Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Life

When Trump was on ‘The Nanny’

As I’ve told all who will listen, the strangest thing about this election, to me, has been less that my country might be going totalitarian (I’ve read enough Hannah Arendt to know that such things, unfortunately, happen) as who that would-be totalitarian leader is. It’s not someone like Mike Huckabee, who had long been my least-favorite politician, but… yup.

If you weren’t already preoccupied with the absurdity of America being at risk due to Donald Trump, you will be after reading Katie Rogers’s brilliant-but-upsetting New York Times story about Trump’s television and movie roles:

“His first television appearance seems to have been an uncredited 1981 cameo on the sitcom ‘The Jeffersons.’ Since then, Mr. Trump has seized on opportunities to create a recurring character over three decades: a larger-than-life New York billionaire named Donald Trump. His cameos have included numerous TV shows (‘The Nanny,’ ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Sex and the City’) and movies (‘Home Alone 2,’ ‘Zoolander’ and Woody Allen’s ‘Celebrity.’).”

And then a whole childhood, a whole lifetime, of media consumption flashed before me, both from Rogers’s article and from a YouTube cameo survey embedded within it. (I never watched “The Apprentice,” but not, as you’re probably gathering, because I’m above watching junk.) And it all got that much more surreal: This is who wants to destroy American democracy as we know it?

But there’s one item that really got to me. A cameo I’d surely seen but had forgotten. On a show that is, if not empowering to Jewish women… OK, let me just confess that I do think the show is empowering to Jewish women: “The Nanny.” Trump was on “The Nanny,” alongside Fran and Mr. Sheffield. What?! I know.

“The Nanny,” dear younger-than-millennials, was a fahbulous sitcom that subverted many preexisting negative stereotypes about Jewish women. Fran Fine, in the title role, is loud, materialistic, and has a strong New York accent, and this is her charm, which she ultimately uses to charm her boss, rich British man Mr. Sheffield. As versus the usual trope, where such traits would have a character relegated to sidekick status. (That goes instead to C.C. Babcock, caricatured WASP.) But rather than holding forth on the Fran-C.C. dynamic (which I could), let’s return to the matter at hand, which is Trump’s appearance on the show. I guess he was a foil Fran used to make Mr. Sheffield jealous? Presented as a real-life Mr. Sheffield type? As a (pardon me while I compose myself) love interest for Fran?

And there’s even a gross backstory, because of course there is. From the NYT piece:

“In one case, Mr. Trump had a direct hand in shaping his characters: Peter Marc Jacobson, a creator of the sitcom ‘The Nanny,’ said that he had received a note from Mr. Trump’s representative that quibbled over a script’s reference to the real estate mogul’s wealth. The script called him a millionaire. ‘Since he’s a billionaire, he would like the line changed accordingly,’ the note read. In the end, Mr. Jacobson changed the script to say ‘zillionaire.’ He also framed the note. ‘It’s so bizarre and so narcissistic that somebody would want something like that changed,” Mr. Jacobson said. “It’s a sitcom. You want to be humble about it.’”

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected]. Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning journalism this Passover.

In this age of misinformation, our work is needed like never before. We report on the news that matters most to American Jews, driven by truth, not ideology.

At a time when newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall. That means for the first time in our 126-year history, Forward journalism is free to everyone, everywhere. With an ongoing war, rising antisemitism, and a flood of disinformation that may affect the upcoming election, we believe that free and open access to Jewish journalism is imperative.

Readers like you make it all possible. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Passover Pledge Drive and we need 500 people to step up and make a gift to sustain our trustworthy, independent journalism.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Our Goal: 500 gifts during our Passover Pledge Drive!

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.