The Daily Stream: Fran Drescher Gave Us Modern Lucille Ball Energy in 'The Nanny' and We Didn't Appreciate It
(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Series: The Nanny
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: Cosmetics saleswoman Fran Fine was working at a bridal shop in Flushing Queens when her boyfriend kicked her out in one of those crushing scenes. She was out on her fanny, but unexpectedly, gets hired as a nanny for a rich Broadway producer’s three children. Oh, just watch the opening theme song.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: I can’t confess to being a huge fan of The Nanny. I don’t always love obnoxious characters in comedy, and The Nanny is all about that loud, big central performance by Fran Drescher. I also have some lingering trauma from when my college roommate would insist on leaving the TV on at night when she went to bed, and she would always turn it to Nick at Nite when The Nanny was playing (let me tell you, that famously nasal voice isn’t the best inducement to sleep). But as my current roommate makes her way through the beloved CBS sitcom for the first time, I noticed something that I hadn’t before when I was stuffing my head into my pillow to attempt to drown out the din in college. Fran Drescher is a comedy genius.
There’s been a resurgence in appreciation for Drescher’s Fran Fine in recent years, mostly for her exceptional fashion. The titular nanny of The Nanny was always impeccably dressed, and Drescher had the body and confidence for it — flitting around in the cutest crop tops, miniskirts, slinky dresses, and so, so many vests. With ’90s fashion back in style, Fran Fine became a fashion icon, with even an Instagram dedicated to her outfits. But what people haven’t dedicated enough time to is how Fran Drescher in The Nanny was the closest thing we saw to a modern-day Lucille Ball.
Not only does Drescher have the physical comedy chops and slapstick aptitude of the original sitcom queen, The Nanny is remarkably close in spirit to I Love Lucy. A lovable heroine prone to pratfalls and getting into all kinds of hijinks, to which the stuffy straight man is left to react in bemusement? It’s the recipe that Ball perfected and which Drescher picks up on in The Nanny. Drescher was big and loud and Jewish, but her character was Lucy to a tee, right down to the outrageous escapades she ends up involved in, which usually get cleaned up by her romantic interest.
But of course, while you have the married couple played by real-life spouses Ball and Desi Arnasz in I Love Lucy, you’ve got Fran Fine trying to seduce an obviously queer-coded British man in The Nanny. Okay, I kid on that last part, but The Nanny‘s entire ensemble just screams queer icons and LGBTQ family unit — at least, if it were to be made today. That’s probably the part I like the least about The Nanny: the lack of heated romantic chemistry between Drescher and Charles Shaughnessy’s Maxwell Sheffield. But the romance isn’t why people come to The Nanny. It’s to see Fran Fine prance around in her great miniskirts, while executing the most hilarious pratfalls.
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