Dec 27, 2020

Nanny and the Professor

There are two kinds of servants on tv.

1. The world-weary, laconic observer of the lunacy (Hazel, Beulah, Geoffrey on Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Florence on The Jeffersons, Benson on Soap).

2. The "breath of fresh air" whose joie de vivre revitalizes a failing family (Mr. Belvedere, Charles on Charles in Charge, Tony on Who's the Boss, Fran on The Nanny).

Nanny and the Professor (1970-71), which became a must-see when I was in fifth grade because it aired between The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, was an early example of the "breath of fresh air" type.

Phoebe Figalilly (Juliet Mills), a proper British nanny, complete with deerstalker cap and Inverness cape,  sweeps in like Mary Poppins to take control of the household of stuffy English professor Everett (Richard Long of The Big Valley, top photo, shown working out with gay icon Rock Hudson).

His kids:

1.Intellectual teen Hal (David Doremus), seen here trying to meditate.

2. Athletic preteen Butch (Trent Lehman)

3. Baby of the family Prudence (Kim Richards).

Nanny draws from the "I've got a secret" genre by teasing at having magical powers, though nothing is ever stated openly.

For instance, in "Spring, Sweet Spring," Nanny thinks a family picnic would foster togetherness, but everyone has other plans.  Then a series of humorous accidents and coincidences push them, one by one, to the park, where the picnic is set out for them.

When Nanny and the Professor first aired, I was in fifth grade.  I was drawn to Nanny's independence, courage, and penchant for deflating masculine egos.  But there were several points of interest for gay boys.

1. The opening song sounded distinctly like the two boys were attracted to the Nanny ("soft and sweet, warm and wonderful...oohh, our magical mystical Nanny!").  But heterosexual desire was at a minimum: Hal liked a girl in one episode, and Butch, never.

 From the title, one expects a romance between Phoebe and Professor Everett, but that is never even hinted at.  In fact, the Professor fled from several girls anxious to snare him.  He could easily be read as gay.

2. Hal was a shy, intellectual, gay-vague outsider, like Peter on The Brady Bunch.

3. There was no beefcake, but my friends thought that Hal was cute, and there were several dreamy guest stars, including Van Williams and Vincent Van Patten.

4. Richard Long (1927-1974) was rumored to be gay or bi (married to women twice).

After Nanny, David Doremus continued acting until 1981, then retired to work in electronics.  He is married to a woman, and has four children.

Trent Lehman committed suicide in 1982, at the age of 20.  No info on whether he was gay.

Juliet Mills has been very active in movies and on tv, most recently playing Dottie on the gay sitcom From Here on OUT (2014).  Her husband, Maxwell Caulfield, was a gay icon of the 1980s.

See also: Maxwell Caulfield


  1. This is another show I was lucky enough to catch in reruns in the 1980s and I developed a HUGE crush on David Doremus.. I wasn't usually attracted to blondes, but I thought he was absolutely beautiful and his husky muscular body in the tight pants they put him in gave me hours of *ahem* "pleasure". I didn't necessarily read him as a coded gay boy (although I seem to remember that it WAS a running that joke that he was always repulsed by the girl next door who was in love with him), but again, more as the type of boy that seemed sweet and gentle enough that he might actually "befriend" a gay boy (which went a long way with me since almost all the boys my age avoided me like the plague until I got to High School).. That was a long time ago, but I have to admit, my heart still flutters to this day whenever I so much as even see a picture of him. David, wherever you are... I love you.

  2. Nanny and the Professor should get lots more credit. It seemed like it was just a knockoff of Mary Poppins and Bewitched, but the non-romance of the Nanny and the Professor, their respectful, professional relationship put it decades ahead of its time.

  3. There were a lot of gay boys who had crushes on Hal and looking at the episodes now one can see why. Glad to know the actor prospered after he left acting


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