When you consider that for most of the history of TV, a nanny was something not only relegated but simply needed by a small portion of the American population, the abundance of nannies on TV series seems a little disconnected from the everyday culture. Until, of course, you realize that those in charge of putting together a TV series belong to that small portion of the American public that both needed and could afford a nanny.
Nanny and the Professor
The biggest difference between the typical nanny on the big screen and her small screen counterpart is that an inordinate number of movie nannies tend to be blessed with magical powers. The typical nanny in a TV show must do it all naturally. Of course, Phoebe Figalilly was about as typical as her name. She came to work for the Professor who bore a striking resemblance to the eldest son of Victoria Barkley. This TV nanny appeared to be psychic, much older than she looked and perhaps can communicate with animals. None of this was made as obvious as the magic of that flying British nanny in the movies a few years earlier, but it seemed pretty obvious that this one one TV nanny who had more in common with some of her big screen sisters than other TV nannies.
For my money, the funniest nanny in TV history is gently gigantic hen charged with raising Count Duckula. Large nanny may be, and clumsy as well…and not particularly bright…but she loves her little Ducky-Boos almost like she were his mother. Nanny’s arm is perpetually in a sling, the result of crashing through walls with absolutely no malevolent purpose. One of the reasons why the nanny who looks out for “Count Duckula” is my favorite TV nanny is because I love the way that Duckula says “Nanny!”
Nanny Fine. You either love her or what to kill her. Unless you are deaf, I suppose. Then, if you were a heterosexual man, you could at least enjoy her tight outfits without having to listen to her voice. Frankly, I don’t mind Fran Drescher’s voice. It’s certainly no more annoying than anyone on any of those so-called reality shows about New Jersey and Miss Fine is a heckuva lot easier on the eyes than Snooki. Besides, “The Nanny” featured surprisingly sexual content for a show that kicked off prime time for CBS and the cast that surrounded her was far funnier than the Professor’s family.
Shary Bobbins is the nanny at the center of an episode-long parody of “Mary Poppins.” The songs are clever and the twist of the perfect nanny sinking into depression and alcoholism after prolonged exposure to a far less treacly family than Mary Poppins enjoys is the perfect Simpsons take on the matter. Even so, I find this to be one of the less entertaining episodes of “The Simpsons” to watch on repeated viewings. Not sure why.
Charles in Charge
The year 1984 was a great one on TV for sexual equality in the workplace. Well, if you were guy. Well, if you were a guy who wanted to be a nanny. For some reason, college student Charles did want to be a nanny. Or, at least, he didn’t mind taking the job. “Charles in Charge” made two attempts to do for male nannies what countless other shows had done for female nannies. Neither time could it do what the other 1984 show about a male nanny did.
Who’s the Boss?
The answer when it comes to male nannies on TV is…Tony Micelli. An inexplicable eight year run of “Who’s the Boss” made Tony Danza that most successful alumnus from the cast of “Taxi” during the 20th century when success is measured by which of those cast members enjoyed the longest run on a subsequent TV series. Turns out that Charles was never in charge of transforming the way Americans watching TV thought of their nannies. It was Tony all the way.