The Nanny and the Professor

Contributed by
Mar 13, 2008

I recently got an invite to use the beta release of Hulu, an online video streaming service that is now open to the public. It has some nice features; the video quality is excellent (let's face it, YouTube videos are really awful), but it sticks commercials in the videos and they cannot be skipped or muted (except by muting your computer audio). I understand why they do this, but ick. It's not much different than simply watching TV on your computer, except, of course, it's an On Demand service.

So when I was fooling with it a couple of weeks go, I searched for anything related to astronomy, and got precisely one hit: an episode of the TV show The Nanny and The Professor, a sitcom from early 1970. I watched this show when I was a wee lad, but had completely forgotten about it. A professor hires a British nanny to watch his kids, and it turns out she has some subtle magic powers. You can always tell when she uses them because the soundtrack plays a little riff, and then there is canned laughter.

Anyway, there is an episode about astronomy, and I have to admit, for a lily-white 1970 TV show it was pretty good, though of course saccharine sweet.

I was impressed by the portrayal of the father (who is supportive), the way astronomy was used -- almost entirely correctly, though there is some confusion over a solar and lunar eclipse, as well as what a comet looks like -- and especially over the goofy astronomer who is actually seen as kindly and supportive as well. He has a great line when he encourages a boy to pursue astronomy: "You won't become rich, but you'll live with such beauty. "

Sounds familiar, right? Actually, he may look familiar too: the actor is Sam Jaffe, who played Professor Barnhardt in "The Day The Earth Stood Still". Or you might recognize him from "Battle Beyond the Stars". No? Well, that's probably OK as well; I try to block my memory of that movie as well.

Anyway, if you have an extra half hour sometime, you might enjoy this episode. But keep some insulin handy.

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