CLOSE
Original image

The Flashy Girl From La Florida: The Nanny's Global Success

Original image

In its six seasons on CBS, The Nanny never broke into the Top 10 in ratings, peaking at #16 in season three. And this was before it was nearly canceled after a dismal first season. It was not a critical darling, nor an award-winner, garnering only one Emmy in its entire run: Best Costume Design. Yet despite a modest first-run performance, The Nanny has achieved great success in the years since its cancellation.

The Nanny soared overseas. Dubbed versions were broadcast worldwide with minor tweaks for cultural relevance. And then, Sony Pictures Television began marketing franchise licenses. By licensing The Nanny, foreign producers not only gained access to the story and scripts – they gained the authority to completely remake it.

So what makes the story of a Jewish-American girl with big hair from Flushing who serendipitously ended up as a nanny for a wealthy, British theatrical producer so darn universal? Show creator Fran Drescher chalks it up to the appeal of blue-collar meets blue-blood. The details might not be universal, but class struggle is. Here are some of the more successful adaptations.

Russia: My Fair Nanny

When it premiered in 2004, The Nanny was the first sitcom to ever air on Russian television. It was in such demand the producers ran out of scripts and hired some of the show’s American writers to create more.

Instead of being a Jewish-American woman named Fran from Flushing, “Vika” is a Ukrainian woman who moves from her working class neighborhood of ???????? to be a nanny for Maxim’s swanky Moscow family.

Poland: Niania

The Polish version ran for 134 episodes, boasting millions of viewers. Remaining pretty faithful to the original, Niania named its main characters Frania and Maks. Unlike the original, however, the Jewish heritage of the original character was omitted and Frania’s nationality is never really addressed.
In the opening credits, Frania takes a trolley to uptown Warsaw instead of hailing a cab.

Greece: ? ??????

This version aired on Greek channel Mega TV for two seasons.

In the original version, the wealthy father character was British and quite uptight. In this version Aris appears to be openly lecherous when it comes to the nanny named Mary. Also, the butler has foregone clean-cut suits for a more casual sweater and slacks look.

Argentina: La Niñera

After being kicked to the curb, Florencia Finkel shows up at the door of Juan Manuel Iraola. She hails from provincial neighborhood Lanús, an industrial hub located south of Buenos Aires. Juan lives in the upscale Buenos Aires neighborhood of Barrio Parque. Re-runs are still shown in Venezuela, Puerto Rico and on satellite channels.

La Niñera’s opening credits completely forgo the signature animation and theme song of the original.

Mexico: La Niñera

The Flushing of Mexico City is Roma, a declining neighborhood west of central Mexico City that, unlike Flushing, has become a trendy bohemian enclave in more recent years. As in the original, Francisca Flores is hired by a wealthy theater producer to be a nanny. In this version, Maximiliano Fabregas lives in Polanco, known for its impressive mansions and having the most expensive land prices in Mexico City.

The animation is similar to the original, but this version’s star, Lisset, sings the revamped theme song.

Chile: La Nany

Eliana Tapia Cardenas finds herself ousted from La Florida, a provincial commune in Santiago. She heads for the most prestigious neighborhood in all of Santiago, La Dehesa. There, she is hired by successful publicist/dad Max Valdivieso.

The opening credits use their own unique animation. One notable difference is Max is not dressed in a formal suit, and looks more like a playboy.

Turkey: Dadi

This appears to be the inaugural adaptation. Set in Istanbul, Melek becomes the nanny for Ömer’s children. Instead of big poofy hair, often a joke in the original version, Melek has short, spiky hair.

Here’s part of an episode with English subtitles. Like many of its peer adaptations, the opening credits do not use the animation or theme song.

Original image
Warner Home Video
arrow
#TBT
Man-Eating Space Lizards: When V Was a TV Smash
Original image
Warner Home Video

American broadcast television in the 1980s didn’t leave a lot of room for subtlety. Shows like Hill Street Blues were outliers, crowded off the schedule by head-hammering episodic series featuring mercenaries (The A-Team), car chases (The Dukes of Hazzard), or soapy melodrama (Dynasty).

On its surface, V appeared to be no different. A two-part miniseries airing on consecutive evenings in May 1983, it told the story of the “Visitors,” gregarious aliens who arrive on Earth in three-mile-long spaceships and greet humans with a bargain: Let the Visitors harvest a chemical needed for their continued survival and receive advanced medical knowledge in return.

As the humanoid aliens reveal themselves to be malevolent lizard-like creatures who prefer to dine on humans rather than prolong their lives, V took on the look and feel of a pulpy sci-fi epic—the kind of thing that could be easily summarized in one Amazing Stories cover image from the 1940s. But writer Kenneth Johnson had something far more subversive in mind. The Visitors were stand-ins for fascists, and V was a cautionary tale about the perils of complacency.

Jason Bernard and Robert Englund star in the NBC miniseries 'V' (1983).
Warner Home Video

A Carnegie Mellon graduate, Johnson had broken into television with a writing stint on The Six Million Dollar Man, for which he conceived a female counterpart in the form of Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner). Sommers got her own series, The Bionic Woman, which Johnson produced until he was tasked with adapting The Incredible Hulk as a live-action drama.

It was around this time that Johnson became fascinated with a 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, about a fascist group that rises to power in the United States. Johnson reworked the concept into Storm Warnings, a feature-length screenplay; that work landed on the desk of NBC president Brandon Tartikoff, who encouraged Johnson to adapt it into a television miniseries by casting Soviets or the Chinese as the antagonists.

Tartikoff’s request made sense. The miniseries format, which took off in the 1970s with Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man, was drawing record numbers of viewers. The Thorn Birds, about a priest who is tempted to break his vow of celibacy by a younger woman, was a hit; so was Shogun, about a 17th century man who shipwrecks in Japan and becomes a pawn in a war between samurai. (Both starred Richard Chamberlain.) Storm Warnings had an appropriately sprawling narrative with multiple characters, a feat of creative engineering Johnson was encouraged to use after reading War and Peace.

But the writer was less enthused about casting a foreign superpower as a rival. Tartikoff then suggested aliens, the allegorical turf of Rod Serling that had fueled many a socially-conscious episode of The Twilight Zone. Johnson later told Starlog he “ran screaming from the room” at the suggestion, but eventually warmed to it. Storm Warnings became V: NBC committed $13 million to produce the four-hour drama.

A scene from the NBC miniseries 'V' (1983).
Warner Home Video

While a generous budget for television, the scope of Johnson’s idea taxed every available dollar. A 60-foot-long model of one of the Visitor ships was built; a giant hangar intended to depict the inside was made to scale, albeit cut in half; matte effects, with the ships laid over a background painting, depicted their unsettling arrival over Earth’s major cities. A feature with those same ambitions might take months of pre-production planning: Johnson got three weeks.

Whatever was lacking in the special effects and costumes—Johnson opted for a regal, military-inspired garb for his aliens that hasn’t aged well—never diluted the real attraction of V. Following a television cameraman (Marc Singer) and a botanist (Faye Grant) as they grow suspicious of the true intentions of the Visitors, the series quickly turns into an examination of what happens when a population is seduced by the promise of a helping hand. Celebrities and world leaders endorse the Visitors; scientists questioning their motives are corralled and delivered to ships for “re-education.” By the time their foot soldier Diana (Jane Badler) is seen devouring a guinea pig, Singer and his cohorts have decided to form a resistance to push back against being turned into alien kibble. For viewers who didn’t care for the subtext, there was still the birth of a lizard baby to talk about with coworkers and friends the next morning.

In a departure from conventional advertising, NBC decided to take a conservative approach with V. Posters in subway stations and bus stops depicted illustrations of the Visitors in propaganda-style posters; later, a “V” would be spray-painted over the ads. There was never any mention of the series.

The premiere of V drew a 40 share, which meant 40 percent of all households watching television at that hour were watching the lizard people establish their dominance on Earth. Tartikoff even granted Johnson the ability to run 15 minutes past the allotted two-hour time slot, cutting into local newscasts. On night two, V maintained much of that audience.

What might have turned out to be a lucrative franchise for NBC quickly lost its way. Tartikoff wanted Johnson to oversee a weekly drama continuing the story of the resistance while ramping up their licensing efforts; Johnson argued that the premise would be too expensive for the format and suggested a two-hour movie air every month or two instead.

A licensed action figure from the 'V' miniseries
Amazon

In the end, neither quite got their wish. Another miniseries, V: The Final Battle, aired in 1984, but Johnson disowned it after extensive rewrites. V: The Series followed, but lasted just one season. Johnson lamented that the network had taken his cautionary tale and turned it into a spectacle, with gunfights and lizard people eating small animals taking the place of the allegory.

V was revived by ABC in 2009, but low ratings led to a quick demise after two seasons. Other shows and movies like 1996’s Independence Day had borrowed heavily from Johnson, wearing out the premise. In 2007, Johnson published V: The Second Generation, a novel based on one of his follow-up scripts.

The miniseries format would continue throughout the 1980s and 1990s before serialized dramas with shortened seasons edged them off television schedules. Like The Thorn Birds, V remains one of the most well-remembered entries in the medium, due in no small part to Johnson’s nods to levity. When the aliens arrive, a high school band plays the Star Wars theme.

Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before he was called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior, in 1980, to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their original poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and said that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios