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Amid coronavirus, ‘The Nanny’ returns briefly to offer some relief

Fran Drescher
Original cast members of Fran Drescher’s sitcom “The Nanny” are scheduled to get together for a table reading of the pilot episode.
(Cliff Lipson / CBS)

In such immensely troubling times, nostalgia — the affectionate longing for perceived simpler times — is such an attractive elixir. Therefore, who better than Fran Drescher to help comfort us all during the COVID-19 crisis?

Last week, Drescher announced on social media that the original cast of “The Nanny” would be back together to perform a virtual table reading of the pilot episode, which will be featured at 9 a.m. Pacific Monday on Sony Pictures’ YouTube channel.

Referencing the show’s co-creator, Peter Marc Jacobson (whom she was once married to), Drescher said in a statement, “Laughter is the best medicine. So, in these challenging times, Petah and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we pulled together the original cast of “The Nanny” for a virtual read of the pilot?’ ”

In the standout 1990s sitcom, which aired for six seasons on CBS, the much-loved actress played a badass Jewish makeup saleswoman from Queens, N.Y., named Fran Fine, who becomes the nanny for three well-to-do children on the Upper East Side.

Monday’s reunion will feature several cast members including Charles Shaughnessy, Madeline Zima and Renée Taylor. To continue “The Nanny” fest, Logo TV, part of the ViacomCBS family, will air a marathon of 10 fan-favorite episodes starting at 5 p.m. Pacific.

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“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic performance for our fans around the world who are currently stressing in isolation and could use a real upper,” Drescher said. “It sure has given each of us a lift, and we hope it does for you as well.”

Broadway “Nanny”

With the coronavirus shutting down television productions sooner than planned, Drescher’s new NBC comedy, “Indebted,” is wrapping up its first season on April 16. This could give Drescher more time to work on one of her other passion projects: to bring to life “The Nanny” as a musical on Broadway with Jacobson.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom and Fountains of Wayne co-founder Adam Schlesinger, 52, were working together on lyrics and music for “The Nanny” musical. Schlesinger, who wrote music for Bloom’s CW series, died April 1 from complications related to the coronavirus.

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In an Instagram post last week, Drescher offered her condolences. “My prayers are for you. May peace be with you ...” she wrote.

As for the musical itself, Drescher told the Los Angeles Times at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in January: “This time around, the nanny is going to have to somehow — without being an imitation — be a woman similar to the character on the series. I think people are going to love it.”

Drescher’s character became a fashion darling, and that won’t change in the musical version, which will also reflect the character’s impeccable style. “The clothing is going to be amazing,” Drescher said. “Obviously, it will be exquisitely designed for the show — reflecting the ’90s show.”

Drescher, who described her character’s style as “sassy without being slutty,” dressed in many of her favorite fashion brands on the original series. She said she wore “a lot of Moschino and Todd Oldham back then, plus sometimes Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel.” (There’s now a fan account on Instagram dedicated to the fashion of “The Nanny” called WhatFranWore.)

Fran Drescher and Zachary Levi onstage during the 2014 Tony Awards.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

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It might seem early to consider the eye-catching outfits and the costume designer for the musical, but Drescher has been thinking about everything.

“What I do know for sure is that the wardrobe is going to be spectacular,” Drescher said. “Great eye candy visually. ... We would need someone that I think has experience doing Broadway, I would imagine, as it is an art form. What a quick change requires, constructing, etc.”

She said she’s also hopeful that Emmy Award-winning costume designer Brenda Cooper, who worked on the CBS series, would come on as a consultant for the Broadway production.

RebootNanny”

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Recently there has been talk about bringing the “The Nanny” back to television. “Someone like Cardi B would be great and maybe an Obama type for Mr. Sheffield,” Drescher said. “Same relationship but bringing it to present moment.”

That likely won’t happen until “The Nanny” musical premieres.

“I can’t even entertain the idea until after we open on Broadway,” Drescher said. “That was my promise to our producer, and I have to honor that. Ideally, I would love to see ‘The Nanny’ be a humongous Broadway hit there and then do the series again with a whole new cast. Though if I did star in the reboot, it would have to be renamed ‘The Granny!’”

The coronavirus took their day jobs in Hollywood, so costumers turned to making masks to meet a shortage of protective clothing among medical workers.

Dynamic “Nanny”

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Drescher, 62, is a force to be reckoned with. She’s confident and self-assured and happy to return to prime time.

“It’s more demanding for sure,” she said. “I’m a little older now. ... It’s exciting. Physically it gets a little harder, I think, on me. But I don’t need to have a life outside of work. So I go home. I lie down with my dog, and that’s about it.”

Known for her comedy series, TV Land’s “Happily Divorced” and the WB’s “Living With Fran,” Drescher said, “I am pretty much a persona that is seen very vividly in all of my characters. For that reason, I think this is the first show I have not been called Fran for many, many years.

“I made peace with the fact that the audience and my fans fell in love with my energy, my look, my style, my voice, thank God,” she said. “And if I just experience different people’s lives through this, I made peace with the fact that I’m not going to ever be Meryl Streep in my career.”

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Fran Drescher is also involved with her nonprofit, Cancer Schmancer Movement.
In addition to her TV work, Fran Drescher is also involved with her nonprofit, the Cancer Schmancer Movement.
(Joey Carman / Cancer Schmancer)

In her latest comedy, “Indebted,” Drescher’s character moves in with her son (“The Mindy Project’s” Adam Pally) and daughter-in-law (“Saturday Night Live’s” Abby Elliott) because of financial difficulties she and her husband (Steven Weber) are having.

Drescher says she ultimately enjoys taking on roles that are “not mean-spirited.” Instead she prefers to play “positive and loving” characters.

“When I first started off my career, I was always kind of the hooker with the heart of gold,” she said. “I don’t like to be mean. I like to be self-deprecating, so that’s sort of my brand of comedy. I think that my fans have embraced that. That’s what they’ve come to expect, and I like to give them what they anticipate and as much bang for their buck as possible.”

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Cancer activism

Drescher might have her hands full with her musical project and new NBC series. She still makes time, however, for activism and is dedicated to her nonprofit organization, the Cancer Schmancer Movement.

“I’m so happy for the opportunity to put a smile on the faces of ‘Nanny’ fans around the world,” she said. “But I would be remiss if I did not also offer some practical information through my organization the Cancer Schmancer Movement.”

In this time of stress and solitude, many of us are turning to food — especially sugary, salty empty calories. That’s a recipe for unwanted weight gain. Here are 20 ways to put on the brakes.

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In addition to working with celebrities including Jamie Foxx and Jeff Bridges, the organization offers educational videos from Drescher and leading doctors as well as articles about wellness and health on its website. The site also includes information about preventing COVID-19.

“We urge our fans to go to CancerSchmancer.org and learn how to bolster your immune system to reduce your risk,” she said. “Our mission is to motivate, educate and activate everyone on how we all can live well, be well and stay well because how you live equals how you feel.”


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