It turned the Upper East Side on its head in ways that it had never been before, at least not since The Nanny Diaries during the previous decade. Like its troublemaking predecessor, Wednesday Martin’s 2015 memoir, Primates of Park Avenue, is finally set to take to the small screen to air some of the neighborhood’s rumored dirty little secrets.
For anyone unfamiliar, The Nanny Diaries centered around the life of an Upper East Side nanny. The movie version starred Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti as the parents of the emotionally neglected child named Grayer along with Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans in their pre-Avenger days as the nanny and the nanny’s love interest, respectively. Johansson’s character satirically chronicles her newfound nannydom and the hands-off (and often disinterested) parenting approach that pervades her new Upper East Side life, both the opposite of her New Jersey suburban upbringing at the steady hand of her mother, a hard-working, middle-class nurse played by Broadway legend and Gossip Girl’s Donna Murphy.
Primates of Park Avenue also exaggerates the quirks of the Upper East Side and leans into the misconception that only appearances matter on this side of Central Park. As Deadline reported, “the book examines the competitive, privileged world of motherhood on the Upper East Side of New York. But the pop culture meets anthropological study of wealth, parenting, gender inequality and female sexuality went beyond its neighborhood boundaries, striking nerves and launching global media coverage with its themes of excess, wealth and maternal anxiety in a pre-pandemic world.”
In 2018, Hollywood Reporter announced that Lionsgate TV planned to turn the book into a half-hour scripted comedy series with Martin co-writing the pilot. But the project stalled. However, Deadline has now announced that MGM TV optioned the memoir. “Emmy-nominated writer Yahlin Chang (The Handmaid’s Tale) [is] set to pen the series adaptation. Former MGM film boss Jonathan Glickman will executive produce via his Glickmania Productions, along with Martin.”
Of course, neither Nanny Diaries nor Primates of Park Avenue is representative of all UES life. But it is not surprising that both were met with some backlash (with Primates creating the bigger stir). It caught the ire of the New York Post, prompting the publication to fact check Martin. The Post’s investigation “found holes big enough to drive an Escalade through” and even dug into Martin’s real estate records to drive that Escalade home.
The New York Times called it a “conventional memoir with a gimmick,” instead of a tell-all. Vanity Fair went right to the “primates” themselves, the real Upper East Side women that Martin took on. The consensus? A “caricature” and “figurative eye-roll.”
The new series is poised to reignite some fact or fiction debate about the realities of Upper East Side life. It hasn’t yet been announced where and when it will air … but it should make for some great television.