Characters: The Nanny

Main Cast (in order of billing):

Francine "Fran" Fine (Fran Drescher)

  • Alliterative Name
  • Annoying Laugh
  • Beware the Silly Ones: She may come off as nasal, big-haired, and desperate, but, people tend to forget she is also a hypermanipulative master of the Cool and Unusual Punishment, most often in the form of forced proximity with her overbearing mother. She's also skilled with Jewish guilt, and can reduce feelings of triumph to bitter sadness with a snap of her fingers.
  • Big Eater: Though not to the same degree as her mother.
  • Big Sister Mentor: To the Sheffield children, especially Maggie. This was established in the season 1 episode "The Nuchshlep", when Fran tells Maggie she's too old for a nanny. Though this raises many problems once Fran and Maxwell are married, as Fran is expected to side with Maxwell on issues about the children.
  • Book Dumb: Not very educated but extremely street smart.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer
  • Cute but Cacophonic: A doctor once mentioned that if Fran's adenoids were removed her head would cave in.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Though of the kinder variety.
  • Former Teen Rebel: One of the reasons she's so good at taking care of the children is that she's probably already pulled almost every stunt the Sheffield kids could ever think of.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sanguine.
  • Genki Girl
  • Happily Married: To Maxwell in the last season.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Val.
  • Jewish Mother: Acts like this to Maggie, Brighton, and Grace.
  • Lady in Red: When everyone else is wearing tan.
  • Magical Nanny
  • Mama Bear: Even before she actually became their mother.
  • Matzo Fever
  • Ms. Fanservice
  • New Yawk Accent
  • Nice to the Waiter: It's to be expected, considering her upbringing, but it deserves special mention since it's frequently contrasted with the snooty blue-bloods she usually deals with. One episode had her adamantly refuse to cross a picket line of striking busboys and had to be forcibly dragged by Maxwell. In another, when on a date with an obnoxious soap star, she addressed the driver by name whereas her date only called him "Driver." In fact, the first person from the Sheffield household to accept Fran was Niles, the butler.
  • No Indoor Voice
  • One of the Kids: Part of the reason she makes such a good nanny.
  • Phrase Catcher: "MISS FINE!".
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: In the later seasons, she's rarely shown doing any work as a nanny. Although this is justified since two of the three children she was hired to take care of are practically adults by this point, and keeps her job because of her Unresolved Sexual Tension with Maxwell (he also mentions how he keeps her around at least partly as an act of sympathy as she's not really qualified to do much of anything else, but his primary reason is mostly the former.) It gets lampshaded frequently, such as in an episode of the last season where Fran, now Maxwell's wife, hires a new nanny who quickly realizes that she's not needed.
  • Platonic Life Partners: With Niles.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Fran is very much this trope. She has an extremely detailed knowledge of pop culture, has the TV Guide memorized, and in at least one case even used her knowledge of pop culture to successfully track down the guy who kidnapped CC's dog (It Makes Sense in Context). Arguably, Fran's ability to personify this trope was one of the reasons she was able to reinvigorate the dry Sheffield household when she moved in.
  • Quirky Curls
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: With Maxwell.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely
  • She's Got Legs
  • Signature Laugh: Oh, that nasal, snorty laugh...
  • Sleeping with the Boss: after four seasons' worth of Unresolved Sexual Tension between her and Maxwell, they almost wind up sleeping together while in Paris, during the Season 4 finale...but Maxwell backs out of it at the last moment, offending Fran.
  • The Southpaw
  • Stacy's Mom: After she and Maxwell get married. There's actually an episode that centers around Brighton getting in a fight at school because some boys were ogling her.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: In "Fashion Show", it's explained that she gets her clothes from fashion designer Todd Oldham, who's her cousin, at discounted prices (well, alongside frequenting outlet malls and having astronomical credit card bills.)
  • Verbal Tic: She often starts sentences with "Meanwhile...".
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Maxwell.

Maxwell Sheffield (Baron Charles Shaughnessy)

Niles (Daniel Davis)

  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With C.C.
  • Deadpan Snarker: As big as can be.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Phlegmatic.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Niles' snarks are usually directed at people who deserve it, such as C.C.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: In one episode, when Max wrote a thinly veiled story based on his life, Niles is moping that he wasn't invited to the premiere since he was the inspiration for the character of the houseboy. Fran snarks, "He was twenty-five with a blond pompadour and an impish grin." Niles bites back, "Well, so was I six hundred thousand Brillo pads ago."
  • The Jeeves
  • Legacy of Service: His father was the Sheffield butler before he was.
  • Loving Bully: To C.C.
  • Older Than They Look: Niles was a teenager when Max was still young enough to have a nanny himself, but he looks roughly the same age as him and Fran.
  • Only One Name: "It's just Niles. Like Cher.".
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Considering C.C's Jerk Ass attitude, most of his insults towards her tend to fall under this category.
  • Platonic Life Partners: With Fran.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: He delivers one to C.C. after she begins mocking him for thinking he had a chance with her. Niles lays into her that at least he is trying to move on from his rejection, whereas she's spent a good chunk of her life chasing after a man (Maxwell) who has no interest in her and never will, and is still chasing after him even though he's now married and is having a child with his new wife. The thing is, rather than give a snappy comeback, this really hits C.C. where it hurts and she decides to resign from being Maxwell's partner. She doesn't, and C.C. and Niles really do get together.
  • Sarcastic Devotee
  • Screwy Squirrel: He's at his happiest tormenting C.C. with tricks and pranks.
  • Servile Snarker
  • Shipper on Deck: For Fran and Maxwell.
  • The Southpaw
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He pulls off a very big one after finally getting tired of Maxwell's indecisiveness with Fran.

Chastity Claire "C.C." Babcock (Lauren Lane)

  • Antagonist in Mourning: Happens twice to C.C.. Once when Fran leaves to become a soap opera star, C.C. is ecstatic until she finds out that Maxwell has hired Heather Biblow to take over as nanny. When Fran returns, C.C. hugs her, exclaiming "Don't you ever leave me again!" to a perplexed Fran. The second time was after Niles suffers a heart attack during a verbal spar with him.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Niles.
  • Betty and Veronica: Subverted. She thinks she's Betty and Fran is Veronica to Maxwell's Archie, but she's not even in the equation.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
  • Blondes Are Evil
  • Blue Blood
  • Bitch Alert: Her first interaction with Fran was a frostbitten sarcasm about her appearance.
  • Break the Haughty
  • Butt Monkey
  • Catch Phrase: Often enters with "Hello, hello!"
  • Child Hater: She can't even remember the names of Maxwell's children, or even the number, despite knowing them all their lives, and working from their home. Also, one time, when she was entertaining a group of ladies she mentioned how they were deciding between donating to their show or a Children's Milk Fund, saying how she didn't want any thirsty little brats getting in her way.
  • City Mouse
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Towards the end.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Chastity Claire, revealed in the finale.
  • Enemy to All Living Things: So much so that after having sex with Niles, she's shown singing and dancing with animals like Snow White, much to the surprise of everyone.
    • In another episode, she was able to tell, over the car phone, that Fran had hit a rabbit while driving by recognizing the noise. To repeat: She was able, over the phone, to identify what Fran hit, down to the species, merely by the sound it made when it was hit by a car.
  • Evil Laugh: More of a mocking one.
  • First Girl Wins: Averted. She was the first girl, though arguably subverted since she ends up with Niles in the end.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Choleric.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Lauren Lane became pregnant during season 5, so it was written that C.C. got institutionalized after learning that Fran and Maxwell got engaged. In one episode, she lampshades Seinfeld's use of this trope on Elaine Benes, later entering the room with a large sign that said "BABY" over her body.
  • Hopeless Suitor
  • Informed Deformity: A quite jarring case: throughout the series Niles insinuates that C.C. is unattractive, despite the fact that she actually looks quite beautiful (it was her personality that was unattractive!). Justified later on in the series when it turns out that Niles has just been saying this to cover up the fact that ]he's actually madly in love with C.C. (For the most part, in the early episodes, it would appear that Niles simply hates her so much he's coming up with every insult he can to throw at her. He also calls her a cow, a hooker, and a witch.)
  • It's All About Me: Even though she mellows out in the end, she still goes on and on about herself, even going as far as having a priest marry her and Niles while Fran's in labor.
    • Although, that was Fran's idea. She bad been violently ill ever since Niles proposed, and Fran said that as soon as she said "I Do", her jitters would go away.
      • It turns out though, that she was feeling ill because she's pregnant with Niles' child. Although C.C. did say she was feeling better afterwards.
    C.C.: Nanny Fine, you're right! I don't feel like I'm gonna throw up anymore!
    Fran: (Mid-contraction) I'm so friggin' happy for you!
  • Jerkass:
  • Lack of Empathy: This exchange says it all:
    Fran: Question: When they shot Bambi's mother, did you find that a sad moment?... At all?
    C.C.: I'm sure she's mounted on a nice wall in a fine home somewhere.
  • Lady Drunk: She frequently suffers from alcoholism, implied to be due to her romantic troubles.
  • Large Ham: Especially in the first seasons, her two expressions were either icy indifference or full-throated rage.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Often, usually delivered swiftly by the machinations of Fran and/or Niles. In fact, most of Niles' barbs and pranks are done in direct response to a moment of Jerk Ass or callousness on C.C.'s part.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor
  • Meaningful Name: Her full name Chastity-Claire, considering how unlucky she is with men, especially Maxwell.
    • Probably also an Ironic Name, since it's such a sweet, feminine name and C.C.'s so... not. It should be noted that when this is announced, the entire room (including Fran who's in labor) stop and look at her rather surprised.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Until the finale, revealed to be Chastity-Claire Babcock.
  • Playing Gertrude: C.C. is several years older than Fran, but Lauren Lane is actually 4 years younger than Fran Drescher.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser
  • Rich Bitch
  • Sanity Slippage: She became more and more unstable after Maxwell proposed to Fran until finally she had a nervous breakdown and required several months in a mental hospital to recover.
  • Sitcom Arch Enemy: With Niles. As the series went on, the two went from hating each other to loving that they hate each other. After C.C. was hospitalized after suffering a nervous breakdown, she tells Niles that she began hearing voices while she was there. It turned out Niles had actually been visiting her and making her think she was hearing voices. C.C. is touched that he visited.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: A unique example in that most of her slapstick is caused by a male character (Niles).
  • Small Name, Big Ego
  • Stalker with a Crush: Towards Maxwell, with borderline Yandere tendencies.
  • Twitchy Eye: Whenever she sees and/or hears about Fran and Maxwell getting along.
  • Uptown Girl: She falls for Niles the butler at the end.
  • Well Done Daughter Girl

Margaret "Maggie" Sheffield (Nicholle Tom)

  • Daddy's Girl: Much to her frustration.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Beautiful and blond, generally kind.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: It was a plot point at a few times that, even though Fran was at least a generation older than her and hired to be a caregiver, Maggie was frankly too old to have a nanny anymore (she started the show in her early-to-mid teens,) and they acted more like sisters or girlfriends than anything else (it became a problem later when Fran really did become her mother.)
  • Missing Mom
  • Na´ve Everygirl
  • She Cleans Up Nicely
  • She Is All Grown Up: As the show progresses.
  • Shrinking Violet: In the beginning.
  • Took a Level in Badass: As part of her Character Development. In early episodes, her only response to Brighton's barbs was to scream out "Shut up, Brighton!" and storm out of the room angry and/or hurt. By the end, thanks to Fran working on her self-esteem and teaching her how to stand up to him, by the end, she was able to give as good as she got and would get the better of him frequently.

Brighton Sheffield (Benjamin Salisbury)

Grace "Gracie" Sheffield (Madeline Zima)

  • Adorably Precocious Child
  • Brainy Brunette
  • Creepy Child: Especially in earlier seasons, her therapy and subsequent extensive knowledge of psychology made her come across as a little twisted. In the pilot, after Fran snarked about Grace saying her therapist took her back through her childhood (She was about 7 at the time,) Grace turned to her and said, "Oh, you have no idea how complicated I am."
  • Daddy's Girl
  • Missing Mom
  • Mood Whiplash: Part of Grace's charm was the fact that she would pinball back and forth between a Wise Beyond Their Years pseudo-adult and a very typical little girl, once saying her ideal man was a combination of Barney... and Ted Koppel.
  • Mouthy Kid
  • Out of Focus: Seasons 3-6, probably to make room for Fran's growing romance with Maxwell, and more story lines involving Val, Sylvia, and Yetta (and possibly due to the fact that Madeline Zima was the only one still under age and subject to child labor laws.)
  • She Is All Grown Up: Towards the end of the series.
  • Shipper on Deck: For Fran and Maxwell.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: She even confuses the grown-ups.

Recurring Characters:

Sylvia Rosenberg-Fine (Renee Taylor)

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents
  • Big Eater
  • Characterization Marches On: In an early episode, she actually took in the entire main cast during a blizzard and kept all of them well-fed. Later on, she was quick to snatch up any food someone else was about to sink their teeth into.
    • Potentially justified since it was a major crisis (worst blizzard in 30 years) and the family was stranded in her house. The rest of the time, since the Sheffield household was much better off than she was, all food was fair game (she did seem willing to offer food any time they were in her home.)
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Extreme Omnivore: There were a few times when her love of food went Up to Eleven. Fran mentioned she ate half a plastic cookie before realizing it was a refrigerator magnet, ate a chunk off a plaster cake Fran had made, and was complaining about how a rice cake tasted like cork before Fran noticed she was eating a coaster. Fran inherited this, snaking on a bowl of trail mix that was actually potpourri. Sylvia likely got it from Yetta, who didn't notice the grapes she was eating were actually part of a wax fruit display.
  • Informed Deformity: While Sylvia was a Big Eater and definitely a bigger woman, in show, they portrayed her as a whale. During one of her many elaborate freakouts, she threatened to throw herself in the Hudson River, to which Fran responded "Ma, flooding New Jersey is not gonna solve anything!"
  • I Want Grandkids
  • Jewish Mother
  • My Beloved Smother
  • No Indoor Voice
  • Shipper on Deck: For Fran and Maxwell.
    • To be fair though, playing a stereotypical Jewish Mother whose daughter is over 30, Sylvia would ship Fran with just about anyone. Fran even commented once that her mother would have been thrilled with her hooking up with a successful, professional woman if not for the fact said lesbian wasn't Jewish.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave
  • Verbal Tic: Like her daughter, she often starts sentences with "Meanwhile...".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A typical trait of the My Beloved Smother on sitcoms of the time, she always genuinely seemed concerned with Fran's happiness (she just had trouble understanding that happy =/= married.) She would pair up Fran with any available male she saw. Also, when it was revealed that Fran was a Former Teen Rebel, it was mentioned how Fran had no privacy as a child. Sylvia's acrylic nails could open any door she needed through ("Doors, diaries, my ex-boyfriend Chevy," according to Fran,) and casually mentioned reading her diary like it was a cookbook.

Grandma Yetta Rosenberg (Ann Morgan Guilbert)

Val Toriello (Rachel Chagall)

  • Dumb Blonde: As Fran puts it, "Val wasn't short for 'valedictorian'.".
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Fran.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: TWICE! But since Rachel Chagall didn't have top billing it was much easier to hide her pregnancies and have her disappear for a while during maternity leave.
  • Hidden Depths: Is shown to have an intricate understanding of the mafia.
  • Straw Loser: Fran looks like a genius and total success in life compared to her. Fran outright admits she likes being around Val because it makes her feel smarter.