Characters: The Nanny

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Main Cast

    Francine "Fran" Fine 
Played by: Fran Drescher

  • Alliterative Name: Fran Fine
  • Annoying Laugh: Her laugh is practically the tagline for the show.
  • 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: She may be eccentric but also a very competent nanny.
  • 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. She once mentioned skipping school so often, "my homeroom was McDonalds" and caused her mother so much grief, she once said "when I started puberty, my mother was a size six, when I hit eighteen... so did she."
  • Genki Girl: She gets along with the kids also because she's very energetic and humorous.
  • Happily Married: To Maxwell in the last season.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: She and Val are best friends, ever since childhood.
  • Hypocrite: Sometimes has shades of this, especially when men are involved. She once tells the Sheffield children that she would never abandon them, despite having been very close to secretly running off to England with Mr. Sheffield's brother in the past (she remained because she missed the boat) - without saying goodbye to anyone, no less. She also claims to have waited five years for Mr. Sheffield to make a move, when they only started getting serious during her second year working in his house, not to mention the fact that she dated dozens of men in this time, and was even engaged twice.
  • Jewish Mother: Acts like this to Maggie, Brighton, and Grace.
  • Lady in Red: When everyone else is wearing tan.
  • Magical Nanny: She's able to connect with the kids in a way they'd been missing, and she specifically helps neurotic youngest child Grace.
  • Mama Bear: Even before she actually became their mother.
  • Matzo Fever: She is very, very Jewish, and attracts the attention of dozens of men over the years, including many celebrities and (of course) her boss the Broadway producer Mr. Sheffield.
  • Ms. Fanservice: She loves those miniskirts.
  • 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. In "The Strike" had her adamantly refuse to cross a picket line of striking busboys and had to be forcibly dragged by Maxwell. In "Personal Business", when she dated 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: Fran and her mother trade off on this quality, and then sometimes use it simultaneously.
  • One of the Kids: Part of the reason she makes such a good nanny.
  • Parental Substitute: To the Sheffield children, even before she actually became their mother.
  • 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. Niles was the first to accept Fran into Maxwell Sheffield's household, and as the series went on, became Shipper on Deck between Fran and Maxwell, seeing her as a better love interest than C.C. Babcock, Maxwell's business partner, about whom they love to snark.
  • 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: She has curly black hair, matching her enthusiastic and bubbly personality.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The Energetic Genki Girl to Maxwell's proper Savvy Guy.
  • 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 in the early seasons but surprisingly, the show stayed funny even after they got together.

    Maxwell Sheffield 
Played by: Baron Charles Shaughnessy

  • Always Someone Better: He deals with this twice over. In the present day, he's always playing second fiddle to Andrew Lloyd Webber; during his school days, he always seemed to be coming in second place to Jeremy Irons.
  • Ambiguously Gay: This was occasionally joked at, mostly since he had a woman as gorgeous as Fran, who was blatantly head over heels for him, trotting around under his nose in short skirts and high heels for years and never made a move. In one episode, when he found himself still attracted to Fran while she was disguised as a man named "Wilbur" he made the joke a lot of others had made, wondering in spending years producing musical theater had finally affected him.
  • Blue Blood: Especially when the show first started. Also in 2007, Charles Shaughnessy, who played Maxwell, became a real-life baron.
  • British Stuffiness: Both he and his entire family, with the exception of his brother Nigel, although he was considered the black sheep of the family and sort of the exception to the rule.
  • Catchphrase: Maxwell's enraged bellow of "MISS FINE!"
  • Celebrity Resemblance: It's a Running Gag that he is mistaken for Pierce Brosnan.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When aggravated.
  • Depending on the Writer: Maxwell will go back and forth between being Genre Savvy and a hapless buffoon in Fran's antics.
    • In the early seasons, Maxwell will either be aware about his feelings for Fran or comically oblivious about it.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Beverly, a Gender-Blender Name.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: He's quite tall (5' 11.5"), dark-haired, and a good-looking man.
  • Uptown Girl: Gender flipped example with rich Broadway producer Maxwell falling for working-class Fran.
  • Will They or Won't They?: With Fran in the early seasons but surprisingly, the show stayed funny even after they got together.

Played by: Daniel Davis

  • 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: He mostly fits the Trope. He's British, polite, sophisticated, and loyal to his employer... For the most part. Eventually, however, he becomes somewhat of a Deadpan Snarker thinking Maxwell somewhat stubborn for his reluctance to admit his true feelings to Fran. Eventually, in a late season, he gains enough backbone to finally tell his boss off and speak his true mind about it, and this finally convinces Maxwell to propose to Fran, and it sticks.
  • Legacy of Service: His father was the Sheffield butler before he was.
  • Loving Bully: To C.C. In season 6 it's revealed that Niles loved C.C. all along and all the insults and pranks were flirting.
  • 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. Niles was the first to accept Fran into Maxwell Sheffield's household, and as the series went on, became Shipper on Deck between Fran and Maxwell, seeing her as a better love interest than C.C. Babcock, Maxwell's business partner, about whom they love to snark.
  • "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: Played with. He doesn't insult Maxwell or the Sheffield Family, and mainly shows his snarky side around C.C. Babcock
  • Screwy Squirrel: He's at his happiest tormenting C.C. with tricks and pranks.
  • Servile Snarker: Like Geoffrey, he's pretty much a classic example of the witty, sarcastic butler.
  • Shipper on Deck: For Fran and Maxwell. He could be downright Anvilicious about it, to the point where, when Maxwell tells him he's going to propose, Niles' expressions of happiness sound more like he was getting proposed to.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He pulls off a very big one after finally getting tired of Maxwell's indecisiveness with Fran.

    C.C. Babcock 
Played by: Lauren Lane

  • Break the Haughty: Done throughout the series to CC. This led to a hilarious bit after C.C. fell for another of Niles's schemes.
    C.C.(screaming): My mental health is just a sick game to you, isn't it?
    Niles(perfectly calm): Rack 'em up, let's play again.
  • Butt Monkey: By far the most abused character on the show, especially when she is around Niles who always loves making fun of her.
  • 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.
  • 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: To Maxwell throughout the series. She just doesn't want to accept that he only sees her as a business partner.
  • 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.)
  • Ironic Name: Her full name Chastity-Claire sounds like 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.
  • 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!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Just when you think C.C.'s about to show an ounce of decency, she'll do a 180.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She eventually becomes one by the end of the series.
  • 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.
  • Last Name Basis: Maxwell calls her C.C., but everyone else usually refers to her as Miss Babcock.
  • Meaningful Name: Her full name Chastity-Claire, considering how unlucky she is with men, especially Maxwell.
  • 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
    Fran: Can that woman suck up, Niles.
    Niles: If she came with attachments, we could throw out the Hoover.
  • Rich Bitch: She's a rich businesswoman who is also mean, obnoxious, snobby, and egocentric.
  • 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: She is a narcissist with a big ego who looks down on nearly everyone. She just doesn't seem to realize how much she is pathetic, desperate, and unlikable and that Maxwell doesn't like her (actually nobody likes her).
  • Stalker with a Crush: Towards Maxwell, with borderline Yandere tendencies.
  • Stepford Snarker: She's very scornful and sardonic, but as the series goes on, she's shown to be a very depressed and lonely woman.
  • 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, Son!" Guy: In the season 1 episode "Ode To Barbra Joan" when her father comes to visit.

    Margaret "Maggie" Sheffield 
Played by: Nicholle Tom

  • Aesop Amnesia: In one episode where Fran suspects her of having started her sex life, Maggie is quick to assure her that she would never take such an important step without talking to her first, leading to a beautiful highlight of the close bond she and Fran have. Cue to the sixth season, where Maggie casually comments about sleeping with her boyfriend, which completely shocks Fran - who nevertheless seems to have forgotten about Maggie's words as well.
  • Catch Phrase: A very giggly "Yeah", almost always a reaction to a cute boy talking to her.
  • Cool Loser: In early seasons, despite that fact that, in Fran's words, she's a "thin blonde heiress with legs up to here," her crippling shyness has left her a complete and total outcast. Under Fran's tutelage, her self-esteem improves by leaps and bounds and her popularity skyrockets.
  • 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: Sara Sheffield, how she died has never been revealed.
  • Na´ve Everygirl: Initially she was awkward and insecure, and despaired that no boy would ever fall for her.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: When she is all dolled up, in the Pilot episode.
  • She Is All Grown Up: As the show progresses, she grew up into a beautiful young woman.
  • Shiksa Goddess: Fran always refers to her as one, and this becomes true by the end of the series, when she marries her Jewish boyfriend.
  • Shrinking Violet: In the beginning she was very shy, but Fran helped her grow out of this.
  • 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 
Played by: Benjamin Salisbury

    Grace "Gracie" Sheffield 
Played by: Madeline Zima

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Despite being only a little girl, Gracie has a habit of naming medical conditions and complicated words.
  • Brainy Brunette: Has brown hair and she is smart and Wise Beyond Their Years.
  • 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."
  • Missing Mom: Sara Sheffield, how she died has never been revealed.
  • 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.
  • 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: Madeline Zima certainly grew up towards the end of the series.
  • Shipper on Deck: Like everyone else, she is one for Fran and Maxwell because she sees Fran as a mother.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: She even confuses the grown-ups.

Recurring Characters

    Sylvia Rosenberg-Fine 
Played by: Renee Taylor

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Sylvia has a bad habit of eating all the food in sight, constantly nagging Fran about not being married, and telling wildly inappropriate stories to anyone around to hear.
  • Big Eater: She is known for her constant and voracious eating.
  • 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.)
  • 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: Fran hears this constantly from her mother.
  • Jewish Mother: She and Sylvia's mother Yetta both act as Jewish Mother/Grandmother to Fran and the Sheffield children.
  • My Beloved Smother: An example of the mother-daughter relationship, with the running joke of her badgering Fran to get married and have kids.
  • No Indoor Voice: Fran and Sylvia trade off on this quality, and then sometimes use it simultaneously.
    Sylvia: (to Yetta, who is senile) Fran is not married, SHE'S ALL ALONE!
    Fran: Louder, Ma. I don't think they heard you IN URUGUAY!
  • Shipper on Deck: For Fran and Maxwell. 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: In later episodes. Lampshaded in one episode:
    Maggie: Fran, you can't control what your mother eats. She doesn't live here.
    Gracie: When did she move out?
  • 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 
Played by: Ann Morgan Guilbert

  • Breakout Character: From a single appearance in the first season to regular character.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: As a result of her senility.
  • Flanderization: Was crankier and more "there" in her early appearances, with shades of Dirty Old Woman. Later jokes about her senility overtook all other aspects of her character.
  • Jewish Mother: She and Sylvia both act as Jewish Mother/Grandmother to Fran and the Sheffield children.
  • Must Have Nicotine: She is an avid cigarette-smoker.
  • Playing Gertrude: Ann Morgan Guilbert is just five years older than her onscreen daughter Renee Taylor.
  • Really Gets Around: The most sexually successful character in the show, by far. She even eventually gets to marry Ray Charles.

    Val Toriello 
Played by: Rachel Chagall

  • Dumb Blonde: As Fran puts it, "Val wasn't short for 'valedictorian'.".
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Fran. They are best friends, ever since childhood.
  • 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.