by Nick Thomas
Reassembling a dozen cast members from a popular 90s TV sitcom could pose a challenge for any network, much less an individual. But it was a task Fran Drescher relished. As the nasal voiced star of the hit CBS series “The Nanny,” Drescher co-created and co-produced the show along with then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson.
“Peter came up with the reunion idea for fans stuck at home during isolation and I said right away let’s do it if everyone in the cast is available,” said Drescher from her home in Malibu.
Unable to meet collectively in a studio due to quarantine restrictions, all 12 credited actors who appeared in the 1993 pilot agreed to participate from their home in April in a “Pandemic Table Read” via a Zoom split-screen reading of that first episode, interspersed with cuts from the original broadcast.
In addition to the cast, Jacobson narrated the reading while Ann Hampton Callaway – composer and performer of the show’s catchy theme – opened with a lively rendition on piano.
Drescher admits the reunion brought memories flooding back. “To see everybody and to hear the words again made me miss the show and everyone in it so much. It gave me a lift during this terrible period. Hopefully, it did the same for fans.”
Although nearly 20 years have passed since “The Nanny” first aired, Drescher says she still remembers the pilot and the live studio audience.
“They didn’t know the characters or what to expect from us,” she recalled. “But they quickly got it and were soon anticipating laughing almost before we said the lines. They had never really experienced an outrageous character like Nanny Fran Fine that incorporated elements of Cinderella, Mary Poppins, and The Sound of Music’s Maria.”
Several years after “The Nanny” ended production, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She completely recovered, but the experience steered her toward a second career to promote a “whole-body approach to wellness” and form the Cancer Schmancer Movement in 2007 (see www.cancerschmancer.org). More recently, Drescher produced a series of videos called “Corona Care 4 You” featuring interviews with health experts during the pandemic.
A longtime advocate of natural foods and products, Drescher was isolated at home for weeks during the spring like much of the country and used the time to catch up on TV shows, writing, and cleaning. As Nanny Fine, her famous TV character might not have scolded Niles the Butler for using corrosive cleaning products to sanitize the Sheffield’s home in which the 90s Nanny series was set, but today she probably would.
“I use 65% alcohol in a spray bottle with a little water and some peppermint oil which smells nice and has some antimicrobial properties,” she said.
Despite the forced home confinement, Drescher took it largely in her stride.
“I happen to like staying at home, so I don’t get cabin fever easily,” says Drescher who currently stars in the NBC comedy “Indebted.” But for the actress and her former husband with whom she remains close friends, their collaboration on “The Nanny” remains a career milestone. “This was our baby and we remember everything about it.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 800 newspapers and magazines.