What are we to do with Phoebe Figalilly in the grand scheme of all things Crossover? For those long in the cerebral tooth, they'll remember her as the main character in 'Nanny And The Professor' back in 1970, who magically arrived Poppins-fresh to care for a widowed educator's three children.
It's over thirty years later, and Phoebe Figalilly has reappeared - on the other side of the country in the town of Harmony on the soap opera 'Passions'.
Here's the official recap of her first appearance from NBC:
Tabitha gleefully informs Endora that murder is in the air. After conjuring up "Nanny Phoebe," Tabitha heads over to see Mrs. Wallace, who is desperate to find Beth before she unknowingly has sex with her own father. As Edna prays for guidance and help, a horrified Tabitha finds herself stuck in place as angels descend upon her.
Meanwhile, the Phoebe doll, now animated to be a life-sized nanny to the baby, informed little Endora that she also had magic at her disposal. And playing in the background? The theme music from the original series.....
"Soft and sweet, wise and wonderful
Oooh, our mystical, magical Nanny"
Oooh, our mystical, magical Nanny"
But does that constitute an actual crossover?
After all those intervening years, Phoebe Figalilly has not aged a bit, but she has changed; the first stumbling block to the perfect crossover is the casting. Three decades ago, Phoebe was portrayed by Juliet Mills. It isn't so much that thirty years have marked their passing with Ms. Mills - as it has to us all! - when the character should not only appear ageless but nearly immortal.
The main problem is that Juliet Mills is already starring on 'Passions' as a witch named Tabitha Lenox who has gone over to the dark side.
So the Powers That Be did the next best thing in casting - they hired the daughter of Juliet Mills, Melissa Caulfield.
Obviously, due to the genetic contribution from her father Maxwell Caulfield, Ms. Caulfield is not a perfect clone of her mother as Phoebe. But as seen in a recent publicity photo from TV Guide, the likeness is striking. (The addition of the well-known wardrobe for Nanny Phoebe went a long way towards completing the illusion.)
As to the differences that are tell-tale between the two actresses who have assayed the role, 'Passions' head writer James Reilly has provided the splainin: the current incarnation of Phoebe Figalilly is due to magic. Baby Endora cast a spell which transformed her Nanny doll into Phoebe.
It could be that the spirit of the original Phoebe infuses this effigy, and thus any change in appearances can be chalked up to the material used to make this new doll, even to its stitching.
This is not to say the original Phoebe was an animated doll. But as they used to say in the 'Deputy Dawg' cartoons, "It's poz'ble; it's poz'ble."
There was always a mystery surrounding her origins in 'Nanny And The Professor'. We know Phoebe had family; her Aunt Henrietta (as played by the delightfully loopy Elsa Lanchester) practically became a regular on the series towards its finale.
We also met other relatives like her uncles Alfred and Horace and her aunts Agatha and Justine. (Uncle Alfred was played by Juliet Mills own father, Sir John Mills.)
And then there was her intended, Cholmondeley Featherstonehaugh, to whom she had been promised as a child.
(The planned marriage never went through, and I'm sure fans of the show hoped that one day Nanny would marry her Professor.)
The backstory to her engagement suggests that Phoebe did age, since she did have a childhood. But as to how long that might have taken is open to speculation. There was an episode in which the children thought Nanny had been born on April 18th, 1864, as they found an old passport with her picture in it and with that date of birth.
Nanny's explanation that she had an ancestor who looked like her didn't exactly play out, as the supposed ancestress was a Libra (which meant she was born in October).
Perhaps it was a different doll of that day being infused with the Phoebe phantom. And therefore maybe her whole family consisted of living dolls.
It might seem like a stretch, but when you factor in all of the strange occurrences surrounding Nanny which happened in the three seasons the show was on the air, it's no longer that hard to believe.
Such a thing as living dolls isn't unheard of in Toobworld. Setting aside the sitcom 'My Living Doll' (which was about an android), living dolls have appeared on 'Bewitched', 'The Twilight Zone', 'Tales From The Crypt', and of course, 'Passions' itself. The soap opera first became successful due mostly to Tabitha's sidekick Timmy (played by the late Josh Ryan Evans.)
In fact, one 'Passions' crossover I always hoped to see was a confrontation between Timmy and Talking Tina, as voiced by the great June Foray in the episode "" of 'The Twilight Zone'. (There's an idea for any 'Passions' fanfictioneers out there. Feel free to run with it.)
So based on that premise - that this is the same Nanny Phoebe in a new incarnation, and that the Figalilly Family are all homonculi - I can then accept this to be a legitimate crossover between 'Passions' and 'Nanny And The Professor'.
Hey, so long as there's a splainin, I'm easy!(Of course, this could all change due to the continuing storyline. I'll have to start reading one of those fannish recap sites to keep up on her storyline. Because there's no way I'd ever watch this show on a daily basis! Sorry, you Passionatas, but this soap opera is the master when it comes to taking forever to go nowhere.)
So let's raise our martimmy glasses and toast the Crossover Of The Week!