Sylvia is Fran Fine's mother, and was always after her daughter to get married, when Fran wasn't pressuring herself to get married. She, along with her mother, Yetta Rosenberg, couldn't believe how fortunate Fran was to find a job as a nanny for a rich Broadway producer, so soon after being fired from her job at a bridal shop. Sylvia was married to Fran's father, Morty (eventually played in the last episodes by singer Steve Lawrence) for many years, and theirs was a typical marriage. Besides Fran, she had an older daughter, Nadine Fine, who married Barry Cooperman, an air-conditioner repair man.
Although Fran wasn't married to Maxwell Sheffield, yet, she bonded well with his three children. In fact, she met all of them in one fell swoop when they were stranded in Fran's old neighborhood, during a blizzard. Before that, she had only met Grace Sheffield (Gracie) when Gracie ran away to Flushing to find Fran on her day off.
She made it a point to go over to the Sheffield house quite frequently, and she would usually partake of the stocked refrigerator. She was known for her constant and voracious eating. Though Sylvia ate a lot of the time, she was also involved in a canasta league, which allowed for her to bond somewhat, with Brighton Sheffield, during the short time that he was on the team.
When Fran finally married Maxwell, she was overjoyed. So much so, that she shot a glare at anyone who dared to speak against it. Basically everyone held their peace, most especially C.C. Babcock and Maxwell's sister, Jocelyn Sheffield.
Sylvia is considered to be a typical Jewish mother, offering over-bearing guidance, most often eating, and always trying to maintain an important and prevalent role in her daughter's life.
- Sylvia's weight is a much talked about subject in "The Nanny". In flashbacks and old videos, Sylvia is shown to be a curvaesous, good sized woman. Her wedding dress was a supposed size six. In one conversation, Fran was speaking of her mother's weight, stating, "When I turned eighteen, so did she", stating that Sylvia turned a size 18 the same year Fran turned eighteen years old. In the last season(s) of the show, Sylvia goes on a diet, but remains a full-figured woman in the finale, proven when she sees her grandson Jonah and states, "I could just eat you up!", to which Fran tells Maxwell, "Get him away from my mother".
- Like most of the characters in The Nanny. Fran Drescher's real-life mother is named Sylvia; her father is really named Morty; and she has a real-life Yetta. All had met the performers playing them, and liked their performances.
- Sylvia Fine is also the name of a Peabody Award-winning songwriter, who was married to actor Danny Kaye.
- As the Italian dub of The Nanny was altered to hide the Jewish origins of Fran, Sylvia became Aunt Assunta, an Italian immigrant, related to Francesca and offering temporary shelter and a maternal guidance to her niece.
- Actor Joseph Bologna appeared twice on The Nanny, once as the bully producer Alan Beck in "The Gym Teacher", and as "Dr. Joe Razzo", the man who steals Sylvia's heart in the episode "Ma'ternal Affairs". He is also the real life husband of Renee Taylor (Sylvia Fine).