'The Nanny' girls, grown up and behaving badly on cable

Nanny_lI’m liking Showtime’s Californication a lot more than I thought I would. I mean, what could be less interesting to watch than a writer who can’t write? Plus, the whole premise — divorced Dad with adolescent kid finds that, despite his lack of money, prospects, and self-esteem, he can bed pretty much any woman he wants (and premium cable can show as many of them topless as it wants) except for the ex-wife he still pines for — reminded me too much of HBO’s old nudge-nudge-wink-wink sitcom Dream On, only without the light tone or the gimmicky use of archival TV clips as commentary. Still, David Duchovny is giving a typically sly and subtle performance as walking midlife crisis Hank Moody, and the show does a good job depicting several varieties of neurotic male behavior. In fact, the only thing that really disturbs me about Californication is seeing Madeline Zima naked.

You may remember Zima (pictured, bottom right) as little Gracie, the youngest of the three children on CBS’ The Nanny (1993-99). Or from an even earlier role, a cherubic moppet with another unlikely nanny in the 1992 thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. I met and interviewed Zima when she was promoting that film; she was six, but was one of those eerily precocious child actors who seem more like little adults in person. She was just 13 when The Nanny went off the air, and in the eight years since, I’ve hardly seen her in anything except the occasional TV guest spot. So it was jarring to see the 21-year-old Zima in last month’s Californication pilot, naked and writhing atop Duchovny. The jolt could have come from seeing her as an adult after eight years of low-profile work; I watched Drew Barrymore and Jodie Foster go from child actresses to adults who do nude scenes, but their transitions seemed less abrupt because they had documented virtually every stage of their adolescences onscreen, without lengthy absences. Or it could have come from watching her slug Duchovny’s Hank in the face during sex. (Zima’s Mia is a creepy siren who beds and belts Hank before telling him that she’s only 16 and is also the daughter of Hank’s ex’s new fiancé, making her the future stepsister to Hank’s 12-year-old daughter.) Either way, I was not prepared (Cue Aunt Sassy: I don’t need to see that!). At least in subsequent episodes she’s been clothed, albeit in such middle-aged-guy fantasy-fueling outfits as a bikini or a girls’-school uniform.

Meanwhile, Nicholle Tom (pictured, upper right), who played Zima’s big sister Maggie on The Nanny, also has her first noteworthy adult role on a risqué cable show; on IFC’s The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, she plays Jackie’s hard-partying pal Tara. But Tara’s misadventures are more broadly comical than Mia’s, and as far as I know, Tom hasn’t had to go topless yet. Don’t know whatever became of Benjamin Salisbury, the actor who played middle child Brighton on The Nanny, but I imagine he’s somewhere in front of a TV with Fran Drescher, trying to keep her from having a stroke upon watching Gracie and Maggie’s grown-up misbehavior.


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  • Adam

    I’m pretty sure Benjamin Salisbury was in a dominos commercial a year or so ago

  • Ross Tipo

    GARY SUSMAN I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN
    When i saw the Californication pilot the night it premiered, it said Madeline Zima in the credits and i got to thinking about where that name has crept up on me before, and then i remember the little daugher from The Nanny, so i was like “oooooh so i suppose she’ll be playing a student or assisstant of his or something”, and then we see them boobies a-hangin’, my jaw dropped. Like it was a horrifying sight to see this old duchovny doing little Gracie on cable tv. Its almost as disgusting as all of alec baldwin’s recent films in which he wines and dines young hollywood starlets.
    I love duchovny, but Gracie’s boobies are gonna take a long time to get used to

  • Ross Tipo

    ps i love the Comeback reference

  • Tyre

    She was also in Hilary Duff’s “A Cinderella Story”…I think that’s the name of the movie. And DON’T ask me how I know this…:)

  • aa

    isn’t lauren tom also the voice of amy on futurama?

  • Jakeem

    Yes Lauren Tom voices Amy, but it was Nicholle Tom who was a regular in “The Nanny.”

  • Nix

    Benjamin Salisbury is doing Dominos commercials. Frankly I’d rather have sex with David Duchovny. You all saw those ancient pix, you know he’s good for it.

  • Jakeem

    By the way, this seems to happen all the time. One minute they’re talented teens or tweeners (i.e. Jennifer Connelly, Jessica Alba, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl). The next thing you know, they’re on the cover of Maxim magazine!

  • Blue4U1980

    are we forgetting Keisha Knight Pulliam? (little Rudy Huxtable) talk about shocking! (Raven Simon is probably PISSED that she didn’t turn out NEARLY as hot!)

  • Laurie

    Have you visited the Zima Sisters Homepage? It’s very poorly put together but you can find out that each sister is only one degree away from Kevin Bacon!

  • Emma

    I just really wanted to say thank you for the Aunt Sassy reference.

  • DCBronxGuy

    Benjamin Salisbury was in a Domino’s commercial playing a deliveryperson promoting their Fudgems dessert.

  • step

    Too bad Madeline Zima is the worst part of Californication. I like the rest of the show just fine, but anytime Mia is on screen I tune out. Grating, stiffly portrayed, and honestly, just a terrible character.

  • J.

    Ben Salisbury is happy being a working actor. If you go Universal Studios Hollywood, you also may see him conducting one of the tram tours. He just does it between commericals. He’s married, seems happy, and very appraoachable. I, uh, don’t think he’ll be doing any nude scenes, though…

  • c

    Benjamin Salisbury was actually 2 years behind me in college. I semi-remember a particularly stellar house party where a friend and I triumphed over him in foosball. And then I guess straight to Fudgems.

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