It’s a new month and thus it is time for a new edition of Failed Pilots. For those of you new to the experience, once a month my friends over at the Longbox Heroes After Dark podcast select one TV show that tried to spin off another unsuccessfully. Sometimes the new show lasts a season, sometimes it never gets it’s own stand alone episode. No matter what though, it will be a tale forgotten to time and perfect for some pop culture geeks in their forties to reminisce over.
If you want to join in, head over to the Longbox Heroes website at midnight on May 31st to hear this month’s episode.
Remember the Nanny? I’m sure you can hear her laugh now. She showed up to sell beauty projects, got hired to be the live in Nanny to three kids, then the story became about her unrequited love of her employer and the wacky adults that surround both of them. Quite a lot of naughtiness and innuendo for a CBS show. A non drama that is. Other than 2 Broke Girls that is.
In the Nanny’s second season the show was already considered a hit, big enough to launch a spin off. It was decided that a sitcom taking place in the salon where Fran, her mom, and her grandmother get their hair done and hit on the attractive straight male hairdresser would be a sure fire hit. You remember all the episodes where the ladies talk about getting their hair done and earlier in the episode we saw them at…. well, there was that one time when…. oh the two part episodes in which….
Okay, so previous to this episode there was never any interaction or mention of any of these characters. And none after.
This is season 2, episode 25. Tacked on at the end of the season in hopes of mattering, but ultimately forgotten. The episode starts with Mr Sheffield casting bikini models for a serious role. In walks Mary Ruth (played by Tracy Nelson). She is not built like a bikini model, but very petite and small of frame. She also has no real acting or modeling or posing experience so she is quite literally laughed out of the audition. Fran, the Nanny, likes her can do attitude and humor and thus takes it upon herself to nurse this baby bird back to health. Mary reveals her boyfriend kicked her out (that would have been an interesting later episode) so she now has no job and no home. Fran is coincidentally about to take the oldest daughter in her charge to the salon, so why not bring Mary along for another coincidence – they have a job opening for a hair washer!
As for characters we know; Fran’s elders hit on the aforementioned owner of the salon – Mr Anthony (Patrick Cassidy). He sings and gyrates his hips and has an odd version of a Brooklyn Italian accent. Think of him as John NOTravolta. Fran realizes that her mom had wanted the job so she could get paid to hit on Mr Anthony and gossip all day. The family business apparently. They make up in the next segment. The daughter puts on a wig and looks attractive more so than her 16 years old, and that’s all Fran’s fault. I mean I would say it’s the writers’ fault for sexualizing a minor but maybe that’s why I don’t work in TV. Fran puts on the same wig that made the daughter look attractive and it leads her to a long date night with Mr Sheffield, who in season two, she is not yet with. This is a magical wig. This is the kind of wig Legends of Tomorrow aspires to. This is a wig so powerful if it had an H it could run for president.
Back to the Chatterbox salon though. Mary comes in, applies, gives her sob story, and because she’s young and has that moxie kid she’s hired. Oh, but where will she live? Good news, there’s an unused room in the salon. She can sleep there. This room is never seen and I have to wonder if that set was already built should the pilot been picked up for series. She thinks Mr Anthony is attractive and goes into full Miss Exposition mode so we all learn the back story for this new will they or wont they couple.
Mary asks the other employees of the Chatterbox for details on their boss. If you thought Fran’s laugh was loud, turn down your television speakers because we’re about to blow out your stereotypes. Claude (Edward Hibbert) is clearly a gay hairdresser. Fine. He’s a bit of a caricature but this is a pilot. No one is looking for fully fleshed out characters. What is a bothersome though is the lengths they reach to not say “gay”. Cutting off sentences, changing the subject, only hearing one side of a phone conversation. This episode aired in 1995 but avoiding the big gay elephant in the room sends Claude back to quirky uncle era Paul Lynde.
But that’s not all! There is also a Chinese manicurist named Kim. Some script writer painted by numbers but I’m hoping Kim does better work. The actress certainly does because she is portrayed by Lauren Tom most famous as the voice of Amy on Futurama. Tom gives her all and puts everything into this character. She’s limited with what she is given but she is damn sure swinging for the fences on it and if this show went further she could have evolved this character into something special.
Finally there’s Mr Anthony’s kid, Mimo. I swear I thought something was wrong with the video. Where did Mimo come from? This isn’t a young toddler either, this is an about 12 year old boy who shows up at the salon because some kids at school just beat him up. He doesn’t have a mom and his dad runs a salon. Being called Mimo probably doesn’t help anything either. Mary tries to clean him up and nurture him then while searching for a Band-Aid discovers the hidden broken picture of Mimo’s mom. She took off on them awhile ago, breaking Mr Anthony’s heart. He wants her out of sight and out of mind, despite his son still hurting because no matter what he loves his mom. OMGee! I hope Mary can come in and heal his heart like she’s healing Mimo’s boo-boos.
A lesson is learned and this new family of oddballs is born. Then, they are never seen again. Never mentioned again on the Nanny. No go back and change things and try again. We will never know if Fran successfully forced this woman she just met hours earlier into a new position as Mary Mimo’s Mamma.
As an episode of a TV show, yeah, it’s garbage. Completely forgettable and there’s no way anyone would come back for another episode. Tracy Nelson however is brilliant and should have become bigger. While this didn’t work, I want to see her style lead a show. Nearly 25 years later it’s not going to happen but I wish there was a show from ’96 or ’97 with her being quirky yet adorable and able to carry a show based off the charm that comes through the screen.
Here’s a bad TV rip of the episode, missing the last few minutes.