12 Fun Facts About The Nanny

Fran Drescher, Daniel Davis, Charles Shaughnessy, and Lauren Lane star in The Nanny.
Fran Drescher, Daniel Davis, Charles Shaughnessy, and Lauren Lane star in The Nanny.
CBS/Getty Images

If you've never seen The Nanny—the Fran Drescher sitcom that aired on CBS from 1993 to 1999—all you need to do is listen to the theme song once and you’ll basically be caught up. Drescher plays Fran Fine, a 30-something woman from Queens who becomes the live-in nanny for British Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield's (Charles Shaughnessy) three children at their swanky Manhattan mansion. It’s your typical fish-out-of-water premise, with the added bonus of a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Miss Fine and Mr. Sheffield, rounded out by a stellar ensemble cast.

Though the show went off the air more than 20 years ago, reruns of the sitcom on networks like Cozi TV and Logo, as well as a renewed interest in Fran’s eclectic fashions, have kept the show in the public consciousness. If you can’t get enough of that flashy girl from Flushing, here are 12 facts about the series any Fran fan should know.

1. Fran Drescher met the president of CBS on a flight to France.

Though Fran Drescher had small roles in big films like Saturday Night Fever and This Is Spinal Tap, she was still relatively unknown when she pitched the sitcom to CBS. She had that opportunity thanks to getting some face-time with the president of CBS on a TWA flight to France, where she used her frequent flyer miles to get a first-class ticket.

“I started talking to him and he was a captive audience, because where was he going to go, coach?,” Drescher said in a 2017 interview with Australia’s Studio 10. After the nine-and-a-half hour flight, the exec told Drescher that when they got back to Los Angeles she and Peter Marc Jacobson—Drescher's then-husband and The Nanny co-creator—could come in to pitch the show (officially) to the network’s development department.

2. Charles Shaughnessy does a serviceable an impression of Fran Drescher.

Despite his rich British baritone voice, Charles Shaughnessy actually does a decent impression of Drescher. “People say to me, how is it working with that voice? Well, I have an accent and she has an accent ... and it sort of cancels in the middle,” Shaughnessy said in a 2018 interview with Australia’s Studio 10 of working with Drescher. He then gave viewers a sample of his impression of her in the form of her iconic laugh (which you can hear above).

3. Daniel Davis’s smooth British accent is fake.

Daniel Davis in The Nanny
Daniel Davis in The Nanny.
CBS

Drescher has had several projects since The Nanny, including a short-lived talk show, The Fran Drescher Show, in 2010. One of her guests was Daniel Davis, who played Niles, the posh English butler on the sitcom. Davis, who is originally from Arkansas, definitely does not have a British accent in real life, while Shaughnessy—who was born in London—does. But some viewers guessed the opposite was true and, according to Davis, one even wrote him a letter suggesting he give Shaughnessy some tips on how to sound more British on the show.

4. Fran Drescher had a crush on guest star Jon Stewart.

Before he became one of the most trusted men in news as host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart appeared in an episode of The Nanny entitled “Kissing Cousins,” where he and Fran dated briefly before learning they were cousins. In a 2017 interview with SheKnows, Drescher said she loved working with Stewart and thought he was "really cute," but didn’t make a move because he was married. "You know, I would have gone for him in a New York minute, but I don’t go after anybody’s man—'cause you have to narrow the pool somehow," she said.

5. Miss Babcock’s dog Chester actually belonged to Fran Drescher.

Another episode of Drescher’s 2010 talk show featured an interview with Lauren Lane, who played Sheffield’s business partner C.C. Babcock on The Nanny. On the show, C.C. had a dog named Chester who, Lane explained during the interview, was actually Drescher’s dog in real life. "He was fiercely devoted to Fran and they would make me do things like pick him up or come near him, and he would try to bite me," Lane said during the interview. Drescher added that they wrote the script so that Chester hated C.C. but loved Fran "because that was the way it was in real life."

6. Mr. Sheffield and Miss Fine weren’t supposed to end up together.

The whole will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between Fran and Mr. Sheffield provided the show with both chemistry and some cliffhangers for the first few seasons. But according to Peter Marc Jacobson, having them become a couple wasn’t the original plan.

"When a show is built around unrequited love or love that can’t happen or sexual tension, you have to keep it that way," Jacobson said during a 2017 interview with Studio 10. "As much as you want the people to get together, as soon as they do, people start tuning out. We didn’t want them to get together, but at the time, our ratings ... began to fall, which naturally happens. And [CBS executives] called us and said, 'Look, if you get them married and it does well, we’ll put you on for another year. If you don’t want to get them married, we’ll cancel you.' So we looked at each other and said, 'Well, we’re having a wedding.'" And the rest is sitcom history.

7. RENÉE Taylor's doctor sent a letter requesting that she didn’t eat so much on-set.

Renée Taylor in The Nanny
Renée Taylor in The Nanny.
CBS

One of the definitive characteristics of Sylvia Fine, Fran's on-screen mom, was her healthy appetite. But that became problematic for Renée Taylor, the actress who played Sylvia, in real life. In a 2010 interview on The Fran Drescher Show, Taylor explained that she gained 35 pounds while filming The Nanny because her character was constantly eating. “My doctor said that I could not eat on the show, and it was a real sacrifice,” she said. Taylor even brought a letter from her doctor explaining her new on-set diet.

8. Elizabeth Taylor was protective of her jewels on set.

In a 2012 TV Land interview, Renée Taylor said that her favorite episode of the show was "Where's the Pearls?," a season 3 episode that featured a cameo by Elizabeth Taylor. "I thought it was the funniest [episode], and it was fun to be with her," she said. But as fun as she was, Liz wasn’t ready to let her co-stars wear her jewelry. She was wearing a rather sizable ring on the set, and Renée Taylor asked if she could try it on, but the famous violet-eyed actress said no—while slapping her hand away.

9. Donald Trump made a cameo—and a note on the script.

In 1996, Donald Trump appeared in an episode called "The Rosie Show" (which also featured Rosie O’Donnell) and was unhappy when he saw that he was referred to as a "millionaire" in a draft of the script.

"We got a note from his people that said, 'Mr. Trump is not a millionaire. He's a billionaire, and he would like you to change the line,'" Drescher told SheKnows in 2017. Instead of giving in to his demand, she had the line changed to "zillionaire," which is how it appeared in the show.

"My now-gay-ex-husband thought that was such an amazing request that he actually kept that note and framed it, never seeing in the future what was to come,” Drescher said, adding that Jacobson still has the letter hanging in his office.

10. Fran Drescher and her TV mom have remained close.

Renée Taylor (L) and Fran Drescher pose for portrait at the LA Premiere of Renee Taylor's "My Life On A Diet" Night 1 at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on April 05, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California
Renée Taylor and Fran Drescher pose together Beverly Hills in 2019.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Renée Taylor played Sylvia Fine, Fran’s TV mother who was always looking to give unsolicited advice and find a snack. The on-screen mother-daughter duo have remained close since the show ended, making regular appearances together on Drescher’s Instagram. In July 2019, Taylor told WGN News that they still spend time together. “I see Fran all the time," she said. "I was just at a Cancer Schmancer charity thing for her."

11. The Nanny is coming to Broadway.

Back in 2019, Drescher revealed that she and her ex-husband "are doing a Nanny-related project that's very big, that I think the fans will be thrilled with." In early 2020, that project was announced: The Nanny will be making its way to Broadway. Drescher and Jacobson are teaming up with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator Rachel Bloom to bring a musical version of the series to Broadway. No dates have been announced yet.

12. A TV reboot of The Nanny could be happening, too.

Fran Drescher of "Indebted" speaks during the NBCUniversal segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 11, 2020 in Pasadena, California.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

And for those fans still hoping for a reboot of The Nanny, don't lose hope: As recently as September 2019, there was talk of a TV reboot with Cardi B. While the project has currently been put on hold—Drescher has said that "contractually," because of her work on her new NBC series Indebted, she can't do anything with The Nanny on TV—Drescher is still hoping to make it happen, though it won't happen until after the stage production.

15 Clever Breaking Bad Easter Eggs Hiding in Better Call Saul

Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul.
Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul.
James Minchin/AMC

As evidenced by Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan and his cohorts have an eye for detail that’s nearly unrivaled. If anything, Better Call Saul—which is originally set several years before the events of Breaking Bad—only proves the point. The series, which is about to kick off its fifth season, focuses on Jimmy McGill (soon to become Saul Goodman) and is full of references to its progenitor, some of which are pure fun, and some of which add a deeper meaning to what we already know. Here are 15 clever Breaking Bad Easter eggs hiding in Better Call Saul.

**Warning: Plenty of spoilers ahead for both series.**

1. Being Kevin Costner

In a throwaway moment in Breaking Bad, Saul mentions to Walt that he once convinced a woman he was Kevin Costner (“If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work”), and in the finale of the first season of Better Call Saul, we see the exact moment he was referring to. In case we thought that Saul was just making the story up for the sake of a pep talk, here’s the proof otherwise.

2. Neighborhood mainstay

If the diner where Jimmy first meets with the Kettlemans looked familiar to you, it’s for good reason. Loyola’s Diner featured in Breaking Bad as a mainstay of Mike’s—he met with Jesse there, as well as Lydia. It’s also, incidentally, a very real restaurant in Albuquerque. And while we’re on the subject of Mike and food, he’s been shown to be fond of pimento cheese sandwiches in both series.

3. Address unknown

David Costabile as Gale Boetticher in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

In Better Call Saul, it’s shown that Jimmy's office is at 160 Juan Tabo Boulevard (which is a real nail salon). Those of you with a head for directions might also recall that that’s the same street that the ill-fated chemist Gale Boetticher lives on, at 6353 Juan Tabo Boulevard. Breaking Bad fans were thrilled when the karaoke-loving chemist appeared in Season 4 of Better Call Saul (with hopefully more to come).

4. The Ignacio connection

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul
Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul.
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

When he’s kidnapped by Walt and Jesse after refusing to help a busted Badger, Saul spits out a variety of nonsense in an attempt to stay alive. He also drops a name: Ignacio. So who is he talking about? As we learn in Better Call Saul, this refers to Nacho, who’s become one of the secondary leads on the show. “Nacho” is a nickname, short for Ignacio, which makes sense as a connection given how closely he’s been working with Jimmy/Saul.

5. Cheap tricks

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'
Michele K. Short, AMC/Sony Pictures

There’s another callback to the first time that Walt, Jesse, and Saul meet. Despite still having his hands tied behind his back, when Saul agrees to help Walt and Jesse, he tells them to each put a dollar in his pocket in order to secure attorney-client privilege. It seems that Saul got that idea from Kim, who, when she decides to help Jimmy after discovering he’s falsified evidence, tells him to give her a dollar for exactly the same reason.

6. Old afflictions

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak in 'Better Call Saul'
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak in Better Call Saul.
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

In yet another reference to that fateful first meeting, we learn that Saul isn’t bluffing when he tells Walt and Jesse that he has bad knees. He says the same thing when cops apprehend him in the first season of Better Call Saul. As to why he’s got bad knees to begin with, it all comes from his time as “Slippin’ Jimmy,” when he used to stage falls in order to earn a little bit of money.

7. Car talk

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

Saul Goodman drives a white 1997 Cadillac DeVille with the vanity plate “LWYRUP.” Jimmy McGill’s ride is much more modest: a yellow Suzuki Esteem with a red door. That said, in the pilot of Better Call Saul, we very briefly see a white Cadillac DeVille—Jimmy parks his car next to it, in a truly blink-and-you-miss-it allusion to what’s to come. (Gus, notably, is driving the same blue Volvo in both shows.)

8. Home sweet home

In Better Call Saul, one of the retirement homes that Jimmy visits in his quest to find new clients for his growing elder law business is Casa Tranquila. If it sounds familiar, that's because it's a key location in Breaking Bad as the home of Hector Salamanca, and the place where he kills his longtime nemesis Gus Fring. It’s a nice touch to revisit the location, especially given the fact that Better Call Saul gives us the story as to how Hector wound up in a wheelchair in the first place.

9. What's your poison?

There’s also a nice bit of brand continuity with the made-up tequila Zafiro Añejo. Gus poisons a bottle to get back at Don Eladio in Breaking Bad, and we see the same blue bottle pop up in Better Call Saul when Jimmy and Kim scam a cocky stock broker named Ken. Ken, for his part, seems to be reaping a constant stream of bad karma, as he’s also in Breaking Bad as a victim of Heisenberg’s wrath. He swipes Walt’s parking spot—and has his car set on fire for his trouble.

10. The little piggy

Though Mike is hard as nails, he’s got a soft spot the size of Texas for his granddaughter Kaylee. He gifts her a pink pig plush in Better Call Saul, which crops up again in Breaking Bad under slightly less cute circumstances. He uses the doll as a distraction when an assassination attempt is made on his life.

11. Word games

Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

The first letters of the episode titles of the second season of Better Call Saul are an anagram for “FRING’S BACK.” It’s a granular sort of trick that the creators have pulled off before: four of the episodes of season two of Breaking Bad spell out “Seven Thirty-Seven Down Over ABQ.” In the season finale, a 737 plane does indeed go down over Albuquerque, or ABQ.

12. Sentimental value

Given that Saul’s Breaking Bad office has a lot of strange objects in it, it’d be easy to miss the octagonal desk. As it turns out, the offices of Saul Goodman aren’t the desk’s first home: it’s seen in the background of Kim’s office in Better Call Saul. It’s retroactive, sure, but it’s still nice to know that Saul has some mementos around.

13. Movie night

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'
Ursula Coyote, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

There’s also a little sentimental value in the name of Saul’s holding company, Ice Station Zebra Associates, which he uses to help Walt launder money in Breaking Bad. As we discover in Better Call Saul, Ice Station Zebra is Kim’s favorite movie, due to her father’s affection for it. Though Kim is physically absent from Breaking Bad, small details seem to tie back to her all the time.

14. Set dressing

Krazy-8, may he rest in peace, also shows up in Better Call Saul. The van that he drives has the logo for Tampico Furniture on it, and he’s wearing a uniform with the logo as well. Tampico is where Walt, as he recalls in Breaking Bad, bought Walter Jr.’s crib. Unfortunately, those fond memories aren’t quite enough to save Krazy-8’s skin.

15. Beware of bugs

Before Mike leaves Philly for Albuquerque, a bartender tells him to be mindful of tarantulas. The spider plays a key role in Breaking Bad later on, as a young boy’s pursuit of the bug puts him in Walt’s path—and Todd’s path, by proxy. Determined to make a good impression on Walt, and knowing that there can’t be any witnesses to what they’re doing, Todd shoots the boy in one of the most shocking and cold-blooded moments in the entire series.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2018.

This Land Is Your Land: The Story Behind America's Best-Known Protest Song

American singer Woody Guthrie, circa 1960.
American singer Woody Guthrie, circa 1960.
Woody Guthrie: Getty Images. Landscape: iStock/mammuth

Few songs are more ingrained in the American psyche than "This Land Is Your Land," the greatest and best-known work by folk icon Woody Guthrie. For decades, it's been a staple of kindergarten classrooms "from California to the New York island," as the lyrics go. It's the musical equivalent of apple pie, though the flavor varies wildly depending on who's doing the singing.

On its most basic level, "This Land Is Your Land" is a song about inclusion and equality—the American ideal broken down into simple, eloquent language and set to a melody you memorize on first listen. The underlying message, repeated throughout the song, makes the heart swell: "This land was made for you and me."

But there's more to "This Land Is Your Land" than many people realize—two verses more, in fact. Guthrie's original 1940 draft of the song contains six verses, two of which carry progressive political messages that add nuance to the song's overt patriotism. These controversial verses are generally omitted from children's songbooks and the like, but they speak volumes about Guthrie's mindset when he put pen to paper 80 years ago.

 

Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in a divey hotel room in New York City. He'd just landed in Manhattan after years of rambling across the country and meeting impoverished people affected by the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Throughout his travels in the late '30s, Guthrie was haunted by Kate Smith's hit recording of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." Guthrie found Berlin's song to be jingoistic and out of touch with the reality facing many of his fellow citizens. So he set about writing a response.

Guthrie originally titled his rejoinder "God Blessed America"—emphasis on the past tense—but eventually changed his tone. Instead of doing a sarcastic parody, he wrote a song that pulls double-duty, celebrating America's natural splendor while criticizing the nation for falling short of its promise. In the "lost" fourth verse, Guthrie decries the notion of private property, suggesting America is being carved up by the wealthy:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said: 'Private Property.'
But on the backside, it didn't say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

The sixth and final verse in the original manuscript references the poor folks Guthrie saw living on government assistance during the Great Depression:

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,
By the relief office I saw my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me?

When Guthrie first recorded the song in 1944, he included the verse about private property but left out the one about the relief office. That original recording was lost until the '90s, however, so for years, all anyone knew was the version Guthrie recorded for 1951's Songs to Grow On. Guthrie's rendition on that album features neither the "no trespassing" verse nor the one about the relief office, which he never actually recorded.

It's unclear why the 1944 recording with the "private property" verse was never released, or why Guthrie edited out the radical stuff for the 1951 version. (He also chopped out both controversial verses when he first published the lyrics in the 1945 pamphlet Ten of Woody Guthrie's Songs.) It may have had something to do with the mounting anti-communist furor that would lead to the Red Scare of the late '40s and early '50s. As a pro-union communist sympathizer, Guthrie and his fellow rabble-rousing folky buddy Pete Seeger had already faced industry blacklisting in the early '40s.

"We did one program on CBS Radio, and a newspaper reported out, said, 'Red minstrels try to get on the networks,'" Seeger told NPR. "And that was the last job we got."

Woody Guthrie, circa March 1943.
Woody Guthrie, circa March 1943.
Penn State, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Regardless of which verses are included, "This Land Is Your Land" is terrific for singing. That was by design. Guthrie likely stole the melody from the Carter Family's 1935 tune "Little Darling, Pal of Mine," which itself was patterned after an old gospel hymn titled "When the World's On Fire" (sometimes called "Oh, My Loving Brother"). "This Land" was a perfect fit for classrooms and campsites, where the song would take on new life.

 

In the early '50s, famed American folklorist Alan Lomax came up with a nifty plan for preserving the nation's musical heritage. He approached legendary music publisher Howie Richmond with the idea of including rural folk songs—the kind he'd been documenting for the Library of Congress—in school music textbooks. Richmond, who had become Guthrie's publisher in 1950, loved the idea, and to sweeten the deal for textbook publishers, he lowered his usual licensing rates and offered "This Land Is Your Land" for just $1.

That's how "This Land Is Your Land" went viral and became nearly as ubiquitous as the national anthem, even without the radio play and jukebox real estate of Smith's "God Bless America." While the versions distributed to America's impressionable youth lacked "no trespassing" and "relief office" verses, the song's original lyrics were never forgotten. Following Guthrie's death in 1967, artists like Seeger continued performing the "lost verses," lest people forget the anger that inspired the song.

But regardless of Guthrie's intentions, "This Land Is Your Land" has come to mean different things to different people. That's part of what makes it so timeless. When President Ronald Reagan used the song at his victory party in 1984, after it had been used by Walter Mondale's campaign, both sides were probably trying to evoke feel-good patriotism. The same goes for Reagan's advisors and allies who were invoking Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." during rallies and in newspaper articles. Reagan himself name-checked Springsteen and his "message of hope" during a rally in Hammonton, New Jersey. The president either didn't know or didn't care that "Born in the U.S.A." was another song about loving your country but hating how poorly it treats some of its citizens.

Ironically, the Boss had begun performing "This Land Is Your Land" in the early '80s. On the version included on the Live 1975–85 box set, Springsteen gives his audience the backstory about Irving Berlin and refers to "This Land" as "just about one of the most beautiful songs ever written." And, when given the opportunity to perform the song with Pete Seeger at Barack Obama's pre-inauguration concert in 2009, he readily agreed to sing all the verses at Seeger's insistence.

Over the years, "This Land Is Your Land" has been covered by everyone from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who performed the song in Zuccotti Park during an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011. Lady Gaga sang a snippet to open her Super Bowl halftime show in 2017, causing fans and critics to speculate about whether she was making a political statement. She mashed it up with "God Bless America," so it's a safe bet she knew the history of the song.

 

There may be even more officially recorded versions in years to come. Much like what has been done with ubiquitous songs like "Happy Birthday" and "We Shall Overcome" (which Seeger toured with and taught across the country at rallies and protests throughout the '50s and '60s), there is a push to have "This Land Is Your Land" enter the public domain. The Brooklyn rock band Satorii filed a lawsuit in 2016 challenging the copyrights held by the Richmond Organization and its subsidiary, Ludlow Music, and maintain that since Guthrie only wrote the lyrics and not that pilfered melody, he shouldn't have been able to register the song in the first place, nor should Ludlow have been able to own the copyright. The suit is ongoing.

Whether it enters the public domain, as one imagines Guthrie would have wanted, or doesn't, "This Land Is Your Land" isn't going anywhere. The song has been adopted and modified by Native Americans, Swedish anti-Nazi troubadours, and people all over the globe who find truth and comfort in Guthrie's words, however they choose to interpret them.

"The whole idea of a land is your spot on Earth, you know," Woody's daughter Nora told NPR. "A spot where you can claim safety, sanity."

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