolutely loved going back through the series to the episodes that I remembered and loved, like the episode where Mr. Sheffield was on Hollywood Squares or when Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop guest starred on an episode.
I had forgotten how much I love Fran’s family. Fran’s nagging mother, Sylvia, her delightfully senile grandmother, Yetta, and her ditzy best friend, Val, make for some of the biggest laughs on the series. I have a personal affinity to Yetta… just because. Whether she thinks that the Sheffield’s mansion is actually the Four Seasons or constantly forgets everyone’s name around her, she is so in-credibly endearing. An episode that I forgot about was when Yetta gets married… TO RAY CHARLES! Well, Ray Charles guest stars as Yetta’s love, but nonetheless, it’s pure comedy gold. Another I had forgotten about was when Ray Charles’s character asks Fran if his son, a “rapper,” can get a job on Broad-way. When Fran hears that Maxwell and Cece are having difficulty casting the lead for their new hip hop musical, she thinks that she has a winning idea to cast the “rapper” grandson. Sadly, they find out that the grandson, played by Coolio, is a GIFT-wrapper. Now, Fran must teach Coolio how to be cool. Obviously, hi-larity ensues.
Speaking of Coolio and Ray Charles, I had forgotten how many big celebrities this show had. From Elizabeth Taylor to the Clintons, you see nearly every big star of the 90’s at the Sheffield Mansion. But the biggest star is indeed Fran Drescher. Holy Moley Guacamoley, this woman is an incredible comedienne. Harkening back to Lucille Ball, between her raised eyebrows to the camera or her witty asides to the audience, Drescher never lets up for one second.
I found it very difficult to stop watching the series, once I started. There’s some-thing incredibly comforting about a corny sitcom with big belly laughs. It’s like a big warm blanket of canned laughter knowing that something crazy is going to happen in the Sheffield house, but that it will always be magically resolved in thir-ty minutes. The series truly was lighting captured in a bottle, and still stands the tests of time with witty repartee and loads of physical comedy. Shows like this make me miss the good ol’ family sitcoms of the 90’s.
The video looks just like it did over 20 years ago. The studio shots always look pretty darn good, but I will say that some exterior shots, the ones at night most especially, look terrible. Perhaps that’s just a technology thing, that’s been made better through the years, but it does take the series down a couple of pegs. Otherwise, you should be able to see every incredibly flashy, fabulous outfit that Fran wears throughout the series.
Audio is much more consistent than the video. You will be able to hear every annoying laugh, every angry “Miss Fine!,” and every delightful musical sequence squeezed out of the series. Don’t expect your surround sound to be used to it’s full potential, but it defi-antly gets the job done.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This is the some of the best packaging and bonus features I have ever seen on a sitcom series! First of all, let’s talk about the packaging. The entire series comes in a large, sturdy cardboard sleeve, featuring Fran’s picture on the front with an animated NYC be-hind her. On the back, you get a short synopsis of the show, and several stills from the series. Around the outside of the box, is purple and magenta zebra print, just like Fran Fine would have wanted. Inside are four DVD cases and a booklet. Three of the DVD cases house six discs for two seasons each. On the front of each of these cases is Fran in a polka-dotted suit with the rest of the cast around her in little bubbles. On the back, is a list of each episode and it’s original air date. On each DVD case, the pictures stay the same, but the color scheme on Fran’s suit and in the background change. The fourth disc, is a bonus features disc, with the Sheffields and Fran on the front, and eve-ryone’s favorite senile Grandma, Yetta, on the back. The booklet is one of the big sells of this box set. With the cover art looking just like the cartoon that plays during the opening credits and theme song, on the inside is a fully comprehensive episode guide. Not only do they list every episode, but they also give a brief synopsis of the episode. It’s probably my favorite feature out of this box set.
The bonus features are wonderful, too. In the first season’s first disc, you get some commentary from Fran Drescher herself, talking about the pilot episode, and one of my favorite episodes, “Imaginary Friend.” I find that some commentary is incredibly boring to listen to, but I loved hearing Fran’s process to make each and every episode. On the bonus features disc, you get a never before seen interview with the creators Peter Marc Jacobson and Fran Drescher, “The Making of the Nanny,” and a cast reunion 10 years after the series has ended. I loved watching these bonus features because they really gave insight into what they were trying to create as writers, producers, directors, and actors. They weren’t trying to create the edgiest show, but rather harken back to a sim-pler time and give it a bit of a modern twist.
Overall (Not an Average)
Did I love watching this series now as much as I did when I was a child? No… I loved it more. Because not only do I still get the big, silly physical moments, but now I get all of the adult humor that snuck it’s way into this family sitcom. I loved every raised eyebrow, every “Mr. Sheffield,” and every canned laugh as if I were watching the show for the first time again. Shout Factory! has outdone them-selves again.