The Nanny

‘The Nanny’ Could Have Launched a Beloved Sinoff in the Same Style Viewers Loved

The 90s truly were a golden era for TV shows and sitcoms. One of the many popular shows on network TV at the time was called The Nanny.

That show had quite a long run on CBS and is still remembered fondly by many fans to this day. But did you know that the show almost had a spinoff launched from it? Here’s the story of how The Nanny nearly launched a beloved spinoff in the same style its viewers came to love from the show itself.

The Nanny starred Fran Drescher as a Queens, New York native who becomes the nanny for the family of a well-to-do British aristocrat named Charles Sheffield living in New York City with his three children. According to IMDB, the show ran from 1993-1999.

Fran Drescher played the main character. The juxtaposition of a wisecracking, street wise woman from Queens against the backdrop of high society made for some hilarious situations. The Sheffields also had a butler named Niles. Charles’ had a coworker named C.C. who frequently clashed with Niles and Fran.

Over the course of the show, Fran and Charles fell in love and eventually married. The cast members recently reunited for a live, online table read of their pilot episode. The Nanny was a popular show in its own right. It was so popular, in fact, that the network nearly tried to capitalize on its success to launch an entirely different sitcom. 

What is a backdoor pilot? 

When a TV show gains a certain amount of popularity (or after it ends a successful run), the network will often launch a spinoff. A spinoff is a show that uses characters from one series to launch an entirely new show. The sitcom Frasier is one of the most successful examples of a spinoff, after it was spun off from Cheers. A less successful example was Joey, a failed spinoff of Friends. 

Many times, spinoffs are launched following a show’s run. Sometimes they’re launched while the original show is still on the air. In some of these cases, producers of the new show will use an episode of the original show to introduce the premise and/or characters in the spinoff. According to TV Tropes, this is what’s known as a “backdoor pilot.” 

One example of this was the 1991 sitcom Top of the Heap. Starring Joseph Bologna and Matt LeBlanc, IMDB reported this was a spinoff of Married With Children. The series pilot for this show was contained within an episode of that popular Fox sitcom. 

The Nanny also tried this, albeit unsuccessfully. 

The backdoor pilot from ‘The Nanny’ that never was

Fran Drescher (as Fran Fine);  Renee Taylor (as Sylvia Fine); Ann Morgan Guilbert (as Yetta Rosenberg) and Ray Charles (as Sammy Portnoy)
Fran Drescher (as Fran Fine); Renee Taylor (as Sylvia Fine); Ann Morgan Guilbert (as Yetta Rosenberg) and Ray Charles (as Sammy Portnoy) | CBS Photo Archive.

According to Mental Floss, an episode of The Nanny was dedicated to a backdoor pilot of a new sitcom. A second season episode centered on a beauty parlor known as the Chatterbox – this was the name of the episode, and likely would have been the name of the series.

What made the show like The Nanny was that a similar paradigm with the show’s leads. The show seemed to set up a romantic plot between a woman and her boss, who was a single father. It’s unclear how the show would have diverted from the plot of The Nanny from there, but fans of the show never got to find out. It never made it to series.

It may seem like the show would have only given fans of the original more of a good thing, but it’s a true testament to the strength of The Nanny as a sitcom. Not every show can replicate the chemistry Drescher had with the rest of the cast. Recreating that wasn’t easy.

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