Based on evidence in “The Nanny,” Fran Drescher has many talents, but restraint isn’t one of them. The new sitcom has some amusing moments and certainly contains many elements of past successful sitcoms, but the producers will have to work hard toning down this relentless new entry if they hope for long-lasting success.
Premiere episode kicks off as Fran (Drescher) is fired from a bridal boutique and tries to sell cosmetics door-to-door.
In one of those strained pieces of logic that only occur in TV pilots, a stuffy, widowed millionaire (Charles Shaughnessy) decides he has no choice but to hire the totally unqualified woman as the caretaker of his three children.
You can almost hear the series pitch: “It’s ‘The Sound of Music’ with a Jewish American Princess as Maria,” and the show will presumably mine its laughs from this gefilte-fish-out-of-water routine.
Certainly the writers shamelessly borrow every element they can from “The Sound of Music.”
Arriving for breakfast in her bathrobe, Fran ignores the dictum that it is proper to dress for meals. Apparently it’s supposed to be charming when she ignores stuffiness, but this woman ignores basic manners. Naturally, this free spirit punctures the pretensions of her boss’s snooty friends, and, since the script says so, she wins over everyone around except the icy, predatory woman (i.e., the Eleanor Parker role, played well enough by Lauren Lane) who has set her sights on the rich widower.
As premises go, this one is acceptable enough, and there are some very funny lines; plus, Drescher is a polished performer.
But you don’t have to be Jewish to be offended by the character created by the writers, producers and Drescher (who is also co-creator, writer and producer). As they punched up the worst stereotypes — Fran is loud, pushy, bargain-hungry and man-hungry — did anyone think Jewish viewers, much less Midwestern ones, would be charmed? (Does the Jewish Defense League ever look into sitcoms?)
Character has some moments and would work well in small doses, but as a lead, Fran has to be toned down and warmed up.
As the new boss, Shaughnessy looks good, maintains his dignity, and thankfully doesn’t have to sing “Edelweiss.”
Director Lee Shallat does a serviceable job.