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‘Nanny and the Professor’: Revisit the Magical Sitcom of the 1970s

Actors Juliet Mills and Richard Long wove a bit of magic in bringing 'Nanny and the Professor' to TV viewers in the 1970s


Coming at the tail-end of the television networks’ fascination with supernatural or fantasy comedies that aired throughout the 1960s, Nanny and the Professor seemed in some ways to be a TV take on Julie AndrewsMary Poppins, with Juliet Mills as Phoebe Figalily stepping into the role of … well, nanny.

Preferring that everyone actually does call her Nanny, she arrives at the home of mathematics teacher Professor Harold Everett (Richard Long) at exactly the right moment. A widower, he’s having a tough time raising his three kids, Harold “Hal” Everett Jr. (David Doremus), Bentley “Butch” Everett (Trent Lehman) and Prudence Everett (Kim Richards, who would, of course, grow up to become a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills).

Moving in with the family, Nanny gets everyone on the right path, with the narrative suggesting that she’s working a bit of magic — though that’s never specifically spelled out.

“The character appealed to me,” explains actress Juliet Mills, “as did the idea of the magical nanny talking to animals and knowing when there’s somebody coming to the door; all of that ESP stuff. At the same time, I don’t think the network wanted it to be a genie in the bottle like I Dream of Jeannie or all that magic like Bewitched. I think they wanted it really to be more of a sense of knowing about things before they happen, but that’s it.”

Magical or not?

Juliet Mills
Juliet Mills as Nanny in Nanny and the Professor, 1970©20th Television/courtesy

Back in 1969, in an interview with The Paducah Sun, Mills offered this view of the situation: “If you are one of those poor unfortunates who don’t believe in fairies, you’ll find a logical explanation for all her actions. But if you believe in fairies and such — as I most definitely do — you’ll consider Phoebe possesses real magic.”

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In December of that year she elaborated to the Berkeley Post-Herald, “She’s really not Mary Poppins at all. She does not fly around on umbrellas or do that sort of thing. I know very little about Mary Poppins. I didn’t see the film or read the book. But I understand Mary Poppins was really magic. Miss Figilily isn’t. She just feels that if you keep your eyes and ears open, almost anything is possible.”

Nanny and the Professor cast
L-R: Juliet Mills, Kim Richards, David Doremus, Lee Meriwether and Richard Long©20th Television/courtesy

Author Herbie J. Pilato, whose non-fiction books include Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Story and Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, concurs: “You never really knew what Nanny was. Samantha Stephens was a witch, Jeannie’s a genie. But what is this woman and exactly what kind of powers did she have? That confused people, yet when you’re a kid immersed in the world of fun television in the late ’60s/early ’70s, and you throw in that amazing theme song [more on that in a bit], it’s nothing but charm.”

Nanny and the Professor arrives

Juliet Mills and Richard Long
Juliet Mills as Nanny and Richard Long as The Professor©20th Television/courtesy

Nanny and the Professor made its debut on January 21, 1970 and ran until December 27, 1971 for a total of three seasons and 54 episodes. The ratings for the show’s first two seasons were strong, largely because it hit the perfect audience on Friday nights scheduled between The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. Unfortunately, in its third season ABC moved it up against Gunsmoke and Rowan & Marin’s Laugh-In on Monday nights, where its numbers plummeted.

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Author Ed Robertson, who is host of the podcast TV Confidential,, agrees that the time slot change hurt the show. “It was a gentle family comedy, kind of in the spirit of Family Affair,” he says, “and half the target audience was no longer able to watch in 1971. Just one of those network decisions that make you scratch your head.”

Cast of Mary Poppins
Dick Van Dyke as Bert, Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, Karen Dotrice as Jane Banks and Matthew Garber as Michael Banks in the Disney musical Mary Poppins, 1964. Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Self, the head of Fox television at the time, reflected to the Television Academy, “It was probably stolen from Mary Poppins, though credit for the show went to AJ Carothers and Thomas Miller. Juliet Mills was very, very good, but it was one of the shows that lands somewhere in the middle. You can’t have all Batmans and MASHes. I don’t mean to belittle it; it was a very serviceable show and did a good job for us.”

And it certainly did a good job for the audience that enjoyed it, particularly in terms of the cast brought together to bring the characters to life.

Juliet Mills as Nanny

The Mills Family
From left to right, English actor Sir John Mills (1908 – 2005), his wife Mary (1911 – 2005), and their children Juliet, Jonathan and Hayley, celebrating the New Year in America, December 31, 1970. In front of them is Sean Alquist, Juliet’s sonCyril Maitland/Daily Express/Getty Images

Born November 21, 1941 in London, Juliet’s was a showbiz family, her father, mother and sister (The Parent Trap‘s Hayley) all actors, while her brother is a director. At the age of 20 she won a Tony Award for her part in Five Fingers Exercise, before being cast in a variety of films and episodic television series both before and after Nanny and the Professor.

The character she actually played more than any other was as Tabitha Lennox on the daytime soap opera Passions. Appearing in 990 episodes between 1999 and 2008, unlike Nanny there was no question that Tabitha had powers and was a witch. In recent years she’s been on UK tours in the plays The Lady Vanishes (2019) and Darker Shores (2022).

Maxwell Caulfield and Juliet Mills
Married actors Maxwell Caulfield and Juliet Mills, in 1982 at the premiere of Grease 2 and 2023 at the premiere of Grease: Rise of the Pink LadiesGetty Images (2)

Juliet Mills has been married three times, her third husband being actor Maxwell Caulfield, the two of them saying “I do” in 1980 and still together, very much in love. The secret of their marital success? She offers, “If you’re lucky enough to meet your soulmate and have a lot in common and are prepared to work at it when times get tough, and you’d really rather be with that person more than any other person to share everything, whether it’s good times or bad times — in other words, sunrise to sunset — that’s pretty much the test, I’d say.”

Richard Long as The Professor

Cast of The Big Valley
(Original Caption) Group shot of the cast of the ABC Western, The Big Valley. From top right (clockwise): Lee Majors, Linda Evans, Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, and Peter Breck.Getty Images

Actor Richard Long, born December 17, 1927 in Chicago, took on the part of Professor Harold Everett. While performing in a college production he was discovered by a casting director from Universal Pictures. He would first appear on film in 1946’s Tomorrow is Forever, with a number of different projects to follow in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly the film series Ma and Pa Kettle. He was a mainstay on television, with regular roles on 77 Sunset Strip and its spinoff, Bourbon Street Beat. From 1965 to 1969 he starred in The Big Valley alongside Lee Majors and Barbara Stanwyck.

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Robertson believes that Long’s role on Nanny and the Professor was a solid one for him. “As I understand it,” he says, “it got to show a lot more of his personality in that he was very dry and droll and very, very funny off camera — which you did not get in what you saw of him from other shows. On top of that, he and Juliet Mills had a really nice chemistry to the extent you got a sense of a romance between the two of them. Perhaps had the show gone beyond two-and-a-half years, it was something that would have been explored a little more overtly.”

Nanny and the Professor
Nanny and the Professor promotional art from 1970©20th Televison/courtesy

Not exploring the romantic angle between Long and Mills’ character was a mistake, according to the actress. “I believe that’s really another reason the show ended when it did,” she states, “because people expected Nanny and the Professor to start having a little romance. Anything that was there was never in the script, it was between Richard and me. It was also obvious that they really liked each other and had a lot in common as far as humor and everything. And with the kids, it was like a husband and wife looking after them in a way, so it was a natural progression that wasn’t allowed by the network.”

Following the conclusion of Nanny and the Professor, in 1973 Richard Long starred in the sitcom Thicker Than Water, co-starring Julie Harris and based on the UK series Nearest and Dearest, which only lasted nine episodes. A year later, his final roles would be in the TV movies The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped and Death Cruise.

Julie Harris and Richard Long
Julie Harris and Richard Harris in Thicker Than Water©1973 ABC/courtesy

Married twice with three children, Richard Long died on December 21, 1974 at age 47 of a heart attack, his heart having been weakened by a serious case of pneumonia as a child.

The Nanny Bunch

The kids of Nanny and the Professor
Child actors (left to right) Trent Lehman (1961 – 1982), David Doremus and Kim Richards in a promotional portrait for the sitcom Nanny And The Professor, circa 1970 Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The three kids making up the Everett children were Dave Doremus, Trent Lehman as Butch and Kim Richard as Prudence. David was born on December 23, 1957. After Nanny and the Professor he spent five years as George G.W. Haines, the boyfriend of Mary Ellen Walton, on The Waltons. In 1980, he shifted over to mobile electronics and never looked back.

Born February 23, 1961, Trent’s post-Nanny career did not fare well, and that coupled with his personal life falling apart around him, resulted in his taking his own life by hanging in 1982.

Kim, born on September 19, 1964, would go on to appear in several Disney movies (Escape to Witch Mountain being one of them) and television series in recurring roles (including Here We Go Again and James at 15 / 16). In adulthood, she’s struggled with sobriety — which viewers witnessed as she was a cast member of reality series The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills along side her sister Kyle Richards — but currently seems to have come out the other side. She’s a grandmother.

Nanny and the Professor Theme Song

Ah, the 1960s and 1970s were a time of the best TV theme songs, and Nanny and the Professor was no exception, with a wonderful tune written and performed by The Addrisi Brothers.

Why Didn’t Nanny and the Professor Continue?

Nanny and the Professor cast
Poster ad for Nanny and the Professor in 1971©20th Television/IMDb

Ratings were certainly a major reason for ending Nanny and the Professor, but beyond that, television was changing and it seemed that ABC was ready to move on from this type of programming. Opines Herbie J. Pilato, “By the time of Nanny, Elizabeth Montgomery was kind of done with Bewitched and ABC might have been looking for something to take its place. But then, it’s like, ‘Okay, wait a minute: All in the Family is on, nobody cares about Petticoat Junction anymore, and everything just starts getting canceled.”

Check out more 1970s nostalgic stories, or keep reading…

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