The nanny turned out to be a lovely Englishwoman named Phoebe Figalilly, who looked terribly smart in her matching dark blue hat and cloak. The new nanny soon had things straightened out and the household was running perfectly, like... magic.
Did the nanny have magical powers? She seemed to be able to talk to animals, for one thing. But no one ever actually saw her doing any magic. Still, there were odd circumstances surrounding her mysterious past: she had a passport stating she had been born over a hundred years previously, for example; and her antique Model A car's radio only played music from the 1930's, when it was manufactured. But like the show's theme song asked, "Is there really magic in the things she does, or is love the only magic thing, that Nanny brings?"
In any case, Nanny and the Professor was a pleasant little comedy that was sandwiched between Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family on Friday nights in 1970-71 - a good spot to be in for any program, but especially one which featured a multi-kid family herded by a blonde beauty who outshown even Carol Brady and Shirley Partridge. Taking advantage of the pro-British feeling of the period, the character of Phoebe was a sort of cross between Samantha on Bewitched, Dr. Dolittle, and - especially - Mary Poppins. The show, as can be predicted, was relentlessly upbeat and nice, with the usual suburban dilemmas that the nanny could solve before the allotted 22 minutes were up.
Juliet Mills was an excellent casting choice as Phoebe. The older sister of Disney favorite Hayley Mills, Juliet had been spending much of the 60's honing her craft on the London stage. She decided to take the plunge in Burbank because she was tired of earning a pittance for her skills; a successful TV comedy, she knew, would put her on her feet financially and would get her name recognition around the world. David Gerber, executive producer for Nanny, was so anxious to get her that he bought out the run of a play she was doing, "She Stoops to Conquer," in order to make her available. Over 150 other actresses were screen tested as well.
The series was popular while it lasted, its final episode appearing in December of 1971. Two half-hour segments (mixing live-action with animation) appeared as part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie featuring the voices of the original actors in 1973, but this did not result in a second series.
Nanny and the Professor
January 21, 1970 - December 27, 1971
(Aired Friday evenings)
Phoebe Figalilly - Juliet Mills
Prof. Howard Everett - Richard Long
Howard Jr. 'Hal' - David Doremus
Bentley 'Butch' - Trent Lehman
Prudence - Kim Richards
- The show's theme was written by Harry Nilsson and performed by the Addrisi Brothers.
- Richard Long had become beloved to TV audiences as Jarrod, the eldest son on The Big Valley.
- Kim Richards would soon gain greater fame as the girl in Escape to Witch Mountain.
- Elsa Lanchester, who played Phoebe's Aunt Henrietta, had previously appeared in Disney's That Darn Cat with Juliet's younger sister, Hayley Mills.
- Juliet Mills would do a horrific turn as a demon-possessed woman in the 1974 Exorcist clone, Beyond the Door.
- Ms. Mills would go on to play another magical character, Tabitha Lenox, in the surreal daytime drama Passions. In one episode her character brings to life a doll, the human version of which would be played by her own daughter. The name of the doll was Phoebe Figalilly.