It can’t be denied that the height of Fran Drescher’s fame was from 1993 to 1999, the time during which The Nanny aired on CBS. Although she had already built an extensive filmography before that time, her ability to star in and produce 1997’s The Beautician and the Beast, written by Todd Graff (who, incidentally, acted on The Nanny in 1997 as well), was largely due to her success and appeal as a result of the show.
Alas, perhaps because the premise of the show was what led to her mainstream stardom, the studio was reluctant to allow her to appear in anything too non-The Nanny-like. Whatever the reason, The Beautician and the Beast closely mirrors the exact premise of Drescher’s beloved sitcom. Like Fran Fine, Joy Miller (Drescher) finds herself working for a stodgy, rich man after being fired from her original job, in this case, as a beauty school teacher (yet another parallel between her and Fran: they both deal in cosmetics).
The only difference between Boris Pachenko (Timothy Dalton) and Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) is that the former is an Eastern European dictator in title and the latter is one in spirit. Just as Fran before her, Joy is saddled with the task of loosening her employer up via the way she takes care of his children. And yes, like Mr. Sheffield, Pachenko is a widow.
With her tough-talking New York accent and lack of proper Eastern European decorum, Joy immediately stands out just the way Fran does among high society and theater types that pepper Mr. Sheffield’s existence. Still, in spite of and eventually because of her crudeness, the male in her story falls madly in love with her. There are your standard hiccups along the way: he won’t release a prisoner, she’s been lying to him about sneaking his daughter down to see said prisoner, etc. But, ultimately, just as with Fran and Mr. Sheffield, love triumphs thanks in large part to the relationship Joy has with Boris’ kids. So what’s Drescher’s bottom line as conveyed through her art? The way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach but through his progeny.