Beverly Hills Nannies debuts tonight on ABC Family at 9 p.m. Eastern.
ABC Family has become so much of a go-to destination for family-friendly original dramatic and comedic programming over the past half-decade that viewers may not even remember the last time they had an original reality show in their line-up, but thanks to the wonder of Wikipedia, it’s remarkably easy to reminisce about such non-classic series as Knock First, Brat Camp, and Las Vegas Garden of Love. For those who still mourn the loss of the network’s reality-TV presence, however, the time to rejoice is nigh, thanks to a new but in no way original series called Beverly Hills Nannies, which—you will possibly not be shocked to learn—revolves around the day-to-day activities of a number of nannies based in Beverly Hills.
In the series’ inaugural episode, viewers are introduced to a veritable plethora of nannies, starting with Kristin, a young woman who not only has the only celebrity employer of the bunch (Cindy Margolis) but is also a major player in her field. She’s so well-respected in the world of Beverly Hills nannies, in fact, that she’s decided to start her own agency, a plotline that will clearly drive the majority of the season. (Ugh, I feel dirty even using the word “plotline” in the context of something that’s ostensibly supposed to be reality. It’s not like I go around referring to the pieces I write for this site as being part of my A.V. Club plotline…I mean, as far as you know, anyway.)
For approximately the first third of the episode, it looks like the focus is only going to be on a handful of nannies: Kristin, Justin, Lucy, and Amanda, each of whom comes across as capable rather than ditzy, which is generally how one prefers a nanny to be. You never know what to expect from reality shows—the producers could have just as easily picked some really crappy nannies just so they could make fun of how awful they were—but given the track record of shows like Supernanny and Nanny 911, it’s not entirely surprising that the parents are the ones who tend to come off looking ridiculous more often than not. Similarly, it’s probably no coincidence that the only celebrity on the show is the one who comes across as the most level-headed parent of the bunch. Although just about every nanny admits to having worked for high-profile parents in the past, it’s always using very general phrases like “I’ve worked for celebrities, rock stars, you name it,” where the closest thing to name-dropping is the vague suggestion that “one of them is pretty dreamy.”
Justin’s got it pretty bad with his employer, whose greatest annoyance seems to be that he’s not willing to give her a foot massage, so it’s kind of amusing to watch the interaction between Justin and Lucy when he learns that she’s pulling twice what he makes per hour, not to mention full benefits and the use of a car. On the other hand, Lucy seems to be a sweetheart who’s good at what she does and could really use the job she’s found, so it’s easy to root for her success. Amanda, meanwhile, seems like she’s potentially got the stuff to make a good nanny, but she’s portrayed as a quitter who’ll bail on a gig if it looks like it might be too hard to adapt her own sensibilities to the family.
As the show lurches into its second third, we’re introduced to Ari, one of Kristin’s former employers who’s looking for a new nanny. Even though she admits to the woman’s eccentricities, Kristin nonetheless offers up three of her friends, assuring them that Ari’s “crazy, but she pays well.” Amanda is one of these three, as are Amber and Shayla, and we’re treated to a display of Ari’s weirdness, which is really more bitchiness than anything else. When she finally makes her decision, it’s one that Kristin is convinced is based on appearance, figuring that she chose the nanny least likely to be attractive to her husband.
The last third of the episode is devoted to Kristin throwing a Nanny Party—her choice of phrase, not mine—to introduce her fellow nannies to the idea of her planned agency. This gives the show the opportunity to bring back everyone we’ve met thus far while also allowing for the introduction of several others. First and foremost, there’s Maggie, a childhood friend of Kristin who’s been invited to the function seemingly more out of a sense of obligation than anything else, since Kristin spends most of the time telling Maggie what a lush she is and how unsure she is that she’s up to the task of being a nanny in Beverly Hills. In return, Maggie continues to drink throughout the proceedings, showing signs of possible alcoholism with her excuse that she kept tossing back mimosas because she needed them to keep up with all the storytelling going on by the other nannies. Others introduced during the party include Scott, Shaun, and Kristina, who are onscreen for so little time that you will likely only remember them as “the Australian dude,” “the gay guy who the women think is straight,” and “that other girl.”
As noted, Beverly Hills Nannies is a far cry from original, and it’s certainly not going to help ABC Family make its mark in reality TV, but it’s not bad. That’s about the highest praise warranted, though. It’s not as controversial as one of Housewives shows, it’s not as uplifting as the other nanny-centric shows, and by landing somewhere between the two, it’s just… okay. No more, no less.