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Old 07-13-2019, 09:27 PM   #1
JL82
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Default Did the CHARACTERS Jump the Shark?

We've had some discussion about whether either Max and Fran getting together, or even Max and Fran becoming a sort-of couple made the series "jump the shark" but to me, it seems like the problem was they kind of changed direction with the characters, getting away from some of the likable qualities that made the premise.

Fran

I know that start with, the premise was kind of like The Sound of Music. This "outsider" with a fun, bubbly personality comes into a stuffy, repressed, or depressed environment, and his/her bubbly fun-ness rubs off on everyone else and/or makes the person who has given up on love because of some tragedy (the Captain, or Max) fall in love with them. Characters like Fran and Maria are sometimes called "manic pixie dream girls."

I know that there were a couple of episodes right at the beginning where Fran got really good results by doing things her way instead of Max's way or "high society's" way. I know she brings the kids to something against Max's orders in the pilot, but it turns out really well. And then there's the episode where Max wants to train Maggie for high society, so they throw a party, so Max, Niles, and CC try to coach Fran in proper (and, the implication is, fake) society behavior...only to have Fran, by being her natural, genuine, warm self make everyone else relax, loosen up, be themselves, etc.

But, then:
  • Even though Fran was a success at the high society party in that one episode, she pretty quickly started REGULARLY upsetting and offending people it was important for Max and CC to work with, network with, or impress. She seemed to ruin or jeopardize a lot of business opportunities, and honestly, to screw up pretty much everything she tried having to do with money or business. And a lot of times, she was really dishonest about these things.

    (It seems like they moved away from the "socialite" focus - parties for the sake of parties the sake of being high society - and had the socializing that the Sheffields and CC did have more of a business agenda - networking with investors and theater people.)
  • She seemed to go pretty back-and-forth as to how much she cared about the kids - she did a lot of quitting, threatening to quit, etc. And sometimes following Max to another location (i.e., London at the end of season 4) without much concern for whether she should be with the kids. If the kids were supposed to be benefiting from finally having an adult who cared about them, and if they were really bonded with Fran, you would think this would cause new "issues." Especially if it was about her relationship, or lack thereof, with their dad - it would be kind of like worrying that your parents are going to split up.
  • She became REALLY obsessive about her age and not being married, and Max's...inconsistency - so she didn't come across as bubbly and fun anymore - sometimes she wasn't even that pleasant. I'm not a big fan of women characters wielding control through being sexually provocative, but I can see that, early on, at least, she did throw Max a little off-balance with her teasing and tricks (hence the "the father finds her beguiling") line. But it seems like around the time he said he loved her and took it back, she started just following him around whining and begging for attention. And no longer doing the things that probably attracted him in the first place. (Actually, it wasn't super-clear she was serious about him until around the point he "took it back.") I think she became more subservient to him and, (and I have said this elsewhere) there are many moments when I think CC comes across as the more independent woman of the two (if only by a small margin) because, even though we see her not happy with how her personal life is going, we do see her focusing on, and succeeding at, things that aren't about men or getting married.

[[/LIST]It doesn't seem to me like Fran is good at too many things that are either practical (housekeeping) or academic (business) including things you might expect a woman who wanted to be a nanny and/or wife to be good at. And I know she was supposed to have been good for Maggie's self-esteem, but everything about Maggie is about Maggie and boys, and Fran defends and encourages Maggie's boy-obsessiveness. I would think Max would be horrified at the idea of his daughters modeling themselves after Fran and acting around guys the way she does.

Gracie seems to have more interests in addition to boys, and Gracie, it is implied, somewhat looks up to CC.
Fran has some moments of downright nastiness, especially in season 5. She uses her "charms" to get Max to deprive Niles of a vacation, then belittles Niles' heart attack, and even tries to use Max's amnesia to get him into bed (I am, of course, referring to From Flushing with Love - just an all-around weird episode that feels like someone's bizarre dream. Instead of it being unusual that Niles and CC join forces, it gets you thinking - their interests are aligned, you would think they would both be resenting Fran all the time.)
They tried to play CC's emotional issues for laughs...but then gave Fran the same emotional issues. Fran goes to therapy and the therapist draws a parallel between Max's "distance" and Fran's father's...plus, Sylvia is SO pushy about Fran getting married. Issues with parental neglect was something they showed with CC at first, to partly, perhaps, show why she was the way she was. Fran was supposed to be the one good with emotions.
There is an episode following Max's proposal where Fran attends a high society party with him, and is totally NOT accepted and is very upset. It's implied people in his circle didn't know her. Had they changed writers since the episode about her success at the party in season 1 (where everyone loved her for being herself?) Aside from that, she acts totally insecure and upset about not being accepted in season 5 - more of the change of personality from bubbly to whiny.

Max

Early on, Max's emotional issues were supposed to be related to his devastation at losing his first wife. He couldn't contemplate being with anyone else. It was a form of fear of intimacy, or commitment, but it wasn't like "I'd rather be free to date the many women who want me than be tied down." But then he started casually dating other women (The Nose Knows, and the fling we find out about in The Best Man.) He at one point tells Fran sex is too serious for them to do, and then we find out he had a one-night stand. And then there was all that stuff about him being distant, calling her "Miss Fine", working a lot, etc, in season 5, despite him kind of admitting at that point that the two of them were in a relationship. It moved from "he's not over mourning his wife enough to have a relationship" to "he's not a very good significant other even when he's in a relationship." Actually, I think season 5 as a whole kind of flip-flopped between "Max is still distant and not ready to move forward" and "Fran and Max are both ready to move forward but outside forces get in their way." One episode goes one way, the next goes the other, and back and forth.

And, once the commitment / distance issue is resolved, all kinds of real-world compatibility issues crop up, and FRAN becomes then one who seems to question whether she should go through with marrying him. After they were married, there were episodes about them learning to deal with each other's personalities...as if they'd had a whirlwind romance and only known each other a short time.

There was also an episode, post-wedding, where Fran hung out at the country club in an attempt to be more like the first Mrs. Sheffield (so Max wouldn't call her "the nanny.") Now, early on, I think they implied that the Sheffield household became the way it was when Fran showed up mainly because of the trauma of Sara's death. We usually got the impression of her as a warm person, but the country club references make it sound she was an aloof, distant parent as well.

And I don't see Fran having much of an impact on Max -making him less uptight or less workaholic or whatever. When they're newlyweds, he is more focused on being embarrassed about the noise Fran makes in the bedroom than on...enjoying the honeymoon. And he still works on holidays after they are married.

Last edited by JL82; 07-14-2019 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 07-16-2019, 08:56 AM   #2
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Very thoughtful post.

Quote:
she pretty quickly started REGULARLY upsetting and offending people it was important for Max and CC to work with, network with, or impress.
I think Fran Drescher had a real interest in artfully ripping off old sitcoms. These episodes are sort like the Lucys where she Lucy grew notorious with famous people.


Quote:
sometimes following Max to another location (i.e., London at the end of season 4) without much concern for whether she should be with the kids.
I think something that maybe went unspoken was that Niles obviously was holding things together during the years when they were running through nanny after nanny, and that he was actually a family member. So he could be trusted with the kids.

Quote:
And then there was all that stuff about him being distant, calling her "Miss Fine", working a lot, etc, in season 5, despite him kind of admitting at that point that the two of them were in a relationship.
There's whole layers of conflict: Maxwell's natural reserve, then the customs of the British upper class against American brashness, then the boss-employee. That would all be pretty hard to work through.

I stopped watching this in first run, because I run out of patience with will they/won't they story lines. I've seen some of the later episodes recently, and am surprised how much I like them.
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Old 07-20-2019, 08:13 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Alan Brady's Hair View Post
Very thoughtful post.

I'm glad you had this reaction, as opposed to "you're over-analzying a sit-com too much" which I often get. I think what we're discussing shows that it was little more "layered" compared to many sit-coms. Seemed to have a lot of soap opera elements.

I think Fran Drescher had a real interest in artfully ripping off old sitcoms. These episodes are sort like the Lucys where she Lucy grew notorious with famous people.


I think something that maybe went unspoken was that Niles obviously was holding things together during the years when they were running through nanny after nanny, and that he was actually a family member. So he could be trusted with the kids.

I agree with all of this. I'm just saying that Fran was supposed to be an adult who was there for the kids, helped them "heal" somewhat, be happier, more confident, or whatever...and more like a mom than a nanny, and and she did at times profess to consider them hers...and yet...she wasn't that stable or consistent. I would think it would be very hard on the kids to feel so uncertain if she was going to stick around, particularly if it was because she might or not have a relationship with their dad.


There's whole layers of conflict: Maxwell's natural reserve, then the customs of the British upper class against American brashness, then the boss-employee. That would all be pretty hard to work through.

I stopped watching this in first run, because I run out of patience with will they/won't they story lines. I've seen some of the later episodes recently, and am surprised how much I like them.
I actually think a lot of things I referred to - some of Fran's negative traits; the problems she caused for the business; Max and her very real personality differences; and the employer-employee relationship - seem like very real and legitimate reasons to think twice about having a relationship with someone. But the show made it seem like those weren't really Max's reasons. In his private conversations with Niles, he didn't really raise those things as reasons for his doubts...it was all about some kind of fear. The old "I am SO madly in love that I can't pursue this relationship because it's too scary to be around this person" trope (of which I am not a fan.) Or, do you think that was just how Fran saw it, what she believed his reasons were? And the kids issue...I notice that in books and shows, when the character who has kids says they have to cautious about relationships because of how it could affect the kids, their friends and potential love interests always say they're just rationalizing their fear of intimacy...but no, that's a real issue.

But I still think they shifted Max from "doesn't want to date casually or seriously because he's still grieving / loyal to his wife's memory" with the implication that Fran's the only one who even stands a chance of changing that, a la Maria to "dating casually but afraid / reluctant / whatever to get serious with Fran," or "wants everything to be casual and without strings." At the end of season 4, he tells Fran they can't have sex because it's too serious...but it seems like that changed in season 5. We hear about his fling with someone else, and he comes closer to doing it with Fran.

Max does have a conversation with Niles right before the wedding where he admits he's concerned about "living up to Fran's expectations" on the wedding night / honeymoon, giving that it's been so long since he's "been with" someone and given how "experienced" Fran is. Making me wonder if that was part of his conflict throughout the show, too. Maybe given his upbringing (British and/or Catholic), he and Sara were both "inexperienced" and Max is excited by Fran might have to offer in that area, but also feeling guilty, like it's disloyal to Sara and/or scared that he won't be able to meet Fran's needs. On the other hand, he had several lines in between the proposal and the wedding where he came across as kind of a stereotypical "guy with one thing on his mind" (i.e., he was fixating on the upcoming honeymoon.)
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Old 07-20-2019, 09:54 PM   #4
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I liked the first season best, when Fran was street smart and tough (she threatens CC physically in an early episode). Later on, they made her stupid and daffy, because Fran Drescher wanted to be more like “Lucy”.
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Old 07-21-2019, 03:55 PM   #5
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I liked the first season best, when Fran was street smart and tough (she threatens CC physically in an early episode). Later on, they made her stupid and daffy, because Fran Drescher wanted to be more like “Lucy”.
I did a whole other thread about how I think every bad / dislikable characteristic of CC was given to Fran, and how CC has some good qualities / talents / abilities Fran didn't have.

When I started watching, I expected Max to be a bumbler and the women to compensate for that. I guess I was thinking of other sit-coms. And while I think CC does seem to have a fair bit of business savvy, Fran really is ditzy about anything to do with money or business, and Max is forever bailing her out, of both financial scrapes and some actually "dangerous" situations.

Edit: And, to be honest, Fran and Max so often clash and fight and are irritated with each other - and seem to have so little in common - that I sometimes wonder why either wants to be with the other. For Max, I often feel like it's purely physical (and he may feel guilty about that), and for Fran, it seems to be a combination of physical and being dazzled by wealth / position / glamour.

As much as Niles and CC insult each other, I have a much easier time believing that they like and respect things about each others besides the physical. Their personalities don't seem as incompatible.

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Old 08-06-2019, 09:12 PM   #6
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I liked the first season best, when Fran was street smart and tough (she threatens CC physically in an early episode). Later on, they made her stupid and daffy, because Fran Drescher wanted to be more like “Lucy”.
Do you have a take on when you think this change starts to happen? "Jumping the shark" is often associated with the latter seasons of a show - sometimes the writers only have so many ideas - and I think the hysteria and whininess about not being married - and the much-less-pleasant personality as a result - get really bad around the time Max says he loves Fran and takes it back (early season 4), but the incompetence and getting in trouble and being bailed out by Max seem to start much earlier than that. She is offending Max and CC's business contacts as early as the first couple of seasons (Sunday in the Park with Fran; Lamb Chop's on the Menu) and I think she gets arrested in season 3 (after throwing a party.)

We've discussed fanfic elsewhere on these boards, and someone mentioned that it tends to be really racy - I agree. Max is always portrayed as very...consumed by and overcome by lust. Of course, a lot of fanfic about many different characters portrays them that way. Certainly the Niles and CC fics do that for them - but for them, it seems to have basis in canon.

But portraying Max as saying things like he's "addicted" to sex with Fran (as I saw in one fic where they are married but can't do it because of her pregnancy) - well, that doesn't, for me, quite fit with the Max of the show. On their first night as newlyweds, he interrupts the bedroom activities to chide her for being too loud. That doesn't seem like he's especially carried away by the passion. He's not to "into" Fran physically to get irritated with some of these other personality quirks.

Last edited by JL82; 08-18-2019 at 07:48 PM.
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