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.

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.

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.

When Mississippi Once Banned Sesame Street

Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images
Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images

Since it began airing in the fall of 1969, Sesame Street has become an indelible part of millions of children's formative years. Using a cast of colorful characters like Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch, along with a curriculum vetted by Sesame Workshop's child psychologists and other experts, the series is able to impart life lessons and illustrate educational tools that a viewer can use throughout their adolescence. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone—even Oscar—who would take issue with the show’s approach or its mission statement.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in early 1970, when a board of educational consultants in Mississippi gathered, polled one another, and decided that Sesame Street was too controversial for television.

The series had only been on the air for a few months when the newly formed Mississippi Authority for Educational Television (also known as the State Commission for Educational Television) held a regularly scheduled meeting in January 1970. The board had been created by the state legislature with appointees named by Governor John Bell Williams to evaluate shows that were set to air on the state’s Educational Television, or ETV, station. The five-member panel consisted of educators and private citizens, including a teacher and a principal, and was headed up by James McKay, a banker in Jackson, Mississippi.

McKay’s presence was notable for the fact that his father-in-law, Allen Thompson, had just retired after spending 20 years as mayor of Jackson. Highly resistant to integration in the city during his tenure in office, Thompson was also the founder of Freedom of Choice in the United States, or FOCUS, an activist group that promoted what they dubbed “freedom of choice” in public schools—a thinly veiled reference to segregation. Mississippi, long the most incendiary state in the nation when it came to civil rights, was still struggling with the racial tension of the 1960s. Systemic racism was an issue.

Entering this climate was Sesame Street, the show pioneered by Joan Ganz Cooney, a former journalist and television producer who became the executive director of the Children’s Television Workshop. On the series, the human cast was integrated, with black performers Matt Robinson and Loretta Long as Gordon and Susan, respectively, appearing alongside white actors Jada Rowland and Bob McGrath. The children of Sesame Street were also ethnically diverse.

Zoe (L) and Cookie Monster (R) are pictured in New York City in November 2009
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images

This appeared to be too much for the Authority, which discussed how lawmakers with control over ETV’s budget—which had just been set at $5,367,441—might find the mixed-race assembly offensive. The panel's participants were all white.

The board pushed the discussion aside until April 17, 1970, when they took an informal poll and decided, by a margin of three votes against two, to prohibit ETV from airing Sesame Street—a show that came free of charge to all public television stations. (The decision affected mainly viewers in and around Jackson, as the station had not yet expanded across the state and was not expected to do so until the fall of 1970.)

The members who were outvoted were plainly unhappy with the outcome and leaked the decision to The New York Times, which published a notice of the prohibition days later along with a quote from one of the board members.

“Some of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” the person, who did not wish to be named, said. “Mainly the commission members felt that Mississippi was not yet ready for it.”

The reaction to such a transparent concession to racism was swift and predictably negative, both in and out of Mississippi. Board members who spoke with press, usually anonymously, claimed the decision was a simple “postponing” of the show, not an outright ban. The fear, they said, was that legislators who viewed ETV as having progressive values might shut down the project before it had a chance to get off the ground. It was still possible for opponents to suffocate it before it became part of the fabric of the state’s television offerings.

The concern was not entirely without merit. State representative Tullius Brady of Brookhaven said that ETV exerted “a subtle influence” on the minds of children and that the Ford Foundation, which funded educational programming, could use its influence for “evil purposes.” Other lawmakers had previously argued against shows that promoted integration.

Grover is pictured at AOL Studios in New York City in May 2015
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Regardless of how the decision was justified, many took issue with it. In an anonymous editorial for the Delta Democrat-Times, a critic wrote:

“But Mississippi’s ETV commission won’t be showing it for the time being because of one fatal defect, as measured by Mississippi’s political leadership. Sesame Street is integrated. Some of its leading cast members are black, including the man who does much of the overt ‘teaching.’ The neighborhood of the ‘street’ is a mixed one. And all that, of course, goes against the Mississippi grain.”

Joan Ganz Cooney called the decision a “tragedy” for young people.

Fortunately, it was a tragedy with a short shelf life. The following month, the board reconvened and reversed its own informal poll result, approving of Sesame Street and agreeing that ETV could air it as soon as they received tapes of the program. Thanks to feeds from Memphis, New Orleans, and Alabama, Sesame Street could already be seen in parts of Mississippi. And thanks to the deluge of negative responses, it seemed pointless to try to placate politicians who still favored segregation.

In the fall of 1970, the Sesame Street cast appeared in person in Jackson and was met by representatives from the board, which helped to sponsor the live performance, though it’s not clear any apology was forthcoming.

Sesame Street would go on to win numerous awards and accolades over the proceeding 50 years, though it would not be the only children’s show to experience censorship on public television. In May 2019, ETV networks in Alabama and Arkansas refused to air an episode of the PBS animated series Arthur in which a rat and aardvark are depicted as a same-sex couple getting married.

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now


If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can get your copy from Amazon now for $20.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!