The Ten Best THE NANNY Episodes of Season One

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday, on a Wednesday! This week, we’re starting coverage on the best of The Nanny (1993-1999, CBS), which is currently available on DVD and HBO Max.

The Nanny stars FRAN DRESCHER as Fran, CHARLES SHAUGHNESSY as Mr. Sheffield, DANIEL DAVIS as Niles, LAUREN LANE as C.C., NICHOLLE TOM as Maggie, BENJAMIN SALISBURY as Brighton, and MADELINE ZIMA as Gracie. With RACHEL CHAGALL as Val and RENÉE TAYLOR as Sylvia.

To be honest, I don’t think I would be covering The Nanny if it hadn’t been so requested in my recent survey of 1990s sitcoms. This is because, while always appreciative of the fact that it’s comedically motivated — that is, laughs are its goal, and in a sitcom, that’s the most essential ingredient — I was skeptical over whether or not its character work, and in particular, its storytelling, could be exemplary of sincerely laudable situation comedy, especially in the context of the more literally realistic 1990s and the high standards established by the sitcoms I would call the best of this era (Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends, etc.). However, I’m glad I was asked to study it, for not only can I now confirm that the series’ joyful pursuit of comedy is its raison d’être — in accordance with the genre’s own needs — I can also say that I do think, in the construction of its premise, in the development of (most of) its characters, and in the utilization (frequently) of story, there is above-average situation comedy offered… well, at least in the first three seasons of the show’s six-year-run. But more on that soon… In the meantime, I’m also happy to cover The Nanny with an eye on how it reiterates some of the 1990s’ dominant sitcom trends, ultimately finding, after this coverage, that beyond just being a network multi-cam with a rom-com bent, it’s indeed more reflective of this decade than not, for although it is tonally broader and less literally realistic than this period’s baseline, it does nobly represent a subset of shows that, like the majority of this era’s popular efforts, exists within a realistic world but sets its own rules for what’s comedically and narratively acceptable based on the continuity of its own internal logic — more liberally than most. And that will be a bit of a running theme with the sitcoms we’ll be discussing in our second jaunt through the 1990s — specifically as we look at Martin, Cybill, and even the higher concept 3rd Rock From The Sun. In that regard, The Nanny is both a better sitcom than I assumed and one more at home in its era than I expected. Okay, it’s still not one of my all-timers — and I’ll warn you, the back half of our six-week coverage is rough — but, again, I’m SO glad it’s here, for I think its first three seasons are delectable fun.

Let’s start with its premise… The Nanny stands in the grand tradition of a distinct type of “modified family” sitcom, in which someone hired to help run a house and raise its kids becomes a de facto partner for the single parent who is unable to go it alone. The great ancestor of this show is probably The Farmer’s Daughter (1963-1966, ABC), in which a widowed Congressman slowly falls in love with his lovely Swedish housekeeper. This concept was notably tweaked for a more contemporary exploration of gender dynamics in the 1980s’ Who’s The Boss? (1984-1992, ABC), where a single working mom fought an attraction to the muscly-but-gentle Italian guy she hired as domestic support. The latter is an important cousin to The Nanny because some of its key writers were Prudence Fraser and Robert Sternin, who went on to executive produce and develop this series — with creator/star Fran Drescher and her then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson. So, there are major stylistic similarities between the two — and not just in their basic premise, but also in their use of a star’s ethnic background to inform a lot of the central characterization (Tony’s Italian, Fran’s Jewish). However, I think The Nanny is a significant improvement over Who’s the Boss?, largely because it’s got superior character work, particularly for its two leads — with an anchoring nanny whose personality, interests, and background entirely inform her situation (the inherent leap in the premise itself notwithstanding), her comedic possibilities, and her usage in story, alongside a boss whose world is so decidedly different than hers, because of both his contrasting economic fortunes and his rarified occupation (theatrical producer), that he is also well-defined enough to individually shape plots. In other words, The Nanny does a better job than Who’s The Boss? of drawing a contrast between its two leads by more precisely depicting them, and this in turn makes for a character-rich setup that more uniquely directs the narratives and the humor. Now, this is not necessarily because The Nanny opts to go back to the female housekeeper format (of The Farmer’s Daughter, and The Sound Of Music, from which Drescher also claimed inspiration), but it does have something to do with dropping Who’s The Boss?’s reversal of gendered expectations as a guiding idea-led construct, because that half-supplanted actual characterizations, especially in terms of its female boss.

Instead, The Nanny is more imaginative in how it defines its leads, for it wants to enjoy the premised concept of her being a “fish out of water” in his world, with story exploring the juxtaposition of their clashing definitions. By that same token, the way this show is designed — how its premise is constructed — helps display these characterizations. For instance, The Nanny purposely extends Mr. Sheffield’s persona via the ensemble, with a snooty butler, Niles, who bucks our expectations by proving to be an ally for the out-of-place Fran and a frequent nemesis for Sheffield’s business partner — the chilly C.C., ostensibly a romantic rival for our lead (à la The Sound Of Music’s Baroness), but really just the premise’s embodiment of her opposite: the antithesis of the blue-collar, Jewish, overly emotive and impulsive Fran. Both of these characters build out Sheffield’s world and cement the premise’s idea that Fran is an outsider, thereby emphasizing her characterization from their own equally strong depictions. And the fact that they — Niles and C.C. — have their own bickering rapport means there’s another strong relational dynamic to inform story… instead of forcing an over-reliance, like so much of Who’s The Boss?, on the kids, who are essential to this premise of Fran as a proxy mother, even though they, like most sitcom children, function more like narrative devices than actual characters. Okay, to their credit, they are welldelineated at the start… until they atrophy from poor use. (Given the kids’ necessity to the series’ design, we do need them to be utilized regularly, and the series will suffer as it sidelines them.) Lastly, there’s Fran’s family — particularly her mother Sylvia, played by the hilarious Renée Taylor, and her grandmother, portrayed by Dick Van Dyke’s superb Ann (Morgan) Guilbert — both of whom add frothy comic flare, helping personify Fran’s world like Niles and C.C. personify Mr. Sheffield’s — not as necessarily to the premise, but just as helpful to the series’ raison d’être: its comedy. (Meanwhile, the recurring cast also includes Fran’s pal Val — a Diet Fran until the final years latch onto a single comic trait to define her.)

To that point, while the show’s utilization of its premise and (most of) its characters proves that The Nanny is worthy of standing on Sitcom Tuesdays as an example of this genre, the thing it does best of all — and the reason I’m sure most of you like it — is that it prioritizes comedy above all else, as it’s willing to do anything for boffo yuks. That means character-rich dialogue, witty wordplay, allusions to real-life figures (some of which inform character, like Mr. Sheffield’s long-running feud with Andrew Lloyd Webber), slapstick comedy, and even metatheatrical in-jokes. Now, in that feverish pursuit of big laughs where “anything goes,” the series allows itself to be much less faithful to literal realism than many of the sitcom staples of the 1990s — say, Seinfeld or Friends — which tend to typify this era. But, as always, every sitcom gets to set its own internal standards for aesthetic realism — i.e., what is permissible for this show specifically, suggested by its continuity and how it positions its personal comedic/narrative goals. And as previously noted, there is no shortage of broad comedies from this era, for even though they all tend to root themselves mostly in the rules of logic seen in the real world, series such as the sketch-like Martin or the slapstick-heavy Cybill or the fantastical 3rd Rock From The Sun, and even previously discussed gems like the satirical Married… With Children or the untamed Drew Carey all operate with humor and stories that are more heightened than the direction towards which this genre, as a collective, was otherwise moving. Of course, I should remind you that I believe sitcoms with a more “literal” realism (as long as they’re not fetishizing this above the genre’s other demands) often do a better job of pushing their characters to the figurative fore, for a general desire to depict a world more literally true-to-life often encourages a consistency on behalf of character too, plus a strict threshold for their emotional continuities, and this in turn forces them to be well-defined (especially if they’re indeed going to provide story). So, that ends up being a good bedrock for situation comedy… That said, a show doesn’t have to be literally realistic to be consistent with its characters and their usages. It merely must ensure that the elements of its “situation” are being reliably, effectively deployed for humor and episodic plots.

Take, for instance, the emotionally honest but sometimes narratively heightened Frasier; its wild farces are well-motivated by its leading characterizations, and its big laughs and silly plot points feel congruous with what the show, via these leading characterizations, tells us is permissible. (Note: the incorporation of a theatrical style of humor is an extension of its own lead’s ethos — just as in The Nanny!) That’s why, when The Nanny does veer broad, offering physical centerpieces where Fran dons outrageous disguises in the Lucy Carmichael tradition (not Lucy Ricardo — because Lucy Ricardo had a more continuity-backed objective), or stories that simply require larger leaps in logic than the ‘90s’ baseline, it’s really only concerning to me when this series doesn’t do right by its characters. In other words, I’m bothered when it breaks its own aesthetic realism by forcing us to believe that its leads are behaving in ways that either don’t fit with the evident history of their depictions (even if that means they’re merely too heightened, based on prior standards and without enough motivation to make it seem justifiable), or on macro terms, when the show itself is breaking what it’s promised to be, thereby undermining its premise and its regulars. To wit, this singular craving for comedy — however broad — can also prove troubling when it doesn’t involve its characters and/or its premise properly, indulging episodic idea-led notions that would be funny on ANY sitcom, independent of these leads and their unique situation. That is textbook inferior sitcommery, and I’m afraid it’s an issue for The Nanny, particularly in later years when it’s trying to maintain its many hahas while enduring less of an ability to play to its premise, instead opting for gimmicks like star cameos, sketch-like routines (with parodies of shows like Dick Van Dyke and Dynasty), or cheap metatheatrical winks that are not out-of-place in the post-cable sitcom landscape, but nevertheless are unideal, for they’re a distraction from the show’s “situation” — these characters, in this premise.

In fact, I won’t bother to sugarcoat things — I think The Nanny, for as much as it’s a nobly laugh-driven enterprise with a solid premise that helps encourage well-built and several easily utilizable comic characters, offers its fair share of unideal sitcommery, as too many scripts are upheld by those aforementioned gimmicks, and stories that have little to do with the leads or the series’ conceptual particulars. Again, this is especially true in the latter half of the run — the last three years — which are without one element that The Nanny initially handles well, primarily during the end of Season Two and the majority of Three (which, for reasons we’ll discuss later, is what I’d call the series’ peak): the burgeoning romantic tension between Fran and Mr. Sheffield. You see, The Nanny’s central relationship is its emotional nucleus and it’s a vital part of this sitcom’s design, so even when the notion of “the nanny” being a “fish out of water” in his world and a surrogate mother to his kids is less present in plot, scripts that simply tease the “will they/won’t they” tension of these proxy parents’ pairing actually do their part to reinforce the series’ premise (it’s the rom-com bent very typical of 1990s sitcoms). And, again, because this core relationship is shaped to exist between two opposites who are intentionally defined in contrast, their juxtaposition naturally emphasizes their characterizations too, rendering this a terrific use of The Nanny’s situation — both its premise and its characters… However, no series is able to play on this forever. And while most fans believe that their formal coupling in the fifth season marks the end of The Nanny’s creative viability, I think the trouble begins at the top of Four, when the show fails to pair them at the moment it’s most logical to do so, based on their characterizations and how the storytelling has been plotted. As we’ve seen, this is very much a problem that the rom-com heavy Friends had — as it was forced to regularly vamp, stopping and starting the otherwise organic progression of its relationship arcs in deference to sweeps and cliffhangers, handicapping its leads’ believability and the show’s narrative integrity.

With regard to the The Nanny, its central relationship is, again, a seminal part of the premise, so when it’s harmed and/or not used well, both the show and these characters suffer, leaving great situation comedy unlikely. We’ll also find, in addition to the problems faced when their natural pairing is denied for reasons that don’t make sense, once they are romantically linked, the show does a terrible job of genuinely exploring how this change in their dynamic affects the rest of the series’ situation — for it instead distracts itself with many of those cheap gimmicks, and/or predictable narrative arcs (proposal, marriage, pregnancy) that essentially drive themselves, independent of specifics from these once well-defined leads. Accordingly, the last three years are all pretty dire, and they’re why, despite the strong setup and some of the episodic excellence — comedic deliciousness — reached in the first three seasons, I can’t entirely call The Nanny a great sitcom. It’s just not that consistent… and even in its good years, it’s not always guaranteed to choose its characters/premise (i.e., the “situation”) over easy laugh-getting stunts… However, there is enough good in the first three years to say that this show is worth watching and covering here, and as for Season One, in particular, it starts smartly, for these leads and their relationships are made immediately clear by the leap-requiring but nevertheless effective pilot. Yes, the show will get much funnier in its second and third seasons as it becomes bolder in milking its characters for comedy — utilizing more of peripheral folks like Sylvia and Yetta — and the “will they/won’t they” push between Fran and Mr. Sheffield is at its best during Three, when it’s more explicit in narrative — but the storytelling in this freshman collection is the sincerest, enjoying more formal use of the basic “fish out of water” nannying premise, following Fran’s integration into this world and her individual bonds with all of its inhabitants, as she becomes a proxy mom (especially in the year’s first half)… and, eventually, a proxy wife. So, One really makes the case for the Nanny being built as an intelligent situation comedy — a series that can deliver on that promise… at least initially. And if you’re interested, this is one of the show’s three good years — with a handful of very funny, worthwhile half hours.


01) Episode 1: “The Nanny” [a.k.a. “Pilot”] (Aired: 11/03/93)

Fran gets hired as the nanny for three kids of a widowed Broadway producer.

Teleplay by Peter Marc Jacobson and Prudence Fraser & Robert Sternin | Story by Fran Drescher & Peter Marc Jacobson | Directed by Lee Shallat

If there’s any doubt as to The Nanny’s bona fides as a laudably designed situation comedy, its pitch perfect pilot can automatically assuage any concerns, for this tight script establishes everything important to the series and its premise, including all its key characterizations and their core relationships. Although the opening scene is rushed and there’s a big leap we must make in accepting that a door-to-door saleslady with no prior nannying experience could be hired off the street for such a rich and prominent family, the teleplay is funny enough — and fast enough — to render that leap worthwhile, for we’re just so interested in keeping up with everything that’s being offered, like the notion of Fran as a “fish out of water” in this world, the premise’s positioning of her as a proxy mother/wife in this “modified family” format, and the central bonds inside of it, especially the possibility for romance between the nanny and her boss (alongside the other dynamics in the periphery — like C.C. as Fran’s rival because she also likes Mr. Sheffield, along with the supportive Niles, C.C.’s regular nemesis). And with all of these constructs in place, the juxtaposition of the leading characterizations in this framework reveals their strong definitions — including the delightful Sylvia (who appears in the final scene), and even the three kids, who are collectively crucial to the premise. Here, they’re each uniquely drawn — the timid Maggie, the snarky Brighton, and the precociously neurotic Gracie — and even once this distinction burns off in a few years, as Fran smooths over their rough edges, or more to the point, their usage naturally decreases as the premise gets less directly invoked in story (dwindling novelty, you know), the fact that they are so well-crafted in this premiere indicates, at the very least, The Nanny has a basic understanding of just how much a situation comedy thrives on its characters. So, while the show will become more comedically audacious in later years — and the set is different in this pilot than the rest of its run — everything that makes it worthy of study is already on display, and there’s no better testament than this, the opener, as to the series’ credentials as a good situation comedy. For that reason, I have selected it as my MVE, or Most Valuable Episode. (Jonathan Penner and James Marsden guest.)

02) Episode 2: “Smoke Gets In Your Lies” (Aired: 11/10/93)

Fran inadvertently inspires Brighton to take up smoking.

Written by Michael Rowe | Directed by Lee Shallat

The series’ sophomore outing is a fairly straightforward parenting show that puts Fran in the role of proxy mother for one of the kids — a popular narrative template here in this first year, but one that inherently reveals the premise and helps ensure that Season One, though maybe less enjoyable than the funnier and more Fran/Sheffield-focused years ahead, is nevertheless the collection where the show best uses its natural “situation” in the cultivation of weekly story. This is among the most comedic samples in that subcategory — probably why it was chosen to air after the strong premiere — and it’s perhaps most notable for boasting both a cameo by Carol Channing (this series will become known for its stunt casting; stay tuned), and its introduction of Ann Guilbert as Yetta, a hilarious presence who’ll start recurring in Two…

03) Episode 3: “My Fair Nanny” (Aired: 11/17/93)

Fran tries to change herself so as not to embarrass Maggie at a fancy party.

Written by Andy Goodman | Directed by Lee Shallat

The Nanny‘s premise continues to help motivate its storytelling in the year’s third offering, which really focuses on the idea of Fran being out-of-place in Mr. Sheffield’s upper-class society world — a vital part of the series’ construction, but one that also calls attention to the leading lady’s characterization and how it’s so different from the people around her, exemplified by Maxwell and the others in this ensemble (like Niles and, most especially, C.C., who’s deliberately framed as a counter to Fran). So, although this script deploys a fairly routine Pygmalion/My Fair Lady set piece and isn’t quite as funny as some of the best on this list, it’s yet another indication of just how legitimate The Nanny’s situation comedy chops are in Season One, as it uses its premise and characters to uphold laughs and story. (Nikki Cox and series director Dorothy Lyman guest.)

04) Episode 5: “Here Comes The Brood” (Aired: 12/06/93)

Gracie runs away when C.C. tries to fill in for Fran on the nanny’s day off.

Written by Diane Wilk | Directed by Lee Shallat

With a story rooted in the mostly one-sided rivalry between Fran and C.C., the latter of whom is understandably jealous about Fran’s ability to charm the kids and therefore Mr. Sheffield, this entry boasts another exploration of the series’ elemental concept and its premised relationships in support. It’s also one of the first generous showcases for the uproarious Renée Taylor as Fran’s mother Sylvia, as much of the action takes place in her apartment and later at a family wedding. That’s enough to earn this episode a spot here, but it also continues to flesh out Fran’s positioning as the kids’ proxy mother, which is, again, an affirmation of the series’ premise and proof that it’s an intelligent, recommendable situation comedy — primarily when, as in this case, the characters and their relationships are really what’s driving the action.

05) Episode 6: “The Butler, The Husband, The Wife, And Her Mother” (Aired: 12/08/93)

Sylvia tells her cousins that Fran is the wife of a famous Broadway producer.

Written by Howard Meyers | Directed by Lee Shallat

One of the funniest half hours on this list — next to my MVE and another outing cited below — this is a rare example of farce from the series, which typically operates with a situation-supported sense of theatricality (via Mr. Sheffield’s career) that justifies both broad yuks and heightened, over-the-top plots, but seldom employs this specific type of rarified narrative comedy, even though it feels similarly blessed by the show’s individual elements. (Just as Frasier Crane’s highfalutin tenor could allow theatrical constructs, like farce, on his show!) More importantly, this is a good farce because the characters propel it — Sylvia’s guiding motivation is rooted in what we already know of her persona, Niles’ willingness to help Fran is congruous with their camaraderie, and Mr. Sheffield’s reluctant agreement to carry on the charade can be explained by just how much he values both his staff members, especially Fran, who has improved his kids’ lives tremendously. So, with character stakes upholding a typically ridiculous narrative, the results don’t seem as ridiculous — for the series’ aesthetic realism corroborates it. Additionally, as with most farces where regulars choose to “swap” roles and play other members of the ensemble, all the comedy is predicated on our recognition of the characterizations in question, which means they must be well-defined in order for this to work — it’s innately characterbased. Accordingly, this is yet another sample of The Nanny’s strong character work — existing, like many of the great Frasier farces, as a wonderful extension of the series and its own established sensibilities. (Of note: Seinfeld’s Ian Abercrombie and Brian George guest.)

06) Episode 7: “Imaginary Friend” (Aired: 12/15/93)

Gracie says that Fran has killed her imaginary friend.

Written by Pamela Eells & Sally Lapiduss | Directed by Lee Shallat

Gracie is probably the best defined and therefore most utilizable of the three kids here in Season One, and this segment — where she accuses Fran of killing her imaginary friend — feels earned by what we know of her neurotic depiction. Of course, these kinds of kid stories naturally reiterate the premise by highlighting how Fran has become their de facto mother, but this installment gains extra points for taking an opportunity to hit this idea directly, as a psychiatrist reveals that Gracie’s imaginary friend was just a stand-in for her late mom — so when Fran “killed her” she was stepping in as both of their replacements, further cementing, again, her premised position in this modified family. Thus, for how it reflects the series’ situation — and uses Gracie’s character to help — I include the entry here. (Cristine Rose appears.)

07) Episode 10: “The Nanny-In-Law” (Aired: 01/12/94)

Mr. Sheffield’s old childhood nanny pays a visit and does not approve of Fran.

Written by Eve Ahlert & Dennis Drake | Directed by Paul Miller

It would be dishonest to pretend that the main reason I’m highlighting this outing is for anything other than its guest appearance by the hysterical Cloris Leachman, who is in her elementputting on a European accent, aging herself up, and playing Mr. Sheffield’s own childhood nanny, who decidedly does NOT approve of the informal and overly familiar Fran. Leachman offers a strong performance, and it does dominate the proceedings (especially her riotous affair with Niles), but her character sits within the bounds of the show’s premise, for it reiterates the idea that Fran is more than a nanny — she is the kids’ proxy mother, and Mr. Sheffield’s proxy wife. Additionally, it highlights just how different Fran is from most nannies, which accentuates all the traits that make her comedically distinct from the rest of the family. In this regard, while Leachman may be the star attraction, she also gets to play a role that inspires elements of the premise and these characters to come out in support of genuine sitcommery.

08) Episode 14: “The Family Plumbing” (Aired: 02/09/94)

The Sheffield household has plumbing problems and parenting problems.

Written by Bill Lawrence | Directed by Linda Day

There are several things to appreciate about this excursion — the only teleplay from this series credited to Bill Lawrence (later of Spin City, Scrubs, and Ted Lasso) — and each one validates parts of the series’ situation. The first is a parental disagreement between Fran and Mr. Sheffield that indicates her ongoing ascension into proxy mother (and even proxy wife), as the kinds of conversations they have about child-rearing both acknowledge her technical position as the nanny while also highlighting her unusual integration into the family’s personal affairs, like a real matriarch. These clashes also emphasize her characterization, which is doubly on display via the incorporation of a “mini-Fran,” who gets laughs from the comparison and whose very presence is a tribute to our leading lady. Lastly, the whole bit of Fran walking in on Mr. Sheffield in the shower plays into the growing sexual tension that will become a palpable part of every entry near the end of Season Two and for all of Three, as the series ramps up its “will they/won’t they” dynamic — another core aspect of its premise, speaking to this idea of Fran as a love interest for Mr. Sheffield because she’s already his de facto wife and the kids’ de facto mother.

09) Episode 16: “Schlepped Away” (Aired: 03/09/94)

The Sheffield household gets stranded at Sylvia’s apartment during a blizzard.

Written by Fran Drescher & Peter Marc Jacobson | Directed by Linda Day

On my short list of the season’s funniest, this installment traps the entire ensemble inside Sylvia’s tiny apartment for a prime example of how proximity forces character interactions, displaying all of their unique personas and creating an episode that could only reside on this specific series — a true case of great sitcommery. Naturally, it doesn’t hurt that this story also makes time for a lot of Sylvia, who’s one of the show’s biggest laugh-getters and someone whose participation will increase exponentially in the seasons ahead — eventually to the point where she might become too much of a distraction… but we’re far away from that moment here, as she still adds to our understanding of Fran. And by placing her opposite Mr. Sheffield and his coterie, the central differences between the two leads are well-reinforced by extension. In fact, this outing is exciting because it’s a reversal of the usual — instead of Fran being in his world, he is now in hers — and that’s a rich, premise-based foundation for a hilarious half hour.

10) Episode 20: “Ode To Barbra Joan” [a.k.a. “Daddy Dearest”] (Aired: 04/13/94)

Fran hits it off with C.C.’s visiting father, who offers to take her to a Streisand concert.

Teleplay by Frank Lombardi & Dana Reston | Story by David M. Matthews | Directed by Gail Mancuso

Robert Culp guest stars as C.C.’s father in this offering, which I include here for two major reasons. The first is that it really hammers home Fran’s (and her mother’s) love of Barbra Streisand — an affinity that’ll become a running gag and even help inspire plot points in future stories, thereby existing as a trivial but utilizable aspect of her characterization. The second is that the story examines C.C., and, in particular, it’s fueled by her rivalry with Fran, for the drama of this entry doesn’t just stem from C.C.’s own relationship with her father, but the fact that he hits it off so well with her exact opposite — an idea that, once again, spotlights their differences and thus emphasizes the personas allowing them to be so opposed. As such, this ends up being an enjoyable exploration and expansion of several of the series’ leads.


Other notable episodes that merit mention include: “Christmas Episode,” which works best when it’s considering Fran as the family’s proxy matriarch and works least when it’s doing the predictably plotty pawn shop routine, “Deep Throat,” which deploys a clichéd sitcom story where Fran, while groggy, says she loves Mr. Sheffield — an early play to their possible romance, but with less support from individual character beats than I’d like, and “Sunday In The Park With Fran,” which claims a predictable narrative setup but is key because it offers the first kiss between Fran and Mr. Sheffield. Meanwhile, I’ll also single out here “A Plot For Nanny,” which has some funny ideas but not enough value for premise or character, and the year’s final two aired entries, both of which punctuate the season by revealing how much the leads have grown since the start, “Franny’s Choice,” which has a “schmuck bait” plot where Fran considers going back to the fiancé who dumped her, and “I Don’t Remember Mama,” which is explicit in its thought that Fran has assumed the role of the kids’ mother, even though she’s technically not — a ripe dramatic notion that isn’t helped by un-comedic distractions (like a Patti LaBelle cameo), unattached to premise and character.


*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season One of The Nanny goes to…

“The Nanny”



Come back next week for Season Two! And stay tuned Monday for a musical theatre rarity!

16 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE NANNY Episodes of Season One

  1. So pumped to see this series here. I voted for it and it’s one of those shows that constantly makes me laugh out loud. The three episodes you singled out this year are some of my favorites as well. I just love so much of the cast and even though the final years are not good, it still is a feel good show for me. One that I can rewatch (unlike some others). Thank you for covering it here.

    • Hi, Lee! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yep, it’s an early episode — doesn’t seem to be too popular either, but I think it’s a good one!

  2. This is a show I voted for! Love its first few seasons enough to think it was good enough for your critical gaze, but I agree the last few seasons suck. Like more than most shows from this era. But the first few seasons are worth it to me and I’m glad to know they are to you as well.

    Did you ever see the other sitcom that Renee Taylor was in during the 1993-’94 season, “Daddy Dearest”? I’d love to read your thoguhts on it.

    • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, stay tuned soon for a Potpourri piece with DADDY DEAREST and several other NANNY-related short-lived sitcoms!

  3. Have always avoided this series but your review makes me want to give it a try. I was never a Fran Drescher fan but I like several of the other actors. Thanks for the review.

  4. Love this review and this has definitely been one of my favorite shows from the 90s. I do agree with you those last couple of seasons definitely got way too broad with a celebrity guest appearances and it’s tone but I can still get a laugh from it.

    I was very surprised that you said that Gracie was the most defined out of the kids because I’ve always felt like that too. Usually when it’s the younger siblings in sitcoms they get my least attention

    Definitely cannot wait to talk about the season 2 and 3

  5. Also one more thing no wonder why I always felt like this show and who’s the boss had very similar plots I never knew that the producers worked on this show too

  6. Thanks for your detailed reviews. I’m binge watching this show and am amazed how much the plot influences the episode. “The Golden Girls” usually has two, sometimes three storylines happening in an episode, which guarantees a few good laughs amongst some duds.

    “The Nanny” has one plot going on the entire episode, affecting all the characters, so an episode is either hilarious or stupid.

    My favourite episodes were the first two you mentioned. The writing seemed more consistent in the first few episodes.

    • Hi, Noah! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      The trend of multiple stories-per-episode has accelerated in every decade since the 1970s. I actually don’t find it favorable in comparison to the more traditional single narrative format, for the variance you observed with story quality also applies *within* individual episodes as well. That is, unless all plots are of a similar high quality — with deliberate associations that justify their inclusions in the same half hour (narratively, thematically, or locationally) — it then becomes difficult to find whole excursions that fully satisfy.

      And while the presence of one story-per-week may make it easier to write off entire entries that don’t work or aren’t preferable, I think the sitcom’s structure demands relative simplicity with regard to plotting. In fact, the more story beats an episode must contain (and subplots increase these story beats exponentially), the more likely it is for “story,” as a principal, to become the dominating focus of an episode, overtaking the characters, who, as upholders of the “situation,” should always be the nucleus of value — the primary conduit for narrative and comedy.

      In this case, I also don’t think THE NANNY and THE GOLDEN GIRLS are of a similar stature in terms of baseline quality, so citing their respective storytelling styles in order to argue a preference for one style over the other couldn’t be fair. Almost everything about THE NANNY will pale in direct comparison. Also, THE GOLDEN GIRLS is an inherently lower-concept show than THE NANNY, whose premise is more specific — and that means the exploration of this specific premise as part of the “situation” will naturally make the series more idea-driven.

      So, in this regard, stories should matter more on THE NANNY — and that’s not a criticism… as long as the characters and their relationships capably support them. Unfortunately, that’s the show’s core problem: this doesn’t happen often enough. And it’s ultimately what separates THE GOLDEN GIRLS from THE NANNY — the reliable use of character.

Comments are closed.