The episode begins with some unknown woman being fitted for a wedding gown that is totally 1990’s…how appropriate. Anyhoo, Fran Drescher walks in and I was very surprised when the studio audience didn’t greet her arrival with applause. Maybe they knew she was behind the curtain or something… She traipses up to the bride-to-be and proclaims that she is gorgeous, claims that she looks “just like a virgin”, and snidely gives her “some crackers for her morning sickness”. Wow, Frannie’s playing hardball!
In a voice too low to even be a man’s, the bride (who is presumably a friend of Fran’s, considering that she has the gall to even ask this question) asks her when she and Danny are going to set a date. I assume that Danny is Fran’s boyfriend, yet we haven’t been properly introduced to any characters by name yet. Fran makes a joke that she’ll always be a bridal consultant and never a bride, whereupon she sashays up to the hunk of Italian meat behind the front counter, and asks when they’ll get married. Oh, so THAT’S Danny… After getting Fran all riled up with hopeful thoughts about having his Italian-Flushing children, Fran is promptly dumped in favor of hot blonde, Heather Biblow, who doesn’t make an appearance in this episode. Fran demands to know if the reason why she’s still working as a bridal consultant because she is apparently Danny’s best salesgirl, and Danny fires her. I’m not sure if it is because A: He wants to give Heather the job (which he does end up doing) or B: Because Fran sucks at her job. Either way, Fran is justifiably offended by Danny’s lack of consideration, and ability to keep himself from getting boners when it comes to other women, and tells him that she is quitting, and slams the door behind her. After getting reproachful looks from the bride-to-be and Fran’s best friend, Val Toriello, who we haven’t been introduced to yet, Fran promptly returns to inform Danny that she’s fired, because she fully intends to collect unemployment.
After a catchy theme song, in a style of a Broadway show, which inadvertently gives away the full plot (with *SPOILER ALERTS* included) Fran gracefully walks up to the front door of what looks to be a courtyard. She acts like she’s practicing lines in front of the mirror, and it seems that she’s a door-to-door makeup salesgirl now, and the company name is “Shades of the Orient”, which seems to be pretty racy for 1993 standards. Things look up when Niles the butler answers the door, and tells Fran that she is expected, and a case of missing identity ensues when he believes her to be a new nanny applicant. Sensing the lovely home and furnishings around her, Fran realizes that being a nanny for this family would mean a way better paycheck. She quickly tells Niles that she can neither confirm or deny that fact, and asks him to fetch his boss, Mr. Sheffield, so as she can present her resume to him.
Cue hot, sexy, Englishman Charles Shaughnessy, who in 1993 was quite a catch, but married, unfortunately. He rattles off the names of several leading ladies, including Ann Miller (and I would write more, but really, who the hell cares), and, as the camera turns, we see the physical evidence known as C.C. Babcock, perched on a corner of his desk. Like a snake about to strike when she sees Mr. Sheffield stressing out, she promptly proceeds to give him a back rub, which would more than likely constitute sexual harassment if the roles were reversed, because Mr. Sheffield looks as if he could take or leave the situation. C.C. immediately becomes threatened for her virtue when Niles tells Mr. Sheffield that a new nanny has arrived, and we are given some character information about Mr. Sheffield: he has a son, named Brighton, who faked suicide in order to get rid of the last nanny. How charming… C.C., as any career woman without children would, harshly tells Mr. Sheffield that she won’t have “those children running around”, leading the audience to believe that this rich man has more than one. Naturally, this offends the father, whereupon C.C. promptly reigns in her disdain for small creatures and claims that she loves them like they’re hers. Gross… Thankfully Niles doubts her, which is amusing.
We get a shot of Fran attempting to forge a resume, which lets us see that she is left-handed. YAY!! Sorry, but I’m left handed. Nobody? Oh. Okay, sorry. Moving on… We hear a scream, whereupon we catch our first glimpse of Brighton, moaning and groaning with a fake knife in his chest. Okay, so apparently Brighton likes to milk things to no end or the fake suicide took place that day. If it’s the latter, bravo for Mr. Sheffield for immediately attempting to get childcare for his children. The senior Sheffield comes into the room after Brighton falls down dramatically, Niles following in his wake.
Fran immediately goes up to Mr. Sheffield, stepping over Brighton, and tells him that she read a column in Esquire Magazine (which is a real magazine, apparently) which had a feature of the “Ten Most Eligible Widowers”, and quickly offers her condolences. I’m sorry, back up. Bachelors, I understand–hell, give me one, please! But widowers?! Come on. That’s sad more than anything else…
Fran compliments Maxwell (we all know his name, so screw informality) on his knickknacks and Maxwell says some French (possibly?) artist that I’ve never heard of before and probably never will again. She hands over her resume for him to inspect, and he promptly ascertains that it is crayon. I’m sorry, what? He was married, so surely he knows lipstick when he feels it… In an example of typical childish and passive-aggressive behavior, Brighton announces his contempt for Fran, which is really unfair if you ask me. Maxwell asks Fran a question about her resume, prompting laughter, and then two girls come into the house, one high-school aged one, one elementary school aged one. The younger one greets Maxwell with a “Hi, Daddy!” which is actually pretty adorable. In a kind of standoffish way, he greets his older daughter, Maggie, who says, “Hello, Father,” in a really reserved manner which makes her look even more like a nun. Fran greets Maggie enthusiastically, and makes a comment about her hair being lovely, although it kind of goes in a weird direction. Feeling uncomfortable in the presence of a stranger, Maggie excuses herself to do “homework”, whereupon we get an understated “hmm” from Fran.
It seems as if the youngest Sheffield child is in need of some weird new-age therapy, probably due to the fact that she’s lost her mother. She tells Maxwell that she and the therapist did some “regressions” and that she went “back through her childhood”, which seriously makes it seem as if the therapist wants to ascertain whether or not Gracie has been abused. Brighton calls himself (and his sisters, which really doesn’t seem fair) “problem children”. As far as I can see, he’s the one who is the problem child. Therapy is proven to be beneficial when it comes to working through times of grief. As for Maggie, so what if she’s introverted? She probably won’t get pregnant in high school… Brighton takes Gracie upstairs in a dominating sort of way, and Gracie willingly goes along with it.
Fran seems willing to accept the challenge of assisting Maxwell raise his children, but he proceeds to make it all about him by giving an ashamed look to the area rug and decides it’s time for Fran to leave. Fran tells him that she wants the job, but Maxwell insists that he get a professional, which is actually really understanding when it comes to your children. Fran attempts to argue (twice) but is interrupted (twice) by the telephone ringing. Maxwell proceeds to look for Niles, because he’s so bent out of shape by his kids not turning out the way he wanted that he can’t bring himself to answer the phone. Fran promptly decided to get it, pulling the “what I’m supposed to do in class when the phone rings and my teacher isn’t immediately available”. Maxwell snatches the phone back and it is revealed that the nanny agency is on the other line. Maxwell essentially tells Fran to get lost while on the phone, and then complains to the person on the other end that his need for a nanny trumps everyone else out there in need of one and that he wants one now. After hanging up, he grudgingly gives Fran the job on a trial basis, and she rubs up against him when she hugs him, more than likely prompting him to extend that trial. He gives Niles leave to show Fran her bedroom, and Fran gets all excited that she gets to be a live-in. As she climbs the stairs, she slides the cameras two quick looks before the audience claps and the lights fade down for a commercial.
We get an exterior of some weird house that looks like it’s part of the French Riviera or something before cutting into the dining room. Maggie has her nose in a book, Maxwell in the morning paper, and Gracie and Brighton are eating breakfast slowly. Fran enters in a fuzzy bathrobe complete with stitched on flowers with a, “Good morning everyone!” in a singsong voice that inexplicably gets a jolly from the audience. She decides that she’s sitting with the family and then asks the kids what they want to do that day. Brighton passive-aggressively tells Fran that they’ve been kicked out by their father in favor of his work party that evening. Meanwhile, C.C. calls and Maxwell “takes her in the library”, which is so full of innuendo that Niles is itching to say something, and does. Maggie informs Fran that C.C. is Maxwell’s “lady friend”, and the way she says it is just so sad. Fran then tells the kids that they’re going to the party, and nobody’s going to stop them, meaning herself, from going.
They end up back at the bridal shop (probably because this was the fledgling season, and the pilot, and they didn’t want to waste the big bucks on an awesome second location because they didn’t know how it was going to go) where Fran is holding up a pink satin-y party dress that looks appropriate for a nine-year-old and asks Maggie what her favorite color is. Maggie says beige, which consists of her color scheme outside her school uniform, which is also very sad. Fran then walks away in disgust to check on Gracie, wearing a veil, who claims she is feeling “empty and alone”, prompting girls everywhere to never want to get married. Fran then goes to gab with Val, showing her pictures of Maxwell’s house and the people in that she probably took without permission. Fran hints that Maggie has antisocial personality disorder, that Gracie has schizophrenia, and that Brighton… Oh, no, she’s lost him! Oh, wait, he’s under a mannequin, demanding to know if she has lady parts. Oh, so Brighton’s a peeping Tom, I get it!
Maggie tries to get out of trying the disgusting party dress, but Fran encourages her anyway. Maggie doesn’t want to be stared at, and Fran tells her that everyone will think she’s beautiful. Fran then says that Maggie will have to grow up to know about certain things, but then goes on to say that she lost her virginity at fourteen. Okay, maybe not that… She probably got felt-up at a Bat Mitzfah or something…
Back at the mansion, Maxwell gets handed a fat check by a black couple that is surprisingly not handing out hors dourves. He saunters up to C.C., who has on this amazing Hillary Clinton get up, and tells her that she looks “handsome”, which seems very inappropriate. C.C. purrs under the attention, and asks him if he thinks the party is going well. Maxwell makes a comment about how happy he is to be surrounded by good food, good music, and rich people. How white…
Niles enters the scene, dapper in a tux, and claims that “Miss Fine” would like a word with Maxwell. In stereotypical sitcom fashion, Maxwell asks, “Where is she?” and Fran, off camera, replies, “I’m up here”. We are then greeted with the famous shot of Fran all dolled up in that red dress. C.C. remarks with disgust that her position as most influential and attractive woman at the party will be usurped by a brunette, and said brunette quickly descends the staircase, and even has a theme song provided by the live musicians. She walks up to him like she owns the place and proudly proclaims that the children are ready to come to the party, and Maxwell tells her, just like they did, that they aren’t invited, which shocks Fran, although it was already stated. C.C. makes a mean comment to Fran about her dress and her face, which makes Maxwell look like he wants to come quickly to Fran’s defense.
However, the moment passes and Maxwell decides that he needs to rake in the chips that evening so he attempts to shove Fran out, whereupon Gracie and Brighton come down. Maxwell is charmed by Gracie’s appearance and seems perfectly fine with her being there. However, he goes all federal marshal on Brighton and gives him the old pat-down before allowing him to stay. It is then that the audience is wondering what happened to Maggie, who is standing, poised, on the landing, probably waiting for her own music to play her down the stairs. It takes a moment for us to realize that she is fourteen, because her hair looks better, and she is wearing makeup, and semi-age appropriate clothing. Maxwell lets them stay, apart from a snide word to Fran, without difficulty. He introduces them to the party, which makes the guests pleased. When Fran offers to take a picture, Maxwell refuses, until someone offers him more money. Classic career dad…
Fran bids goodnight to Ivana Trump (off camera, of course, because it is a rule that no celebrity cameos are made so early in television shows). She then attempts to take a check with “four zeros” from Maxwell, but he manages to snatch it away from her, and leaves to put it in his safe. Fran wistfully says that nothing can go wrong with bringing a man and his children together. Uh-oh…
Maxwell goes to put the check in his safe, and we are greeted with a shot of Maggie making out with James Marsden, known for Prince Edward in “Enchanted”, Corny Collins in “Hairspray”, and that box office bomb, “Hop”. Maxwell blows a gasket, and I never understood why until I discovered the truth: Marsden is five years older than Nicholle Tom, the actress who plays Maggie, meaning he was twenty to her fifteen. Yeah, I’d be mad, too… Anyhow, Eddie is quickly told to leave by Maxwell, and Maggie runs after him, much to Maxwell’s shock. Eddie leaves, wiping Maggie’s lipstick off his mouth as he does, without even saying goodbye to anyone. Fran asks what happened, and Maxwell describes the light heavy petting session on his “balcony” (which was seriously more of a garden) as “mauling”. Owch. Fran gleefully celebrates with Maggie of her first kiss but Maxwell isn’t having it, telling Maggie that she’s too young. For the record, I was sixteen, and neither one of my parents cared, but whatever… Maggie says that she’s not a little girl anymore and Fran backs her up, prompting Maxwell’s anger. Maggie soon leaves the room in tears after Fran’s failed attempt at making it sound better by Fran’s Bat Mitzvah story. Fran immediately attempts to follow Maggie to comfort her, but Maxwell berates Fran for “dolling Maggie up” and claims that it was all her fault that Maggie chose to attempt to get a boyfriend. Fran says that Maggie is a woman and, even though she is not her child, that she needs comfort. Maxwell promptly fires Fran for disagreeing with his method of child rearing. Fran says that she’ll quit, only to return a moment later to claim that she was fired, in order to collect unemployment.
Niles brings Maxwell a sandwich, while the latter looks at a picture, presumably one of his dead wife or of his too-fast-developing-for-his-taste’s daughter. Niles claims that he’s brought Miss Babcock home and that “Betty Ford will pick her up in the morning”. Maxwell asks Niles if he overreacted, and Niles replies, “Like Reagan in Grenada”. Maxwell says that, with Maggie looking like Sara (while creepily stroking the photograph frame) that he didn’t want to lose her, which, albeit normal for any parent to feel, is actually very selfish. As he chews his sandwich, which Niles says that Fran called “a light nosh”, Niles claims that Fran is “just what you needed”, and Maxwell picks up on the fact that they’re not talking about his meal. Niles dramatically claims that Maxwell is correct, before departing the scene, allowing Maxwell to reflect.
The next scene opens with Fran lounging on her parents’ living room couch, when her mother, played by Renee Taylor, walks in. Fran is sporting a black body suit type think with a purple shirt underneath, and heels. Sylvia, Fran’s mother, is wearing a god-awful mumu that seriously belongs in a dumpster somewhere. Sylvia offers Fran a Mallomar, and Fran eventually accepts it after Sylvia explains the importance of food in her relationship with her husband and Fran’s father, Morty. The buzzer rings (after establishing the fact that Fran’s dad is “deaf and on a pension”) and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s Maxwell!
Maxwell drops off what looks to be a cross between a desk lamp and a desk fan, as well as a carpet bag from the 1980’s. Sylvia says she’ll make him some Ovaltine, to which he replies, “I’m sure I’d love some, but I really can’t stay”. Okay…the stuff is from Switzerland and is very popular in Britain, and it ain’t Christmas yet, Mr. Sheffield! Sylvia then demands that Fran put on some blush, but Fran manages to shoo her away so that they can talk. Sylvia attempts to flirt on her own behalf before leaving, totally slipping the eye, meaning that her deaf husband wouldn’t hear if they attempted some form of coitus.
Maxwell does the typical British thing of stating the obvious–in this case, making note of the plastic on Fran’s parent’s furniture. Fran cracks a joke about preserving it for the afterlife, before she turns the conversation to Maggie. Maxwell says that Maggie isn’t speaking to him but that Brighton has been “strangely attentive to her”, and that she’s fine. Well, yeah! If my dad walked in on me kissing a guy, made the guy leave, and told me that I was still a little girl and not old enough to date, I wouldn’t talk to my dad either! But I’m 21, so…
Fran tells Maxwell that they come from very different worlds and that she seems to understand why her working for him didn’t work out. Yet, if she was him and she hired herself, she’d be thrilled…okay. Maxwell says that he hasn’t met anyone like Fran before, which is refreshing, and that if they respected each other’s differences, and essentially asks for her to come back. Fran then oversteps the mark and essentially asks Maxwell to get down on his knees and “apologize”. Yeah, we’re gonna go with that… This gets Maxwell angry, but Fran accepts his apology anyway. Wait, what apology?! She then demands that her mother pack her bags, that Maxwell wants her back! Sylvia steps out from the kitchen, holding a bulky camera to her eye. To the pair of them, she says, “Smile!” Fran then joyfully embraces Maxwell, much to his shock, and the photo is taken, thus beginning their partnership.