This ABC sitcom, originally broadcast in 1970–71, centered on the mixture of chaos and order engendered in the house of a college professor by the apparently supernatural abilities of the nanny he'd hired to watch over his children.
Juliet Mills played Phoebe Figalilly, caregiver to the three children of Professor Harold Everett (Richard Long). "Nanny", as everyone called her, was gifted at the very least with classic TV Psychic Powers, which mostly manifested as clairvoyance and even limited omniscience. She used these abilities indiscriminately with the Everett family, enchanting the children and confounding the strictly rationalist professor.
Much of the comedy in the show came from the collision between Nanny's casually mystical style and the more mundane world around her. Unlike most of her counterparts in the other fantastic comedies of the era, she apparently felt no need to hide from the muggles, exercising her abilities so blatantly that it often left witnesses confused or disbelieving. This was made worse by the clever way in which no-one ever actually saw her do anything magical; things just happened in the way she wanted them to, to the accompaniment of a few notes of music in the background (which the characters couldn't hear). This didn't stop the Everetts from suffering the attention of at least one Nosy Neighbor, though.
Despite the apparently low-key "magic" available to her, the series implied that Nanny may have been far more than just an attractive British woman with ESP. Hints were dropped suggesting that she was something other than a simple human, with a lifespan measuring in the centuries; unfortunately, the series ended well before it could pay off on those clues, leaving frustrated viewers to speculate on just what Nanny was, and why she watched over the professor and his family.
In addition to Mills and Long, the cast included veteran actress Elsa Lanchester as Aunt Henrietta, Patsy Garrett as Mrs. Fowler, David Doremus as eldest child Hal, Trent Lehman as middle child Butch, and Kim Richards as Prudence, the youngest of the Everett children.
This show provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Phoebe Figalilly
- Animated Adaptation: Nanny and the Professor and the Phantom of the Circus, 1973 (i.e., two years after the series was cancelled).
- Cool Car: Subverted: Nanny's yellow 1930 Model A Ford, "Arabella."
- Expository Theme Tune: "Phoebe Figalilly is a silly name," indeed.
- Fantastic Comedy
- Girl of the Week: Professor Everett had several over the course of the series; Nanny also had a Guy of the Week or two.
- Left Hanging: The series didn't last long enough to pay off on all the mysterious hints about Nanny's true nature.
- Marry the Nanny: Downplayed; the series showed hints of a romance developing between the titular characters ("Nanny" Phoebe looks after "Professor" Harold's children) before the series' cancellation.
- Subverted in one episode in which we meet Phoebe's fiance, Chomondeley Featherstonehaugh (pronounced "Chumley Fanshaw"). She is, in her own words, "devoted to him", and he'd like to carry her off to be married, but they come to an agreement that she's needed where she is for now.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Subverted. Many episodes appear to fulfill this trope, only to reveal at the very end that it was Real After All.
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Nanny usually tried to solve problems with a sophisticated folk wisdom (for example, she could predict weather changes by noticing the way the tree frogs chirped) whereas Professor Everett usually tried to solve problems with a sternly logical, pragmatic approach. Unusually for this trope, the solution to the episode's problem often turned out to be combination of both their views rather than one over the other.
- Nosy Neighbor: Mrs. Fowler.
- Quirky Household: Nanny's extended family includes an aunt who owns a circus, two aunts who travel the world in a hot air balloon, and an uncle (played by Ray Bolger) who is a world traveler and can make it rain by dancing.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The major premise of the series is that Nanny brings the Everett family the virtues of Romanticism *without* ever dismissing or condemning rationality and science, proving to them that the two perspectives can and should co-exist.
- Unfazed Everyman: Towards the end of the series run, Professor Everett and his children have become so used to Nanny's magical ways that they are delighted by them instead of fazed by them; instead, they now enjoy watching as other people are fazed by them.
- Women Are Wiser: When the series begins, Professor Everett is a well-meaning but emotionally clueless father who knows how to relate to his children only in purely rational terms. Midway through the first season, Nanny has already taught him how to relate to his children on all levels.