“The Nanny” may become the hand that rocks CBS on Wednesday nights.
It arrives at 8:30 tonight on Channels 2 and 8, becoming the fall season’s final premiere--hardly its only distinction.
Its protagonist (a brassy babe with a heart of gold) and premise (a hired hand taking control of the house) are as pat as television gets. Yet the execution--thanks largely to the ability of its star and co-creator, Fran Drescher, to be at once huggable and noisily shrill--is fresh and Big Apple funny. Such a mouth.
Leaving her native Queens, earthy door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman Fran Fine (Drescher) is hired as live-in nanny to the three kids of successful theater producer Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy). Hiring her cold without references, the widowed Maxwell obviously hasn’t seen “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
In this high-toned atmosphere, Fran is the unrefined outsider whose schlep is showing. Somehow, though, everything works out. Impervious to the sarcasm of the Sheffields’ snooty butler (Daniel Davis) and Maxwell’s snotty associate (Lauren Lane), Fran reshapes the household and becomes surrogate mother to mousy Maggie, (Nicholle Tom), monstrous Brighton (Benjamin Salisbury) and precocious Grace (Madeline Zima). To the new nanny, being in these swell surroundings is “like living at Caesars Palace.”
The writing is good some of the time, Drescher all of the time. As beauty school alum Fine (“four times, dean’s list”), she is very funny, delivering her New York/Jewish lines with the most distinctive voice in prime time. Her best moments come with Davis and Lane, and also with Renee Taylor as Fran’s loud, overbearing mother who, in the best traditions of nouveau middle class, covers her furniture in plastic. It’s a nice touch.
Much more so than that grating, effete airhead Maxwell, to say nothing of some over-the-top ethnic humor and unnaturally mature wisecracks that sound alien in the mouths of the two youngest kids.
Yet Fran Fine’s appeal overshadows all in a series that’s a nice little nosh of a comedy if not exactly a banquet of laughs. Fran, in a future episode: “I’m the worst nanny in the world.” Pause. “All right, Rebecca DeMornay and then me.”