Remembering ‘The Nanny,’ a Very Jewish Show
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Episodes of The Nanny often seem like one big Yiddish joke, especially when Fran’s relatives show up. Fran’s mother, Sylvia (Renee Taylor), is a binge-eater—especially when the food is free—while her grandmother, Yetta (Ann Morgan Guilbert), is senile, loves bingo, and generally has no idea what’s going on. Sylvia and Fran are always arguing, while Yetta is just comic relief. This conversation from a Season 3 episode in which the family goes to therapy sums up their relationship:
Therapist: So ladies, what brings you to therapy?
Fran: I came because my mother has an obsession with me getting married.
Sylvia: I came because my daughter has a delusion that I have an obsession.
Yetta: I came because they brought me and I don’t know how to get home.
The best thing about Fran, and probably the reason she became such a popular character, is that she’s so proud of who she is. The Nanny is a classic fish-out-of-water story. Fran couldn’t be more different from Mr. Sheffield, with his Upper East Side mansion, butler, and kids in private school. She definitely admired their lifestyle, and yet, there was no way she’d ever change. Fran never succumbed to a makeover, even if Fran’s hair got straighter as the years went on, and while her voice became “normal” for a few seconds after eating wasabi, she never expressed hang-ups about it.
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