Mandel Maven's Nest Lilith Watch:
Jewish Women on TV
Critical Guide to Jewish Women on TV, in the Flicks and Pop Music
Jewish Women in (and Missing from) the Flicks
Jewish Women in Pop Music
To find specific reviews by Nora Lee Mandel search by title, scroll TV shows as listed by season since 1999, and films in alphabetical order of English title.
Unlike everybody else, I am very careful in my analyses of films and TV shows to identify Jewish characters through actual evidence in dialogue, actions or supporting visuals (like the ubiquitous menorah-on-the-shelf prop). I look at how the character is explicitly identified, but have had to expand to implications, particularly by a Jewish-type-sounding name, though I find that no one else makes these distinctions. But now I’ve expanded to what I call “putative Jews”.
I’ve started taking into account how the audience reacts to them based on external assumptions, particularly if Jewish actresses portray them, either as identified by general knowledge or perception of physical characteristics, particularly curly hair as Samantha Shokin described (Tablet Magazine 1/30/2014). In The Writers’ Room (on Sundance Channel, Spring 2014), Julianna Margulies, sporting her hair pulled back straight in a pony tail, explained why she wears a full wig as “Alicia Florick” on The Good Wife: “I wanted her to look WASPy, but I'm a Jew with curly hair and I was a new mom. . . The network now wants me to call other actresses and tell them this is a good thing not a bad thing.”
I also note personality or other stereotypes of the actor/actress’s Jewishness, however defined by ethnicity or observance or some kind of Jewish identity so that their characters implicitly become Jewish because they have been cast. (Such as “tough Jews”, as David Mamet calls them, at least for male portrayals, particularly when non-Jewish actors play Jews, though I intend to read and comment on his essays "The Jew for Export" and related ones on the impact of Hollywood’s anti-Semitism.) I am repulsed by using octoroon/Hitlerian family tree definitions of "being Jewish" for any actor/actress, but certainly there are people who Americans think “look Jewish”, though that usually means some general European ethnic-ness, that could just as easily be Mediterranean or Eastern European, which gets even more complicated by the portrayal of Israelis.
The true diversity of how Jews really look is rarely reflected, like my redhead, freckled siblings, where my brother can “pass” in Celtic bands. I am therefore just as intrigued if actors/actresses who are perceived/identified as Jewish get to play non-Jewish roles.
Natalie Portman linked the on and off screen issues just a day after she was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actress: From Racked: "As the face of Miss Dior Cherie [perfume, she] was widely expected to wear a Dior Couture gown on the red carpet at the Oscars Sunday night. Portman chose, instead, to wear Rodarte—designed by the Mulleavy sisters who made several of the actress's costumes in Black Swan. Today [3/1/2011], Portman issued a strong statement officially condemning [chief designer] John Galliano for the pro-Hitler statements he [was seen making in]. . .'I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.'"
While Portman’s dress was also awarded Best Dressed by Joan Rivers' Fashion Police on E! to the delight of her “Joan Rangers”, Rivers has also made pointed comments about gay designers and stylists (a significant share of her audience) being clueless about women’s bodies they dress and set beauty standards. On the SAG Awards 2013 show (I only watch the special editions), she wryly explained to the confused stylist George Kotsiopoulos the pencil measurement technique for how a girl is fitted for her first bra. (Ironicially, the show’s striking writers used Rivers’ catch phrases to press for union representation.) (updated 5/26/2014)
Why look at how Jewish women are portrayed on TV and in the movies? Others are documenting general or different specific images of women and the impact that has and the messages conveyed about women. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, does terrific research on the quantity, quality, and types of women in film and television.
Apply her analysis to how Jewish women are portrayed: Geena Davis summarized her findings about female roles in G-rated movies and children's TV programming in The Wall Street Journal, 4/11/2011, "Life Imitates Art" interview with Rebecca Blumenstein: "They found that the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she believes she has in life. And the more hours a boy watches, the more sexist his views become. . .Of the female characters that existed, the majority are highly stereotyped and/or hypersexualized. . . .Negative images can powerfully affect boys and girls, but positive images have the same kind of impact. We know that if girls can see characters doing unstereotyped kinds of occupations and activities, they're much more likely as an adult to pursue unusual and outside-the-box occupations."
For a feminist analysis of prime time TV, which takes into account racial but not ethnic minority women on TV. (updated 4/11/2011)
Why LilithWatch? Much of my thinking about the contemporary, post-"Molly Goldberg" image of Jewish women in popular culture was inspired by the archetypal "Lilith" on the long-running sitcoms Cheers/Frasier (played by Jewish actress Bebe Neuwirth). I used to do popular culture reviews examining how Jewish women are faring in television, rock 'n' roll etc. for LILITH Magazine, the national independent Jewish feminist quarterly.
Since the Lilith Fair women's concert tours 1997-1999 (and returning in 2010), the name “Lilith” has gotten associated even more with feminism, viz. the "Wichita Linebacker" episode of Veronica Mars, written by John Enbom and Phil Klemmer, which identified "Lilith House" as the locus for the stereotyped, protesting "militant feminists" at the fictional Hearst College.
Starting in the 3rd season of Supernatural, their Lilith was seen like a Super Demon whose death then was the Final Seal that brought on Armageddon at the end of the fourth season.)
In True Blood, in the 5th season, Lilith is worshipped (in Aramaic) as the First Human Vampyr, with her own Bible. Series creator Alan Ball, in an “Inside the Episode” interview after “In the Beginning”, describes that he conceived of her as “a Mesopotamian goddess” when she appears in a naked, then bloody vision to vampires (including Salome, yeah, that Salome) who drank what they believed was her blood. In the season finale by Ball, “Save Yourself”, a rebel vampire declares: She’s a mad god. She’s about nothing but destruction.-- just as her self-declared “Chosen One” drinks all her blood and reincarnates into a similar scary naked vision. The 6th season, in 2013, clarified this Lilith demonology. In “The Sun”, written by Angela Robinson, she appears in beautiful human form to him on “some spiritual plane” (as the writer explained in her “Inside the Episode” interview), albeit with three naked “blood sirens”, to correct misimpressions: God made me. Some worship me as a god, but there is no God but God., as she urges her Prophet to help vampires avoid a genocidal round-up he foresees in a sun-drowning crematorium. In “Fuck the Pain Away”, also by Robinson, sets Lilith’s first contact with human/fairies to 3500 B.C. At the naked Lilith’s first sight of “Warlow”: What are you. . God spoke to me of a creature like you. . You are destined to save vampire-kind. And she rapes and vamps him in the desert. Blended with her prophet today “she” declares: I made you into our savior!, though he is able to rid himself of her after a final image of her and her two minions blood-drenched bodies. (updated 9/1/2013)
My particular focus is on romantic relationships, as popular culture so rarely portrays Jews with Jews, let alone in a positive light.
Jewish Women on TV
I got tired of people always citing "Mrs. Seinfeld" to me as proof there are still Jewish women on TV, whether one considers a nagging elderly mother as a positive image or not. So I started covering leading characters who are Jewish women in Friends, Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Killer, Once and Again, Will and Grace (which I found too silly a show to keep monitoring even as she did end up back with her supposedly Jewish doctor husband), etc. My comments on The Nanny have been quoted in the catalog for the Jewish Museum exhibit Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting, edited by J. Hoberman and Jeffrey Shandler, published by Princeton University Press, in Shandler's essay "At Home on the Small Screen: Television's New York Jews", and then in Joyce Antler's excellent academic study You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother (Oxford University Press, 2007). No, I didn't write up Dharma and Greg where "Dharma Finkelstein" is Jewish only for the novelty of the name, like Whoopi Goldberg; Entertainment Weekly claimed that Jenna Elfman was specifically hired for the role because she didn't look Jewish.
Then with so few lead Jewish women characters, even the usual Dead Jewish Mothers, I turned to monitoring supporting roles, though I hadn't earlier covered the likes of the best friend on Mad About You, or the bat mitzvah of “Muffy” (played by Jami Gertz), where Devo performed, on Square Pegs (David Browne in The New York Times review of the DVD of the series on 7/13/2008 calls her “the proto-yuppie”). But then with so few of even those, I looked for recurring Jewish women characters. With so few of even those, I'm now looking at guest turns. While I don't watch many sitcoms, I do watch Law and Order to catch the Jewish Mother Murdering Matriarchs, fitting in with how executive producer Dick “Wolf maintains this consistency is by making most of the victims wealthy white people, which he believes viewers are more interested in watching. He limits the number of shows containing minority victims, including blacks and Muslims, to four or five episodes a season out of 22 to 24.” (per “Law and Disorder” by Rebecca Dana, The Wall Street Journal, 7/12/2008.) (I'm watching Law and Order: U.K., on BBC America, to see if the ethnic pattern from the adaptation of the U.S. scripts has been translated across The Pond.) (updated 11/8/2010)
With so few of those, I’m watching shows with Jewish male characters to see if they comment about their Jewish mothers or even date Jewish women, plus watching shows set in NYC to see if they ever have Jewish women characters, or shows in work settings like hospitals or law offices where in the real world it is common for Jews to be working. Like in NBC's Kings that though it was based on the Biblical book the closest it came to a Jewish woman was an odd "Sabbath Queen" as Death in a nightmare episode. So now, I'm also now looking at made-for-TV-movies, time permitting. With so few definitely Jewish women on TV, I’m even commenting on putative Jewish women, who I define as those with clearly Jewish-sounding names with implied Jewish-ness unless specifically denied, particularly if the audience is viewing them as Jewish, and also even characters pretending to be Jewish. (updated 3/22/2010)
I do detailed transcriptions, when I have time, of full dialogue and scene descriptions because I’m annoyed by the snarky or too casual inaccuracy in fan/entertainment publication recaps, particularly in reference to Yiddish expressions or religious rituals, that get widely disseminated as definitive, let alone are blithely prone to assumptions and acceptance of stereotyping. So I figure there should be one place on the Web that presents the facts and context about Jewish women characters, by TV season to monitor changes over time, which I mostly define by the Emmy Awards criteria, so now starts around June 1. (updated 3/28/2014)
I have not kept up 100% with sitcoms, most kids' shows, such as on Nick or Disney, “unscripted” reality shows (like ones that switched a Jewish mother to a gentile family) or the Jewish mothers on The Real Housewives of New York City/The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, NYC Prep, Russian Dolls, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelorette, My Antonio’s Jewish mother, "procedurals" (those fiction investigation series without continuing story or character arcs), or Family Guy, or Kyle Broslofski's Jewish mother satired on South Park, let alone Judge Judy. (updated 5/24/2014)
The Fosters – Emma in the 2nd season
2013/2014 Season - Jewish women characters were on: Black Box, Call the Midwife, Drop Dead Diva, Fargo, Foyle’s War, Genealogy Roadshow, Generation Cryo, The Mindy Project, New Girl, and Who Do You Think You Are?. Putative Jewish woman characters were on Elementary and Parks and Recreation.
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 2nd Season
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 7th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 5th season
The Fosters – Emma in the 1st season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 3rd Season
Glee - Rachel Berry etc. in the 5th season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 2nd season
House of Lies - Sarah in her 2nd season
Joan Rivers – everywhere
Magic City – Evans family, etc. in the final, 2nd season
NCIS - Ziva David in her final season
Princesses: Long Island – 1st and hopefully only Season
Prisoners of War (Hatufim) – 2nd Season
Strike Back – Rebecca Levy in her 2nd season
Transparent– Sarah, Ali, family and friends in the pilot
2012/2013 Season - Jewish women characters were on: Alphas, The Bible, The Big C, Blue Bloods, Bunheads, Children’s Hospital, Covert Affairs, a Lifetime movie, Mad Men, Major Crimes, The Mentalist, Raising Hope, Southland, Spies of Warsaw, Suits, Upstair Downstairs, and Weeds. A putative Jewish woman character was on Parks and Recreation.
American Horror Story: Asylum – “Anne Frank”
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 1st Season
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 6th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 4th Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 2nd Season
Glee - Rachel Berry and Sugar Motta in the 4th season
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 2nd season
House of Lies - Sarah in her 1st season
Inside Amy Schumer - 1st Season
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 3rd season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 8th season
Prisoners of War (Hatufim) – 1st Season
Ripper Street – Deborah Goren in the 1st Season
Shameless (U.K.) – Esther Blanco (plus)
Strike Back – Rebecca Levy in her 1st season
Underemployed – Raviva
2011/2012 Season - Jewish women characters were on Blue Bloods, Bored to Death, Castle, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Gossip Girl, Happily Divorced, Hawthorne, Mad Men, MI-5 (Spooks), Modern Family, NYC 22, Pan Am, Prime Suspect, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Southland, TNT’s Mystery Movies, and Who Do You Think You Are. Putative Jewish women characters were on The Good Wife, How To Make It In America, In Plain Sight and Lost Girl.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 5th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 3rd Season
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold in the 8th Season
Friday Night Dinner – Jackie Goodman in the 1st Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 1st Season
Glee - Rachel Berry and Sugar Motta in the 3rd season
Harry’s Law - Harriet Korn in the 2nd season
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 1st season
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 2nd season
Magic City – Evans family, etc. in the 1st season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 7th season
2010/2011 Season - Jewish women characters were on 100 Questions, Being Human (U.S.), Boardwalk Empire, Brothers & Sisters, Castle, Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy, Hung, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Nurse Jackie, Outcasts, Private Practice, and Upstairs Downstairs. I happened to catch a Jewish actress on the "make-over" show What Not To Wear. Putative Jewish women characters were on Californication, Hawthorne, Huge, and Mad Men.
18 To Life – Bellow Mother and Daughters
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 4th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 2nd Season
Being Erica – Erica Strange – 3rd season
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold in the 7th Season
Glee - Rachel Berry in the 2nd season
House, M.D. – Lisa Cuddy in the 7th season
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 1st season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 6th season
Skins (U.S.) – Tea Marvelli
2009/2010 Season - Jewish women characters were on Bored To Death, The Deep End, Fringe, The Good Wife, Leverage, Inspector Lewis, Mercy, Nip/Tuck, Private Practice, Psych, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Three Rivers, United States of Tara, Ugly Betty, and Who Do You Think You Are. Putative Jewish women characters were on Californication, Gray's Anatomy, Heroes, House, Party Down, and White Collar.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 3rd Season
Being Erica – Erica Strange – 2nd season
Community – Annie Edison in the 1st Season
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold in the 6th Season
Glee - Rachel Berry
House, M.D. – Lisa Cuddy in the 6th season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 5th season
Z Rock – Dina Malinsky, Joan Rivers and others in the 2nd season
2008/9 Season - Jewish women characters were on C.S.I., C.S.I.: NY, Diamonds mini-series, Eli Stone, Gossip Girl, Hallmark Hall of Fame, In Plain Sight, Nurse Jackie, Saving Grace, The Unit, and a Lifetime Movie of the Week. I happened to also catch a Jewish actress on the "make-over" show What Not To Wear. Putative Jewish women characters appeared in 90210, Californication, The Cleaner, Desperate Housewives, E.R., Gossip Girl, Hawthorne, Monk, and Sons of Anarchy.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 2nd Season
Being Erica – Erica Strange
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and others in the 5th season
House, M.D. – Lisa Cuddy in the 5th season
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 6th, final season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 4th season
Rescue Me – Valerie in her 2nd season
The Sarah Silverman Program in her 3rd season
The Starter Wife - Molly Kagan post-mini-series
Z Rock – Dina Malinsky, Joan Rivers and others
2007/8 Season- Jewish women were on The Cleaner, Eli Stone, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Lipstick Jungle, and House, M.D.. Putative Jewish women characters appeared in Big Shots, Californication, Cashmere Mafia, Canterbury’s Law, Desperate Housewives, Terminal City, and Ugly Betty.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 1st Season
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 5th season
Mad Men - Rachel Menken and Bobbie Barrett
Mandrake – Berta Bronstein
NCIS - Ziva David in her 3rd season
Nip/Tuck– Rachel Ben Natan
Pushing Daisies– Charlotte “Chuck” Charles
The Riches – the faux Cherien Rich in her 2nd season
The Sarah Silverman Program in her 2nd season
Weeds – Bubbe Botwin
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman in the 5th season
2006/7 Season- Jewish women characters also appeared on C.S.I., Desperate Housewives, E.R., Grey's Anatomy, House, M.D., John from Cincinnati, Justice, Numb3rs, The Nine, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Rome, Standoff, State of Mind, The State Within, Ugly Betty, The Unit and Waking the Dead.
Brothers & Sisters – Nora Holden
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and daughter Sarah in Season 3B and Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and daughter Sarah in Season 4
Heroes – Hana Gitelman
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 4th season
Mad Men - Rachel Menken
NCIS - Ziva David in her 2nd season
Rescue Me – Valerie in her 1st season and Beth Feinberg
The Riches – the faux Cherien Rich
The Sarah Silverman Program
Weeds - Yael Hoffman
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman in the 4th season
2005/6 Season - Jewish women characters also appeared on E.R., Girlfriends, Grey's Anatomy, Nip/Tuck, Sea of Souls and Veronica Mars
Beautiful People - Annabelle Banks
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and daughter Sarah in the 3rd Season
Everwood - Delia Brown in the 4th season
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 3rd Season
NCIS - Ziva David
Sopranos - Julianna Skiff
2004/5 Season Jewish women characters also appeared on Grey's Anatomy, Judging Amy, Law and Order, Nip/Tuck, Veronica Mars and Waking the Dead.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold
Joan of Arcadia
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 2nd Season
Numb3rs - The Late Mrs. Eppes
The O.C. - Rebecca Bloom and the Nana in the 2nd Season
Queer as Folk - Melanie Marcus in the 5th Season
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman in the 3rd season
2003/4 Season Jewish women characters also appeared on CSI, Judging Amy and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Anna
Gilmore Girls - Paris Geller
Joan of Arcadia
The L Word - Jenny Schecter
Line of Fire
Nip/Tuck - Mrs. Grubman
The O.C. - Anna Stern and the Nana
Rocked With Gina Gershon
Sex and the City - Charlotte Goldenblatt
Sopranos- Fran Felstein
Street Time - Rachel Goldstein
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Gilmore Girls - Paris Geller
Law and Order
Sex and the City - Charlotte York
Street Time - Rachel Goldstein
That Was Then
The Fosters – Emma in the 2nd season (on ABC Family)
I’m relieved that none of the idiot rich women employers on the satirical Devious Maids (on Lifetime) are Jewish, but the “Minding the Baby” episode, written by Gloria Calderon Kellett, stuck in a bitchy comment when two housewives bumped into each other: “Joan”: Not since the Stein bat mitzvah. Such an unfortunate looking girl. What a pretty venue. But, oh heck, in the 2nd season, the ex-Mossad agent “Tony Bishara” (played by Brit model Dominic Adams) is quite the eye candy. (8/12/2013)
On Maron, a semi-autobiographical comedy on IFC, comic/podcaster Marc Maron constantly whines about being Jewish. But when we’ve seen his mother “Toni” (played by Sally Kellerman), as in “The Mom Situation”, written by Luke Methany, there’s no reference nor evidence that she’s Jewish, though last season Judd Hirsch played his father “Larry”, just as he frequently on TV plays a Jewish father not married to a Jewish woman. (6/15/2014)
In Murdoch Mysteries (The Artful Detective) (Canadian series, set in 1890’s Toronto, shown a couple of years later in the U.S. on Ovation channel), “War on Terror” episode by Peter Mitchell, originally from 2012, featured a visit from the anarchist “Emma Goldman”. But while she was stressing she was against violence amidst the bombing investigation, there was not only zero reference to her ethnic background, Lisa Norton played her with a muddled accent that was closer to Irish than Yiddish. (5/12/2014)
Brookly Nine-Nine (on Fox) is yet another New York set sit com with a male Jewish character, “Detective Jake Peralta” (played by Andy Samberg), yet it took until the 17th episode for even a sort of mention of a Jewish woman, in “Full Boyle” written by Norm Hiscock and Gil Ozeri. As wing man on a double date, “Jake” is surprised by how much he has in common with “Bernice” (Amanda Lund), the woman he’s supposed to ignore in order to help his colleague with her friend: And this beautiful basketball-loving, Die Hard fan is tearing down my wall of my defenses! If we find out she is also half-Jewish, we’re doomed! All season, not even his memories of his bar mitzvah included any Jewish girls. (updated 5/1/2014)
On Awkward (MTV), “Karmic Relief”, written by Erin Ehrlich, the central character “Jenna Hamilton” (Ashley Rickards) is trying to convince her dad the $750 prom dress she wants will be re-worn on other occasions as well: Andbar-mitzvahs. He’s quizzical. Her mother (played by Nikki Deloach) tries to be helpful: The girl kind of bar mitzvahs? Dad walks away. Later, when she can’t unzip her new dress, she claims to the guy she thinks will be inviting her to prom that she is on her way to a bar mitzvah at 10 pm: It’s at midnight. That crazy kid turns 13 and just couldn’t wait. (12/16/2013)
On The Good Wife, “A Few Words” episode, written by Leonard Dick, the quirky recurring defense attorney “Elsbeth Tascioni” (played by Carrie Preston) is upset by a costumed furry bear in Times Square who agrees to a hug but keeps repeating: Dirty stinking Jew.. She warns other pedestrians Watch out for that bear – he’s anti-Semitic! and muttering I’m not a dirty stinking Jew. We certainly have never had any hint she’s even Jewish. (3/24/2014)
Elementary, the CBS version of “Sherlock Holmes”, had a gratuitous reference to a Jewish woman on the “All in the Family” episode written by Jason Tracey. This version of “Watson”, “Dr. Joan” (played by Queens native Lucy Liu), figures out, based on zero evidence, that the victim’s nickname of “Mutt” is the Italian gangster’s reference to his mixed parentage: His mother was from Israel. In the Jewish faith, the dead are supposed to be buried as quickly as possible. “Sherlock” (played by Jonny Lee Miller) muses that the killer was an avenging angel.
In the “Hound of the Cancer Cells” episode written by Bob Goodman, “Dalit Zirin” (played by Shiri Appleby) admits she was lying to “Sherlock Holmes” queries: I’m not a travel agent. I’m Mossad. . . .The part about me and Barry [Granger, played by Jason Danieley] meeting in college was true, Columbia. Barry was pre-med. I was computer science.. “Holmes” for some reason asks: Your citizenship? She: Dual. I was raised here, but my parents are Israeli. . I’m here because I care about Barry. He was my friend and because you left me very little choice. . . Barry and I were in a relationship when I was first recruited, but I told him no, he was asking me to break multiple laws. When I heard what happened to Barry I felt terrible about turning him away. So after his death, she breaks those laws to get the information to “Holmes”, though “Watson” is suspicious. (4/15/2014)
On The Mindy Project (on NBC), in the “An Officer and a Gynecologist” episode written by Jack Burditt and Lang Fisher, who I think are the sitcom’s first Jewish women are briefly seen at a shabbos dinner looking quizzically at “Dr. Danny Castellano” (played by Chris Messina) awkwardly pretending to be the Jewish “Dr. Schulman”. The rebbitzen “Dora Adler” (played by Suzanne Ford), flanked by her adult daughters, asks Is there a Mrs. Shulman?. “Peter Prentice” (played by Adam Pally) distracts her by pretending to be more observant than his secular upbringing by pouring on compliments about her cooking and good looks. She kvells: What a charmer! They are all shocked when the lies are exposed, but the father “Rabbi David Adler” (played by Peter MacNichol with a beard so fake that, as “Mindy” says makes him look like a Civil War general) later shrugs: My family will be telling the story for years of the goy and the Jew with the baggy shmekel. (5/18/2014)
On Black Box (on ABC), the “Jerusalem” episode, written by Oanh Ly and series creator Amy Holden-Jones, seemed to reflect the attitudes towards Jews of co-producer Ilene Chaiken from her other works. A rich Jewish board member of the psychiatric facility “Jacob Myers” (played by Michael Kostroff) is brought in from his penthouse for evaluation by his wife “Tracey” (played by Susan Pourfar), complaining he’s been spouting Biblical verses: This morning he gave away millions and our house. . .He’s bonkers! We’ve always been bad Jews. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been to temple. All of a sudden. . . .Ever since we came back from vacation. Her husband interrupts: It was not a vacation.! It was aliyah to Israel. She continues: We went shopping in Tel Aviv, swam in the Dead Sea, spa treatment. It was wonderful. Then we went to the Wailing Wall. . .he was on his knees. . It was very scary actually. He smiles beatifically: The closest to heaven I ever felt. The diagnoses “Jerusalem Syndrome”, but the wife is unconvinced: Something is wrong. It makes no sense. Jacob always rebelled against his parents’ religion. Doctor: Are his parents Orthodox? Wife: Oh yes, hard core. The doctor claims there’s a specific gene for religiosity. Maybe your trip to Jerusalem triggered something in him that was already there. The wife: I always knew his parents wld ruin our marriage. She challenges the diagnosis that everyting is fine and gets really angry as he keeps davenning: That’s awful! There’s nthing you can fix? Look at him! Is that man sane? I have nowhere to go! He gave away our house! This is not what I signed up for! You were supposed to take care of me! Not me you! I gave up my career because of you! I can’t even get groceries! How is that sane! Jacob, if you ever loved me, stop! Stop! Stop! The doctor finally recognizes his condition as correctable epileptic psychosis, and the wife tearfully convinces him to take the medication, though it means he will no longer hear God. Later in his hospital room, she kisses his head as he’s busy texting and fighting a hostile take-over. The happy wife: Hear that? I have my baby back! As it turns out, we still have a home. Our lawyer says if you’re psychotic and you give away everything you own, it doesn’t count!. . .We’re thinking what this place needs is a donor wall. . . “For more details see your local priest or rabbi.” The doctor promotes that he should go forth and make money for charity: If you wander the world with a begging bowl, who would that benefit? The wife blows a kiss to the hunky doctor with a grin: Nobody! (6/23/2014)
Call the Midwife (on PBS, out on DVD) had the familiar Masterpiece Theatre Jewish women as Holocaust survivors in 1950’s London, in Season 3, Episode 4, written by Gabbie Asher and Heidi Thomas. While the Jewish characters are not recalled in the memoirs by Jennifer Worth, subtitled A True Story of the East End in the 1950s, that are the primary basis for the series, the producers have also drawn on interviews with other midwives from that period.
Pregnant ”Leah Moss” (played by Orion Ben) comes in for a check-up with a midwives, but leaves quickly to return to care for her mother despite symptoms that portend a difficult birth. Her mother “Mrs. Sarahla Rubin” (played by Beverley Klein) is down on the floor: I’m sorry I was so long. I was waiting and waiting. Not again! We’ll wait until it passes. Her husband “Charlie” (played by Ilan Goodman) comes home with: herring and schmaltz and cream cheese I know you’ve been craving these. And news about the deli manager: is moving to Israel and the deli has an apartment and a garden for the little one. It’s our chance to get out of the East End. “Leah”: What about my mother? “Charlie”: Take her to a doctor, Leah! She: I won’t even discuss it, Charlie! He: It’s 12 years since she left this flat! “Leah”: You think I don’t feel as trapped as she is? Do you think I want to be stuck here? Imprisoned in this house of ghosts? He: Talk to her Leah, talk to her. The midwife and nun come to check up on “Leah”: Sorry, I had to come home. My mother doesn’t like being left alone for too long. Mother: That’s my fault. I make work for her. “Leah” She has attacks. . .Dizzy spells. Mama assures she won’t fall: It’s gornishe, nothing. . .I don’t go outside, so that will not happen. . . The attacks they come and they go. . . As mother and daughter hold hands, “Leah”: There’s no need for doctor. She just needs peace and quiet. Mother: Peace and quiet I get at home.. She sets the the Shabbat dinner table and assures the midwife: Don’t worry Sister, I do all the housework today. Not only is it our Shabbos soon, it is also the Festival of Shavuot. . . .The day I make cheesecake! . . A recipe from. . . (I couldn’t catch the reference.) As the nun prattles on about the Book of Ruth, the mother has an attack and falls to the floor. “Leah” warns against calling a doctor, but the nun insists: I’m going to call the doctor, for your mother’s sake and for your baby’s. The doctor asks for descriptions of her physical symptoms, but “Leah” finally describes her other history: She hasn’t set foot outside this flat for 12 years. . . .Please don’t take her away. I know she’s lost her mind, but I know I can look after her. . . During the war, Mother and I were in a Nazi ghetto. A miracle happened, and we escaped. We lived in a cellar until it was safe. When we returned home, our families and friends were gone. Soon after we moved to London and these attacks start. You see now? But the doctor takes an unusual approach to a survivor: I’m not going to take your mother anywhere. You’ve lost enough. She’s lost enough. But we need to get to the bottom of what ails her. “Leah”: I told you it’s her mind that ails her. Doctor: Not necessarily. It’s possible that we may be looking at a form of vertigo, something called Ménière's Disease. It’s a problem with the inner ear. . . And there are medications we can try. A fear of leaving home is common with Ménière's sufferers. It may be that everyting’s related. “Leah”: So if you treat her ear she’ll be able to go outside? Doctor: There’s every reason for optimism. “Leah”: After 12 years I can hardly believe it. Her mother, too, is quite surprised: A problem with my ear? And it can be mended? “Leah”: The doctor believes so. It means you can leave the house, Mama. It means you don’t need to be scared anymore. As they sit down to Shabbat dinner, the couple tells mama the news about the shop. “Leah”: We’ve been talking of leaving for the north west London. . .There’s a shop in Golders Green. “Charlie”: And there’s a flat, with room for all of us! Nervous mother: I see, so much news you give me, and all in one evening. Today is Shabbos. On Sunday we start packing. The women cover their heads and “Leah” lights the Shabbat candles. Mama lies awake at night, as the couple happily discuss their plans for the future. The next day the nun comes to help get Mama out of the house, with a long-winded farm story. Mama: You think I’m an altacatcher. You think I don’t know what you’re doing? Coming into my house and calling me a horse! The nun changes tactics: How about this story? It’s about heroine called Sarahla Rubin who fought and beat the most evil humans in human history and who saved her daughter’s life. Mother: Who left her family and friends behind? Some heroine! Nun: Listen to me - you are a warrior, Mrs. Rubin! You can fight this! Take my arm! Take it! They get to the door but the mother panics and staggers back. But “Leah” goes into her difficult labor, and mother and nun have to manage on their own to birth a baby girl. “Leah” coos: Hello, I’m your mummy! Her mother: She looks like you! They all bond, and the mother later proudly tells the nun: They named her yesterday at the synsagouge – Elizabeth. She touches an old family photo, opens the door, touches the mezuzah, goes out on the balcony, calls down to “Leah”: What you want to bring the baby out in that thin shmatta? She’ll catch pneumonia. She goes down the stairs and out into the street, with “Leah” in tears at seeing her outside. Her mother grins and looks all around, first at the baby and Leah, breathes deeply, and goes up to the midwife whose boyfriend just died: Just the person I was coming to see. I heard about your loss. We wish you long life. . . You know, this bit of London doesn’t smell so good. In Golders Green I think it will be better. “Leah: We’re moving next week, all of us. Mama: You will think I’m mishgunnah, but I have a thing about goodbyes. I didn’t have a chance with so many of my own, but now I like to make sure it’s done proper. So I say goodbye. The mourning midwife weeps: I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. “Leah”: You’ve said enough. Run along and leave her in peace. The Grandmother has an unusual perspective: What peace can she know now? You will feel better than this, bubbelah. Maybe not yet, but you will. . .Yes, you just keep living until you are alive again. (updated 6/23/2014)
In Fargo, the prequel to the Coen brothers’ movie (on FX) that is a pitch-perfect very dark comedy with way off-kilter characters, a Jewish woman first appears in “The Rooster King”, written by Noah Hawley. Parked in front of the apartment building of Duluth deputy “Gus Grimly” (played by Colin Hanks) is an RV of “Chabad Lubavitch of Minnesota – Mitzvah Tank – Your Resource for Anything Jewish – Sharing Faith”, decorated with a portrait of some Rebbe, Shabbat candles, a torah and a menorah. (I’m amused that recappers don’t realize there really are several such chapters, including Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Minnesota, and I have cousins working in such distant outreach.) Across the courtyard, he is teased by an Orthodox woman (“Rachel Ziskind” played by Leah Cairns) who tantalizingly undresses by the open window, starting by taking off her wig, and opens her dress to brazenly show him lacy lingerie before joining her kippah-wearing husband and daughter at their dining room table. In “The Six Ungraspables”, written by Hawley, the husband “Ari” (played by Byron Noble) is awake in the middle of the night and comes over to tell the equally insomniac “Grimly” he can’t sleep because My wife thinks out loud. (an impart a very Coen-esque parable.) (updated 5/16/2014)
The Fosters – Emma in the 1st season (on ABC Family) is a multi-ethnic, multi-problem, multi-orientation large (California, I think) family of choice and complications. The girl on “Jesus”s (played by Jake T. Austin) wrestling team, “Emma” (played by Amanda Leighton) and potential romantic interest, was suddenly and surprisingly, revealed to be Jewish in “Padre”, story by Tamara P. Creator and teleplay by series co-ceator Peter Paige. She appears at the door post-funeral: I know this is kind of. . I told my mother about your grandfather and she told me to bring food. We’re Jews, that’s what we do. It’s noodle kugel. It’s totally delicious and vegetarian so totally organic and diet free. “Jesus”: You didn’t have to do this. “Emma”: Try telling my mother that. His sister and video chat friend are quite surprised at seeing her; the sister calls her: So you’re the crazy girl! Crazy only because you’re the only girl on with all those boys on the wrestling team. “Emma” cheerfully responds: People think that to be a wrestler you need to be built like a Mack truck or something! As she leaves: “Jesus”: Thank for the ku--- or whatever. “Emma”: Kugel! And you didn’t even try it. “Jesus”: I promise when I go back in side I’m going to try it. “Emma”: It was nice meeting all your family. . .Thanks for letting me crash. [I’ll catch up with “Emma”, but there weren’t other explicitly Jewish references in the season.] (updated 4/15/2014)
In House of Lies - Sarah’s 2nd season (on Showtime) began in the 2nd episode “Power(less)”, written by Matthew Carnahan, when “Sarah” (Jenny Slate) showed up for lunch with her husband “Doug Guggenheim” (played by Josh Lawson). She prattles on as they walk back to his office: A lot of people do the same things in self defense: Kick him in the crotch! Kick him in the crotch! But I said to the teacher, “Why don’t you grab for both? The thingy and the stuff!”. . . I’m just blabbing and blabbing because I’m nervous. I don’t know how to say it. . .I pulled the goalie! He: What does that mean? She: You know how in sports there’s the goalie, like in hockey and soccer, there’s the goalie? And when the goalie is not on the field?. . . He: And there’s no one to stop the players shooting at the goal? She: Or maybe to shoot 60 million shots into the goal? He: Wait, you stopped using birth control? She: I did! He: Why? Why? Why would you do that? She: Because I want us to have a baby? He: That’s great! She: Doug, if you’re not sure about this you need to say something to me right now. He: Hold on a second. You didn’t even tell me! I mean. Which is fine. How long, I mean, have you been, have we done it since? Doesn’t matter, that’s fine. hey, it’s great! I have no problem with it. What’s not to love about fucking babies? I love them. She: Then why are you acting so weird: You are. Just say if you don’t want to do it, say no. Say yes or no. He: I think it’s more complicated than that. I think, if I’m being honest, that if you’re projecting this on to me that I don’t want to have a baby which is ridiculous. I’m clearly thrilled about it. You need to have a look at your own feelings. I mean really look at them, Sarah. Because if you’re feeling fear or insecurity around this, then that’s a problem. She: Forget it. We’ll talk about this later. She storms off. He complains to his uninterested colleagues: She’s already trying! God, I love her. But a baby? That is just so absolute! What do I do?. . .If you put Plan B in a smoothie or something? (7/3/2014)
Transparent (a half-hour dramedy pilot on Amazon Instant Video), written and directed by Jill Soloway, features a Jewish Los Angeles family, with Jeffrey Tambor as the father. His three adult children include two sisters. The first clue they are Jewish is about half-way through, when on the way to a family dinner Dad initiated, the siblings joke about all the “Marcy’s” he’s dated since their parents’ divorce when the youngest, the son, was 15, by riffing on their very Jewish last names, with many fictional ones, including: Kaplan, Goldberg, Rubinstein,. . . or Kristallnacht, Belsenburger. When the brother “Josh” (played by Jay Duplass) jokes: You guys never did teach us how to eat, you realize that?, Dad rejoins: Because we come from shtetl people. Your grandma Rose actually ate lettuce with her bare hands. The eldest is “Sarah” (played by Amy Landecker), a suburban wife and mother of two girls. At what is apparently a similar Jewish school to the one featured in Soloway’s Afternoon Delight, she bumps into an old friend (played by blonde Gillian Vigman) dropping her daughter off, after finishing an assignment in Bahrain, who is serving on the fundraising committee: If you don’t raise $5,000 for Tu B’Shevat, then Dana Goodman just implodes. Her younger sister “Ali” (played by Gaby Hoffman) later reacts at the mention of her: Tammy mother-fuckin’ Cashman! Does Len know your kids go to the same school? “Sarah”: Why would Len care? “Ali”: The woman who you spent your entire college years lezzing it up together? “Sarah”: Who doesn’t experiment in college “Ali”: Experiment? You two were talking about adopting a kid together. That’s not experimenting. “Sarah”: That did not happen. “Ali”: OMG I distinctly remember you calling up and saying you were going to adopt two Mexican boys. “Sarah”: Salvadoran. While she doesn’t tell her husband “Len” (played by Rob Huebel) that her father has offered her his house, as his big announcement at the dinner, she does refer to wanting to plan a play date for the kids-- with that lesbian I went to Madison with (“Len”: I like lesbians.), who she then has an amorous play date with herself, and explains she hasn’t told husband that dad offered her the house, with apparent references to Jewish neighborhoods in L.A.: Len hates living on the east side. He calls it the g-hetto. I don’t know if I’m ready to live on the west side., and makes jokes about goint to the Farmer’s Market. “Sarah” treats her dad exactly like her apparently Jewish, gray-haired mother (played by Judith Light) treats her apparently stroke-recovering husband “Ed” (played by Laurence Pressman), as she rails against her condo association board members, and to “Ali” mocks her ex for dating younger women, so wants nothing to do with him: I wouldn’t believe a word your father says, ninka, neyn, necht! “Ali” is apparently on a losing streak as a writer, even as she’s talks to a friend about a new satirical-sounding project, but Dad writes her a check: What happened to the Price Is Right money? “Ali”: It’s gone. That was like 6 yrs ago. . . Dad: I’m always happy to help you out when you’re in trouble. “Ali”: I’m not in trouble, I’m just. . Dad: You more than all of all my kids, you’re the one who can see me most clearly. Probably because we share the depressive gene. “Ali” I’m not depressed! Dad: It is so hard when someone sees something you do not want them to see. At home, “Ali” examines herself naked in the mirror, then meets with a hunky black personal trainer “Derek” (played by Henry Simmons): I hate my body. . I hate it. I want to change it. . . I want those sculpted arms. . .sinewy instead of this, nice tailored waist, rounded ass. I want to feel rooted. Like a fucking tree trunk, just planted, so not like I’m gonna fall over. He asks what she eats, and she babbles about food, and they concur against deprivation. He: I believe in discipline. She: I could use some discipline. He pushes her through push ups until she can’t do any more -- and motivates her to do more with an ass slap she quite likes.
Amazon announced it was picked up for a season just in time for me to miss to miss the cheaper price for Amazon Prime to watch it – or will it come out on DVD or some other cheaper option? And maybe we’ll learn their last name? Soloway stated: “It’s honestly a dream come true to make nine more episodes of Transparent, I feel so lucky to be working in this moment when innovation in distribution allows for the most free flow of creativity I’ve ever experienced professionally. These characters are bursting in my mind waiting for the palette of the set and the flesh and blood and voices and comedy of the actors. More to come....” Carrie Brownstein has been added to the cast as “Ali” (Gaby Hoffman)'s best friend “Syd”. Will the Portlandia star/creator play a Jewish woman? (updated 7/3/2014)
In the New Girl (on Fox) “The Box” episode, by Rob Rosell, “Schmidt” the womanizer (played by Max Greenfield) is lying on the couch as if at a shrink’s: So yes, I was dating two girls at the same time. After he lists his physical complaints from the break-ups, an exasperated voice, recognizable as Jon Lovitz, says: Were the girls Jewish? Schmidt: One Indian, one regular. Do you want to see a picture? The camera turns to Lovitz: I don’t even know why you’re here. You said do you have a minute. . . Schmidt: I’m sorry, Rabbi. It’s simple, how can I be a better person? After “Schmidt” spends the episode throwing around that he’s selfishly trying to do mitzvahs and tsedakah, he interrupts the rabbi’s male-only bar mitzvah class seeking more sympathy: Did you ever date two women at the same time? The rabbi can’t help but brag, again to the detriment of Jewish females: : I went to camp. They used to call me the octopus.
But in the next episode “Keaton”, as written by Dave Finkel and Brett Baer, directed by David Katzenberg, his very stereotyped Jewish mother appears in a flashback narrated by his friend/roommate since college “Nick Miller” (played by Jake Johnson) to explain his behavior: When Schmidt was 7, daddy divorced mommy. He didn’t take it well. . . .Endless cycle of chocolate and stars. . .Desperate, Mrs Schmidt looked to the stars. Movie stars. Mrs. Schmidt wrote that little fat loser a letter of support from the star of his favorite movie Batman. But not the confusing new one, the good one with Michael Keaton. . . His life changed forever. . . Schmidt wrote back and kept writing back. . .For every letter he sent, Michel Keaton sent one back. . .Schmidt went off to college and Mrs. Schmidt unloaded her secret onto his only friend, and that friend was me. Chubby “Mrs. Schmidt” (played by Barbara Kerford, repeating her role I missed in the 2011 “Naked” episode) is portrayed with dark, curly hair from behind at the typewriter turning out letters from Keaton. When “Nick” finally confesses the truth, “Schmidt” is appalled at the realization: My mom? You're going to tell me that my mom helped me with my public erections? I drew pictures! In “Birthday”, written by Kim Rosenstock, “Schmidt” is trying to comfort his model ex-girlfriend over her employment prospects: A lot of people never graduated high school. Einstein, Bill Gates, Anne Frank. OK, I’m going to take back that last one.
I think the “Sister” episode, written by Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson, was intended to sarcastically answer criticism of “Schmidt” not being seen dating Jewish women. He asks “Nick” to be his wing man at a party: Jewish girl – sensible nose – high level target. . .Imagine me next door with a nice Jewish girl? Turns out he meant a bar mitzvah and immediately sticks on a yarmulke: The target is Rachel. She’s a Hebrew school teacher. “Nick”: And . . crashing some random kid’s bar mitzvah is the best way to get to her? “Schmidt”: Get her on a dance floor - “A little bit softer now. A little bit louder now.” Sweep her off her feet. Get married. Have a son, tell him the story of how I met his mom at this bar mitzvah. Not a dry eye in the house. Jewish continuity, etc. etc. Get a piece of hamentashen. The problem is her dad is my rabbi and he hates me. So I just need to charm Rachel before he tells her horrible/true things about me. “Nick”: I distract the rabbi while you hit on his daughter. “Schmidt”: Action! Go! He puts on an Israeli accent to her: Rochel baruch ata what a nice dress! “Rachel” (played by Allyn Rachel): Shabbat a hello. He: Not as good as mine. How’s Hebrew school? “Rachel”, guzzling wine: Not bad. The only place that would hire me when I got out of rehab. Rabbi interrupts: No no no! Rachel, you will not speak to this man! This man is a nut ball! “Schmidt”: A nutball! How dare you – I’m a goofball! Rabbi: Sammy Davis Jr. was a goofball and you, sir, are no Sammy Davis Jr! As her father pulls her away “Rachel” yells: I want sex! He wants to have sex with me! Let him! I love sex! Sex! Later, “Nick” gets punched out for kissing a flattered old Jewish lady, and the Rabbi is impressed: Nice shot Dr. Nussbaum! Would you like to date my daughter? She’s available! “Rachel”: Oh great, tell the whole room I’m available! Rabbi: I’m not telling the whole room, I’m telling Dr. Nussbaum – a doctor! “Rachel” mumbles: Oh I got that. (updated 2/28/2014)
Ray Donovan (on Showtime) opened up with a dead, putative Jewish woman, in “The Bag or the Bat”, by series creator Ann Biderman. “Ezra Goodman” (played by Elliot Gould) is so distratught at his wife “Ruthie”s funeral, that he kicks out his gentile mistress “Debra” (Denise Crosby), who is surprised he’s hurling Yiddish words at her. After sitting shiva for her, in “Twerk” by Ron Nyswaner, he plans a groundbreaking for “The Ruth Goldman Ovarian Cancer Center” with a symbolic shovel: It should be golden, it’s what she deserved. . .She was a wonderful woman. . I often said that she was an angel. The drunken mistress, who mocked his “shrine”, starts muttering at the fundraising kick-off, then gets disruptively louder: Ruth the saint. . Ruth. . .was no angel, believe me. . .She was sleeping with her shrink for years! He speechifies: There was nothing she wouldn’t do for anyone. . .I see this center as my legacy. Ruthie wanted that, a legacy is important, especially when you’ve done terrible things not to be spoken of. There’s a price to be paid. Separately, both the haunted husband and the yelling mistress have to be pulled away from the scene. In “The Golem”, written by Sean Conway, he is suffering from a brain tumor, but laments Ruth was my one true love. The only one I ever really loved, much to the consternation of his mistress entering the room behind him. On the verge of brain surgery, he regrets that while he’s given “Ruth” a foundation and hospital, he hasn’t given anything to “Debra”, so considers getting her a dog – which two episodes later, in “New Birthday” written by David Hollander, she laughs he named “Ruth”, but This Ruth has a big dick! In “Road Trip”, by Brett Johnson, “Ezra” sadly sacrifices “Ruth”s legacy by draining the Foundation’s account to help “Ray” pay off a hit man.
“Ray”s tough, burly henchman “Ari” (played by Steven Bauer with an accent that I’d been wondering was Russian or Israeli) reveals he has a Jewish mother. He’s on the phone outside Las Vegas while transporting an old Irish-American hit man cross-country: Did you take your medicine?. . .So send Joey to the CVS. Yes, today, the blood thinner. Me too. Bye bye. Hit man: Your mother? “Ari” shrugs: I’m usually there on Fridays. Shabbat. Hit man: How old? “Ari”: 85. She’s starting to lose it. She sideswiped two cars last week. I had to take her keys away. The hit man’s moll snorts about how FBI’s Most Wanted (clearly modeled on Whitey Bolger) is even more devoted to his mother.
In “Bucky Fucking Dent”, written by Ron Nyswaner, ”Ari” revealed more while protecting the family while “Ray” is involved in various violent problems. He explains to the wife’s queries about his social life that he’s busy with his mother on weekends: From Friday to Saturday she can’t do anything, like turn o nthe lights or cook. . .Shabbat. The son is curious: Why? . . .What? The mother translates: The Sabbath. The son: Like Black Sabbath? The daughter snorts: That’s a band, stupid! “Avi” continues: My mother is Orthodox. She keeps kosher. She can’t do anything on the Sabbath. It’s a holy day, a day of rest. The son is intrigued: Why don’t we do that? Mom: We’re not Jewish. Daughter: We’re not anything. He’s later biographical with the son while they play violent video games that “Ari” excels at, explaining why he was formerly in the Mossad: I’d do anything to get off the kibbutz. My parents split up and I went with my father. I hated it. You had to ask permission to kiss a girl. . . Not really. For added irony, “Ray” buries the priest he killed in the concrete foundation of “The Ruth Goldman Ovarian Cancer Center”.
These Jewish women were ironically referred to in the season finale “Same Exactly” written by Ann Biderman. “Ezra” announces he’s asked “Deb” to marry him (it’s complicated, but there’s a client’s baby involved): Ruth would want me to be happy. You know they met once - -but Ruth didn’t know she was my mistress. “Ari” accompanies “Ray” to confrontation with the old hit man, who conversationally asks: How’s your mother? Just as “Ari” is (literally) disarmingly answering Fine, the hit man shoots him point black in the chest, though not dead by the end. (updated 9/29/2013)
As part of the BBC’s 50th anniversary of Dr. Who, the docu-drama An Adventure in Time and Space, written by Mark Gatiss, briefly acknowledged in passing that the founding producer of the franchise Verity Lambert (played by Jessica Raine) was Jewish. After the head of the BBC Drama Department Sydney Newman (played by Brian Cox) notes that: This place needs a person with piss and vinegar in their veins in promoting her to a new job as the first female producer there, she asserts herself to sexist older staffers, aggressively orders drinks from a bartender, then toasts: To the pushy Jewish broad. Her colleague Waris Hussein (played by Sacha Dhawan) responds: L’chaim! The postscript scroll, accompanied by her photograph, identifies that she went on to be “a legend in British broadcasting”. I was left wanting to know more about her! (11/23/2013)
Foyle’s War continued the British Masterpiece Theater (on PBS) tradition of Jewish women characters as Holocaust victims, in “The Cage” episode, written by David Kane. (Commentary forthcoming - it took me long enough to figure out that the Auschwitz survivor “Mrs. Ross” was listed in the credits as “Katrin” played by Katherine Kanter.) (9/23/2013)
On Drop Dead Diva (on Lifetime: Television for Women summer Sundays), the “The Real Jane” episode, by Josh Berman, had a Jewish woman murder victim for a plot reason new to me. The lawyer, too, is surprised: Tracey Rivlin was buried in the shirt she was wearing when she was killed? Another lawyer is helpfully informative: Yes, remember, Tracey is Jewish, and under Jewish law the victim of a murder is buried in their clothing, over which. . And the relevant Maimonondes citation is provided about internment procedures, that I was found supported in details about Taharah ritual requirements: “This is intended to waken G-d’s anger; to ‘prompt’ Him to exact vengeance for the terrible crime.” This excerpt from Dignity Beyond Death: The Jewish Preparation for Burial by Rochel U. Berman clarifies: “The Code of Jewish Law states, ‘One who was assassinated by a non-Jew, although he did not bleed at all, should, nevertheless, be buried in the clothes which he wore at the time as a demonstration of wrath.’” [Thanks to David Zucker for the references.] Later, “Mrs. Rivlin” (played by Frances Mitchell) storms in: Four years ago you convinced me to dig up my daughter’s body. Then you didn’t show up at the cemetery. . .I almost did it, because of you, and now you ask me to come to your office just before the execution? She slaps the lawyer. My baby is dead and you can go to hell! While the mother is convinced her daughter’s classmate is guilty because he was convicted, the lawyers are sure the shirt will have the DNA of the real killer in a bite mark: What would your daughter want to do here? Mother: You really think he’s innocent? Lawyer: I really think it’s worth finding out. The mother tearfully agrees, and the client is exonerated, in her presence in court. (7/9/2013)
On Who Do You Think You Are (in the 1st season onTLC, after the NBC version of the Brit series) Chelsea Handler tearfully declared: I’m proud to be a Jewish-American! after she traced her German grandfather’s history with the Nazis. On the “Austin” episode of the similar Genealogy Roadshow (on PBS), a Tejano woman, who can trace her family’s Texas roots to the early 19th century, brought to TV a history rarely mentioned when she got DNA confirmation of her family’s Sephardic crypto-Jewish heritage in presumed flight from the Spanish Inquisition. (episodes commentaries coming) (updated 10/20/2013)
Generation Cryo (on MTV) is a twist on the Docu-Series seeking your roots genealogy series, with young people seeking half-siblings from the same sperm donor. Episode 1 – “Who’s Your Daddy” led 17-year-old Breeanna from Reno, NV to a 17-year-old half-brother and half-sister raised in the Jacobsons’ Jewish home in Atlanta, GA. Over home movies of the dad Eric playing with his kids growing up, the mother Terri frankly explains: “We’ve been married 22 years. It took us five years to conceive Hillit and Jonah. My husband was sterile, not a single sperm in sight, and I wanted to be pregnant. So we went the donor sperm route and five years later conceived these amazing kids.” Jonah: “Being Jewish is a big part of our life.” They warmly introduce their half-sibling to making Shabbat in their nice suburban house, explain the ritual, the Hebrew, and traditional Friday night dinner. (Bree confides to the camera that the mother she lives with was curious for reports on “How those Jews do.” She later confides to the camera “That was my first Hebrew, or Jewish dinner.”) The gay Bree is nervous to do the girly thing of getting a manicure together, and, she later confides, her first ever pedicure. Bree tells her camera diary: “She seems like a sweet girl who has her shit together. Hopefully she’ll open up.” Hillit, like her brother, has no interest in meeting their sperm donor, just to see a photo, “because of the way my mom and dad raised me. . . I have no connection to him at all.” But Terri turns out to be very curious to know a lot of details about the donor, and reveals that the couple argued for years about whether to tell the kids. Her husband emotionally explains how difficult the process was for him to accept his sterility and be secure. Bree is quite taken aback that a family dinner can result in an intense conversation and later confides to her camera diary: “I’ve never been around people who talk so openly. . I saw a new concern for family.” The next morning, Terri follows up with her husband: “In the past you’ve been freaked out about the donor, about the donor showing up and our kids’ involvement with the donor. . . That is a possibility . . .I just want to know who he is because he’s provided half of our kids’ DNA. I love meeting these siblings because it helps me understand Hillit and Jonah a little bit better.” But he’s even more upset “about my definition of what my family is. . .an attack on me”, weeping: “You’ve never understood that.” But he agrees to sign the consent form out of sympathy for Jonah compassionately offering to help Bree “on her journey”. Hugs all around as she sets out to meet a dozen other half-siblings, helped by Jonah’s DNA sample, and starts scrapbooking their photos.
In the 2nd episode “Come To Grips”, I paid attention to her looking through the sperm donor’s profile questionnaire where he marked “Jewish”. So more of the sibling families, and half-sisters, turned out to be Jewish. Later, another clue to finding the sperm donor is that he listed Hillel membership on another questionnaire for another family, though “Bree” is ignorant what that means. While my additional commentary on the rest of the series is forthcoming, references to many of the half-sibs and their families being Jewish seemed to be edited out of the later episodes. (updated 1/15/2014)
Joan Rivers - everywhere has become a media icon of Jewish women, along with her daughter Melissa, so I’ve decided I should follow her TV appearances more regularly, whether their own Jewish ethnic identity is referenced or not, but particularly if they reference Jewish women.
”Still Life” photograph by Benjamin Bouchet, described to Christopher Ross in The Wall Street Journal Magazine, 2/7/2014 (fair use excerpt): “"Only when you love dogs very much do you let them sit on $300-per-yard French fabric. Samantha is the little black-haired one and Teegan is my newest rescue. I've never been one of those Fifth Avenue ladies that have to have dogs that match. I am the Angelina Jolie of barkers. The Al Hirschfeld drawing is beyond meaningful to me: It's from when I was doing the show Broadway Bound. This was right after I was fired from Fox and my husband committed suicide. I went into the show, got amazing reviews, and it re-kick-started my career. So I look at that and it says to me, life goes on. In the photo of my daughter, Melissa, and my grandson, Cooper, you are looking at a very cold Jewess at a Jets game on Thanksgiving. It was a great game, but I was thinking, Could the cheerleaders here do a Sondheim number? The monkey figurine Cooper made when he was about 6 or 7. I hate when you go in a house and you have to comment, Oh, look what your stupid child did, but in this case it happens to be a work of art! He's a very precocious talent. The other photo of Melissa and me is in a Fabergé frame that my husband and I bought in England—our first piece of Fabergé."
In their participation in the June edition of Celebrity Wife Swap (on ABC), which was really “Celebrity Mother Swap”, with Sarah Palin’s daughters Bristol and Willow, their interactions continued a recent pattern for the image of Jewish women on TV as ambitious. Both Rivers are shocked that the sisters are not interested in following up on the “lean in”, as it were, career opportunities they offer each young woman in what I considered as typically helpful Jewish mothers. (More detailed commentary forthcoming.)
On the Fashion Police (on E!) Emmy Special (I only watch the awards special editions, and I tried not to feel guilty about watching while Joan is still disputing with the Writers’ Guild), Giuliana Rancic flamboyantly introduced Mayim Bialik’s dress as by designer Oliver Tolentino (Mayim described her selection on her blog), and Joan made a point of unusually commenting on Mayim, who was nominated for Big Bang Theory: I know her very well, And just so you all understand why she’s wearing this dress – she’s a vegan, she’s a spokesperson for the Holistic Women’s Network [sic], and she’s a devout Orthodox Jew – so everybody take a good look at this dress becaue this is about as pretty as it’s ever going to get. The “Joan Ranger” audience guffawed, then stylist George Kotsiopoulos: I understand for religious reasons she has to be covered up. I understand that. But this is really not cute. It’s wrinkled and the fabric looks cheep this is one of my Worst-Dressed Nominees. But the women on the panel challenge him. Kelly Osbourne: I agree that it’s not the best dress in the world, but it is a vast improvement to what’s she’s worn before. I think it’s pretty for her. I’m happy that she didn’t wear what she used to wear. A triptych of her past appearances is put up on the screen, like Mayim herself put up on her blog. Giuliana: I’m with Miss Kelly. I think this is the best she’s ever looked. I think this dress fits perfectly. I think she looks fantastic. What do you want her to wear? George makes a sour face. Joan, putting on a Yiddish accent: I think she’s a terrific comedienne. So for those who don’t know, Mayim is a Hebrew word for “So here’s what’s happened to Blossom, Not that I care, but here’s what happened.” Later, they all criticize Zosia Mamet of the Emmy-nominated Girls, for her dress such that she wins “Worst Dressed”, but without any Jewish references to her or the character she plays.
4th season of Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? (onWEtv – commentary forthcoming) She was even welcomed back on The Tonight Show, to promote the series, now that it has a new host, Jimmy Fallon, with no ties to past feuds. Jordan Zakarin, in The Wrap, 3/28/2014, cited: “There were jokes about the Holocaust — within 20 seconds of appearing! — as well as plenty of cracks about her vagina… all of which made a laughing Fallon a bit uncomfortable.” While it will be awhile until I catch up on the series, I happened to hear one exchange in 2nd episode “Extreme Make Under”: Melissa: Aren’t you concerned about your reputation? Joan: The only thing that would hurt my reputation in this town would be having Mel Gibson at my Passover dinner. In the preview to the season’s penultimate episode “Blue Balls”, she’s unpacking family mementoes, including her grandmother’s matzoh ball soup recipe, all laden with Jewish references. (updated 5/7/2014)
Princesses: Long Island (on Bravo) (I erratically saved this 1st and hopefully one-season “reality” series on my DVR, had to download and copy the summer episodes to make room for better shows, butI just may yet watch whatever ones, if the copy works, out of perverse curiosity, because some of the episode titles veered to curiously offensive: such as “You Had Me at Shalom”, “Shabbocalypse Now”, “Intermenschion”, “Sunrise, Sunset”) (10/25/2013)
On Parks and Recreation (on NBC), “Mona Lisa Sapirstein” (played broadly but yet sweetly by Jenny Slate) was back, now with her doting, rich, doctor father played by Henry Winkler, in the season opener “London” written by Michael Schur. (commentary forthcoming on this episode). “The Sapirsteins” returned in the season finale “Moving Up, Part 2” written by by Alan Yang and Aisha Muharrar, where the father has become the nemesis of “Tom Haverford” (played by Aziz Ansari), whose latest entrepreneurial effort is a restaurant. He brings in the siblings as party planners for the opening. She misunderstands the planning meeting to get all excited that she thinks it’s “a four-way”, starts undressing, and sulks when told it’s not. As she promised, she brings in a V.I.P.: My daddy is the V I P-est I know. I love you Daddy! Dad responds: I love you too, Angel. She: Money please! He hands it over to her delighted Thank you! (updated 5/24/2014)
Annie Edison in the 5th Season of Community (on NBC) Perhaps because the original showrunner Dan Harmon is back there was surprisingly revealing moments about her family, in the “Maintenance and Educational Publishing” episode by Don Diego, that fans of the show had no interest in. Her visiting brother “Anthony” (played by Spencer Crittenden, a regular on Harmon’s podcast) is huge, hulking, hirsute and monosyllabic – the opposite of her. “Annie” (played by Alison Brie) bubbles on
So nice to have the Edison kids under one roof again! Remember when we used to cut carrots for mom? She enthusiastically hugs him for fixing the refrigerator door, and proposes him as a new roommate: He has money and he’s handy. . .He’s a good guy! But “Abed” (played by Danny Pudi) calls him “a Viking. . .who does’n know whether to poop or keep cutting carrots. She: When we were kids, Anthony and I would play time machine. We would go “Oh no! We’re in barbarian times! Quick let’s go back to the time machine! Then we would run back to the time machine. . .I bet that's why Abed is like a brother to me. You guys are so alike! “Abed” (played by Danny Pudi): I can't accept that based on one time machine story. It turns out “Anthony” doesn’t want to be her roommate to share her rent: I think we have some unresolved issues here. She takes him seriously: Yeah, I’m so hurt about mom turning her back on me when I went into rehab. And I guess part of me was mad at you for siding with her, so I thought you moving in here was some kind of moral victory? But he was actually talking about the absence of “Abed”: And screw you! I was 13! and he storms out. (4/16/2014)
Felicity Smoak in the 2nd season of Arrow (on CW) She’s a bit blonder this season as she and “Oliver Queen” (played by Stephen Amell) seemed to grow closer (a.k.a. to “shippers” as “Olicity”). Halfway through the season the CW posted a promotional photo on FaceBook of the actress Emily Bett Rickards, sans “Felicity”s glasses, with the caption: “Brains and beauty ... what more could one want?”
She finally remembered her Jewish identity (as usual in TV series) in the December “Three Ghosts” episode (get the Dickens reference?), story by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, teleplay by Geoff Johns. The geeky “Barry Allen” (played by Grant Gustin) tries to flirtatiously distract her from “Ollie”s billionaire by day and saves the city at night derring-do with: So any plans for Christmas?, she shuts him down with: Lighting my menorah. “Barry”, however, leaves “Queen” a Christmas present – his signature mask.
While I’m behind posting how her character has developed over the season, “Heir to the Demon”, written by Jake Coburn, had insights. “Oliver”s mother “Moira Queen” (played by Susanna Thompson) confronted her about what her computer research uncovered: If you won’t keep my secret for Oliver’s sake, you should keep it for your own. I see the way you look at him. . .You tell him this and you will rip his world apart. A part of him will always blame you. Oh, he’ll hate me for sure, but a part of him will hate you always. We all have to keep secrets, Ms. Smoak. But she tells him anyway, in tears, as he insists on the truth: You notice that I talk a lot. “Oliver”: It has not escaped my attention. She: You may have noticed I don’t talk a lot about my family. My mother is my mother. I don’t really know what my father is becuase he abandoned us. I barely remember him, but I do remember how much hurt when he left. So I don’t want that hurt again. “Oliver”: You’re not going to lose me. Is this about your family? “Felicity”: It’s about yours. She wins and loses: while he breaks off with his mother, he passionately falls into the arms of his ex-lover at the end.
In “Suicide Squad”, written by Keto Shimizu and Bryan Q. Miller, we learned just a bit more about her. She brings a cup of cocoa out to “John Diggle” (played by David Ramsey) who has assigned himself as her security: So I get you outside my house just like a lacrosse player my freshman year of college. . .Yeah, I had a life before you and Oliver. [Thanks to “King_Lemur” for clarification.]
In “City of Blood”, written by Holly Harold, we learned some surprising more about her. First she’s upset after the sacrificial suicide of “Oliver”s mother: I don't even know why I'm crying. I didn't even like Moira. Terrible thing to say about someone after they've just died. In my defense, she was not nice. She was diabolical. Not a word you often hear at someone's funeral. “Diggle”: You’re not crying for her, Felicity, you’re crying for Oliver. She begs “Oliver” not to give himself up to his nemesis, and tearfully reveals more about herself: I don't accept that. You shouldn't either. You can't just accept things, Oliver. If I had accepted my life, I would be a cocktail waitress in Vegas like my mother, and I never would have gone to college, and I never would have moved a thousand miles away to work at Queen Consolidated, and I never would have believed some crazy guy in a hood when he told me I could be more than just some IT girl. Please don’t do this. . . There has to be another way. “Oliver”: There isn’t. But she helps find another way, using her skills over a kidnapped bad guy: Oh, look at this. You have a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Wow. $2 million, quite the little nest egg. But... looks like you just approved a wire transfer of $1 million to a charity here in Starling City. Very generous. What should I do with the rest? . . .[ Greenpeace] Great cause! And they really appreciate your support. Bad guy snarls: You bitch! Triumphant “Felicity”: A bitch with Wi-Fi! “Oliver” recognizes her important role, along with “Diggle”, before the key battle: This started with the three of us. It's time we got back to that. I will comment more on the season finale “Unthinkable”, story by Greg Berlanti, teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim, where they “pretend” to be a couple to fool their enemy: She: It was really smart the way you outsmarted him. But unthinkable, you and me I mean. When you told me you loved me, you had me fooled that you might have meant it, what you said. . You really sold it. He smiles: We both did. She: Let’s go home. The conclusion was promoted to fans on FaceBook: (updated 7/21/2014)
Broad City As Stephanie Butnick noted in Tablet Magazine 1/23/2014, “On Comedy Central’s Broad City, Two Jewesses Just Want To Have Fun”, with comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer playing versions of themselves, We’re just two Jewesses trying to make a buck, “Glazer writes in a Craigslist ad, with the hopes of securing the funds they need ($200) for the Weezy show.” in H. Allen Scott’s Thought Catalog interview with the two, 3/26/2014: “IG: [O]n a positive note, Girls is such a successful, beautiful, well-made show. And the people who actually watch the show see that our show is very different. Women are always put against each other. . . I do think it is reductive and because we’re women and perceived as Jewish white girls from New York City in their early 20’s. As much as I’m like, ‘Sorry, I don’t produce that show,’ we know what TV is about, it’s not like it’s the most well rounded medium.” [My commentary on the series forthcoming, hopefully before the 2nd season.] (updated 3/27/2014)
Dr. Zoe Hart in the 3rd Season of Hart of Dixie (the CW, streams free a week later on Hulu) It took until the November “Family Tradition” episode, written by Dan Steele, for her very New Yorker writer boyfriend, bespectacled “Joel Stephens” (played by Josh Cooke) to be explicitly identified as also Jewish. I’m behind on commenting on the “Miracles” episode, written by series creator Leila Gerstein, that featured his “Grandma Sylvie” (played by Patty McCormack) visiting for a Hanukkah party.
In “Act Naturally”, written by Dan Steele, “Candice Hart” (played by JoBeth Williams) re-appeared. Despite “Zoe”s positive opening position: My mother and I just managed to put the past behind us, to build a relationship out of trust and honesty. But she turned into a stereotyped controlling Jewish mother than she was before: I waited for an invitation to Christmas, Hanukkah, and it never came, so I thought I’d come for my only daughter’s birthday. . . I promise small, no fuss, no candles that don’t blow out. She complains when they’re out to dinner: The house, Joel, forgotten holiday invites, you’re setting down roots here, building a future here, and I can’t believe there isn’t a place for me. You’reshutting me out. “Joel” tries to keep her happy –and away from her birthday party with her biological father’s family- but he complains to “Zoe”: If judgment had a face, it would be your mother’s.-- and that was before she really gave it to him using code words: I’m disappointed in what’s going on here, and I can’t belive you allowed it to happen.. . .You allowed her to move to Bluebelle, to buy a house, to set down roots a thousand miles from me! I had a very happy summer in NY with my daughter. Even happier when she found a New York boyfriend. Yet somehow we’re back here. I blame you. “Zoe” joins her mother for breakfast on her last day in Bluebelle. Mother: Did you have a secret first breakfast with your other family? “Zoe”: I deserved that, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. I was worried you would feel hurt. But now that it’s all out in the open I realize there was nothing to worry about to begin with. I’m so glad that you came and met them. Mom: You’re right. The Wilkes are terrific, loyal caring, a great family. “Zoe”: It’s great to have them here. Mom: And that’s why I cant let them win. . . You Zoe. If Bluebelle is where you’re going to have you life, a house, a family, eventually grandbabies, well if this is where it’s going to be, then this is where I’m going to be. In Bluebelle.
But the “Here You Come Again” episode, written by producer Sheila Lawrence, escalated further into a freshly annoying level of TV’s image of the materialistic, pushy, controlling Jewish mother, even without a single explicit Jewish reference. It turns out that her mother is a hard-charging celebrity publicist, and she takes “Zoe” on as a client to get back her medical practice, before condoning her adoption by Bluebelle. [Commentary and transcription forthcoming.]
The season finale, “Second Chance”, written by Leila Gerstein, closed with something of a Jewish-style wedding, as “Joel’s Grandma Sylvie” (Patty McCormack) married “Zoe”s cousin “Vernon 'Brando' Wilkes” (played by Lawrence Pressman). There’s two officiants, the one in a white robe an implied rabbi, but the widow and widower exchange their own personal vows. The groom steps on a glass to conclude the ceremony, the guests shout Mazel Tov!, klezmer-style music plays at the party, and Grandma pulls “Zoe” in to join her to dance to a simple clarinet version of “Hava Nagilah”. (updated 6/13/2014)
The Goldbergs – Beverly, Erica plus (on ABC) How did this dreadful, more Jewish re-take of The Wonder Years, let alone repeating almost every negataive Jewish female stereotype from early Philip Roth, get on the broadcast schedule? Blonde “Beverly” (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey) is a monstrously smothering mother, and the older sister “Erica” (played by Hayley Orrantia) is pretty much a bitch. Oy, it got renewed for a second season. [Commentary on transcriptions forthcoming.] (updated 6/6/2014)
Rachel Berry etc. in the 5th season of Glee (on Fox) (More detailed commentary forthcoming as “Rachel” is cast in a Broadway revival of Funny Girl.)
In “The Quarterback” the tearful tribute to the death of Cory Monteith, who played “Rachel”s boyfriend “Finn Hudson (and Lea Michele’s real-life on/off again boyfriend according to the tabloids), written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, she confides to the glee club teacher with both her characteristic Jewish reference and selfish touch: I was going to make it big on Broadway, maybe do a Woody Allen movie, then when we were ready I would come back, and he’d be teaching here. I would just walk through those doors and I would just say I’m home and we would live happily ever after. . .He was my person. . .I didn’t know if I would be able to sing again, and now I know I can. I got much more choked up at the acoustic cover of Springsteen’s “No Retreat, No Surrender” by the other Jewish character “Noah 'Puck' Puckerman” (sung by Mark Salling) than I did by her cover of Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love."
A brief preliminary note on the fraught episode “Frenemies” written by Ned Martel, that features bitter and revealing arguments between now NYC roommates “Rachel” and “Santana” when the latter successfully auditions to be her understudy in Funny Girl, by singing her signature “Don’t Rain on My Parade” no less: Fumes “Rachel”: That song is Miss Streisand’s as long as she’s on this planet. But let me tell you something. When she goes, it’s going to be my responsibility to sing it! “Kurt”: Do you know how insane you sound? “Rachel”: It was completely inappropriate for her to audition without telling me. . .Fanny Brice is a New York Jew. You playing her is like me being the Grand Marshal of the Puerto Rican Day Parade! . . .I’m arguing on principle. This is not personal!
A brief preliminary note on the fraught episode “Trio” written by Rivka Sophia Rossi, that opens with: Here’s what you missed on ‘Glee’: Santana landed the job as Rachel’s understudy in ‘Funny Girl’ even though Santana is Latin and Fanny Brice is clearly Jewish. Amidst an episode where “Rachel” is obnoxious and condescending to her replacement gay roommate “Elliott ‘Starchild’ Gilbert” (I’m so ignorant of American Idol that I didn’t realize he’s played by Adam Lambert, though I have been impressed that he’s getting “Rachel” to rock out ), “Santana” continues to rail against “Rachel” with Jewish references, and warns him: It’s all a part of my master plan so I can psych out Berry and get to play Fanny Brice. First comes big hair, then comes incredibly sexy rehearsal clothes that she could never pull off. Then I’m going to sneak into the theater and tack up yearbook photos of her from sophomore year when she was a chunky little butter ball. Just a reminder, once a fatty, always a fatty. As God is my witness, I will bring her down. . . Life is very high school, just with bigger stakes. And if you knew Berry the way that all of us did you would be applauding me. In the beginning it’s all sunshine and giggles and stickers and then the second that you want the same thing as her a dark cloud comes over her whiskery little chin and she will chew you up and spit you out, like a Jewish Hilary Clinton.
A brief preliminary note on the episode “100” that has “Rachel” being obnoxiously competitive, written by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, this time it’s the African-American “Mercedes” (played by Amber Riley) putting her putdowns of “Rachel” in a Jewish context, as she ruminates: So what, she got cast in a play as an annoying Jewish girl. What a surprise. And sweetly sarcastic: Hello Rachel, I am so happy to hear about all your success. . . .If you’ll excuse me, I’ll make my way to the back of the bus. . . It all comes down to how cool you are. Rachel Berry represents Broadway, the past. I represent the future. . .and songs you actually hear on the radio.
”New Directions”, written and directed by Brad Falchuk, found a new way to be stereotypical in its depiction of Jewish women in the guise of being satirical, when “Tina Cohen-Chang” suddenly discovers her Jewish identity for the first time in five seasons, with some reference to the actress Jenna Ushiwitz’s bio as having been adopted from Korea, as she narrates: I got rejected by my back-up school, Ohio State, and Brown still hasn’t told me if I got in yet, so at this point, I’m taking desperate measures. I get it, I was adopted and have never been to temple, but all of my friends are going to be in New York and Mitzvah Unvieristy is the only school that’s still accepting for the fall semester. So I wrote an essay about the reason I am applying so late is because I was on a kibbutz, whatever that is. So here we go, fingers crossed. I just got to get to New York someway. She fills in the application with her name just as “Tina Cohen”. She walks into Glee Club very upset: I’m going to spend my lifetime in Lima because I’m not Jewish enough. We see the unctuous admissions director, with an Israeli flag on his desk, talking his letter: ”Mitzvah University was delighted to receive your application, albeit it was five weeks late. However, we know the truth-- your name is not Tina Cohen, you are Tina Cohen-Chang. You are a big fat liar.” So not getting into Mitzvah U, I’m the ony one not going to college. . I just feel like a loser. Without any explanation, this reinforced clannish definitions and was a sadly missed opportunity to show the inclusiveness and diversity of the American Jewish community. Instead she announces she got into Brown. Before “Santana” eventually apologizes and drops out of the show after reuniting with her lesbian girlfriend, she sticks in a last dig to “Rachel”: You’ve been dreaming about this role since you were in gay utero, and you’ve been working your tiny butt off to get it. . . I don’t want to be a Broadway star.
In a switch, a Jewish reference was in a complimentary context, in “New New York” by Murphy. Showing she’s contrite after quite a bout of diva-ness after her producer lends her a limo that she insists is only a town car, “Rachel” offers to help wheel-chair bound “Artie Abrans” (played by Kevin McHale) on the subway after his mugging experience: Trust me, I took krav maga as a child at the JCC and I can protect you.. After she squawks ferociously for a taxi, the episode concludes with her rehearsal singing of “People”, smiling at all her friends, and walking on a crowded sidewalk with all the real New Yorkers.
While the nastiness about her ambitions, even after achieving her Broadway success, continued through the end of the season, at least in the season finale, “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project” written by Matthew Hodgson, there were no Jewish insinuations and had a veiled reference that she’s moving on from her Jewish roots, even as she convinced TV writer “Mary Halloran” (played hilariously by comedienne Kristen Schaal) to base a new series on her, somehow revealed by her singing Pink’s “Glitter in the Air”: I always thought that Fanny Brice was the role I was born to play, but when I read this, this is it. This is my dream role! . . They like my script! I’m going to L.A.! OMG! OMG!
Yet series creator Ryan Murphy, who was honored this year with the Louis XIII Genius Award at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, seems oblivious to how this nastiness to “Rachel” comes across. In a Vulture interview with Denise Martin, Ryan Murphy on Glee’s Final Season: New Location and Smaller Cast”, 4/15/2014, “Maybe because it’s been a tough year, but I feel like the word we keep talking about is kindness,’ Murphy said. Since the show’s move to New York, no villain, antagonist, or bully has turned up. That may not last — both Santana and Sue will be back sooner rather than later — but ‘the heart, humor and warmth [of this stretch of episodes] feels like the Glee I remember loving in seasons one and two. . . and that I think is because we’re really concentrating on the characters.’” The tabloids had a field day believing that the on-screen tensions between “Santana” and “Rachel” were reflected in the off-screen between Naya Rivera and Lea Michele. (updated 6/12/2014)
Mrs. Wolowitz in the 7th season of Big Bang Theory (on CBS) (As heard and referred) Until I get around to posting my transcriptions, that I can vouch for, of all the nasty comments by and about “Mrs. Wolowitz”, fan episode transcripts are eventually posted.
Though her character “Amy Farrah Fowler” isn’t Jewish, the actress Mayim Bialik is probably the most prominent observant Jewish actress working in TV, so I follow how she’s treated by the media each year. In her 2/17/2014 blog post she reviewed her participation on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher as “the only nighttime talk show that has booked me in the [sic] phase of my acting career, save for my appearance on the Craig Ferguson show last year. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to get booked on shows, but I loved being on Bill Maher’s show as an author, a scientist, and a woman with a brain.” [She has been on several daytime talk shows, and she was las season on TBS’s Conan, but she may have meant in the context of promoting her books, including the new Mayim's Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours.] As to the host quizzing her on “Jews. Defending religion is hard in 30 seconds. Defending my choices as a person who both lives in the secular and scientific world and appreciates the ancient and mystical world is not easy to do off camera, much less on camera. I tried to be honest. I tried to demonstrate that I am not perfect nor am I a representative of ‘The Jews’. I don’t know if all of humanity should turn to atheism. I don’t know that the true sign of cultural evolution is to do away with religion. And I don’t think the Torah is wicked, as Bill Maher insinuated. I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that! The Torah is not wicked; it’s people who can be wicked, and it’s people who can pervert Truth. That’s hard to address in 30 seconds.”
I’ve been logging all the Jewish-themed nasty comments about “Mrs. Wolowitz” to post eventually. “The Mommy Observation”, teleplay by Steven Molaro, Eric Kaplan & Anthony Del Broccolo, story by Jim Reynolds, Steve Holland & Maria Ferrari, started with the usual sarcastic cracks in an episode dealing with mothers’ sexuality. “Sheldon” (Jim Parsons): Do you have any idea what it’s like to see your mother ravaging someone? “Howard” (Simon Helberg): Does a brisket count? “Sheldon”: We’ve all seen your mother naked. That woman needs to learn how to tie a robe. But then “Howard” turned surprisingly sympathetic: I’m talking about when my mom started seeing someone a couple of years after my dad left. . .She was dating this guy and I was kind of a jerk to her about it. . .Let’s just say it was the most vicious bar mitzvah speech in the history of Temple Beth El. Anyway, she broke up with him and she’s basically been alone ever since. She never said but I always felt I was the reason why. “Sheldon”: Sorry, but based on your story, you absolutely were the reason why. “Howard”: All I’m saying is you might not want to get in the way of your mother’s happiness.
Noting a surprise, even shocking, conclusion to the season finale that piles on her image as a nightmare, “The Status Quo Combustion”, teleplay by Steven Molaro, Steve Holland & Tara Hernandez, story by Eric Kaplan, Jim Reynolds & Jeremy Howe, morose, hapless, destitute, literally burned-out comic book store owner “Stuart Bloom” (played by Kevin Sussman) jumps at the job of home health aide to the bedridden “Mrs. Wolowitz”, after it was described by her son as: I know a place you can stay and earn some money. It’ll involve degradation, humiliation and verbal abuse. At her house, “Stuart” is wearing medical scrubs when he cheerfully joins “Howard” and his wife “Bernadette” (Melissa Rauch) in the living room, who were at their wits’ ends caring for her after several aides, including “Penny”, rapidly quit: Hey what are you guys still doing here? I got this. Go – go home. “Howard”: You sure? “Stuart”: Sure, she’s fed, she took her pills, she’s all tucked in, and she’s watching TV. “Bernadette”: So she’s not too much for you? “Stuart”: You kidding? I love her – she’s great! “Mrs. Wolowiz” calls out sweetly: Stuey! You going to watch “Wheel of Fortune” with me? “Stuart”: Coming Debbie! “Howard”: You call her Debbie? “Stuart”: She insisted. So hey, thank you guys. This job is a dream come true! And he skips off to her room. “Howard”: Is that weird? “Bernadette”: I don’t know why, but something about it feels unnatural. “Howard”: So let’s go? “Bernadette” chortles Yeah! and they leave fast. updated 6/6/2014)
Shoshanna Shapiro in the 3rd season of Girls (on HBO) was used to promote the upcoming 2014 episodes in a very Jewish context on FaceBook in September 2013 with the heading
“To the Girls celebrating, may your #RoshHashanah New Year be as sweet as Shosh”:
Fans followed up with unofficial “Shoshana”-related sukkah decorations: one set of seven characters to represent the seven ushpizin (guests) and an Aussie-made pun “Happy Shoshanna Rabba” meme for the end of Sukkoth:
I haven’t even watched the 3rd season yet, but there’s talk online that blonde Jemima Kirke, the actress who plays the British cousin “Jessa Johannsson” is Jewish, as in “granddaughter of Jewish-British-Iraqi real estate developer Jack Dellal”, per Jewcy, 3/14/2014, where Elissa Goldstein gushes: “Ah, Jemima Kirke and Michael Mosberg! Glam-Jewy-indie couple extraordinaire!” Kvelled over are photos of her 2009 “Orthodox” (i.e. she was apparently Jewish enough for the bearded rabbi) wedding on the fashion/lifestyle Refinery 29, that she self-describes as “non-traditional”, and her day in the life in New York Magazine, 3/10/2014, that included a Shabbat dinner. (updated 5/18/2014)
”Rebecca Levy” on Strike Back in her 2nd season (on British Sky and U.S. Cinemax) surprised “Sgt. Damien Scott” and the audience by showing up in Colombia on the opening episode of the 4th season, written by Simon Burke, director Michael J. Bassett, and Tim Vaugham, as the arm candy “Celine”, with the distractingly curvaceous derrière, of Lebanese narcoterrorist “Leo Kamali” who just killed a Section 20 agent: What the fuck do you think I’m doing here? “Damien”: You said no more Mossad! No more killing! I gave you that out! She: Did you really believe it was going to be that easy?. . .This is what we do! Kamali is mine! Do you have any idea what I had to do to get close to this guy? He snickers: Yeah, I got a pretty fair idea. She: Do you even know who he is? Do you know why I’m here? He: So Mossad can disappear him? Fuck that! He killed one of ours. He’s mine! She: Do not fuck this up! I am thisclose to getting something. “Damien”s British partner charges in: Is this a fucking family reunion? “Damien” orders the bikini-clad “Rebecca” to get dressed, but he rolls his eyes as she puts on a sexy dress, so she retorts: You think I brought my fatigues? “Damian” snorts: Unless you have a bunch of Mossads disguised as tree frogs, he’s ours. The trussed up “Kamali” is listening to all these revelations with considerable surprise, and “Damian” grins at him: Yeah, she’s an Israeli agent. She drags him out into the jungle, to a hijacked river boat amidst constant gunfire, and it’s blown up. As it sinks, “Damian” looks alive – but her? Oh no – is this why the actress isn’t listed in the opening credits?
Yeah, that was why, per the 2nd episode with the same writers. “Damian” just barely manages to rescue her – with the surprising assistance of “Kamali”. On land, “Damian” frantically does CPR: Come on! After a suspenseful delay, she chokes up a lot of water – but her first thought is: Where’s Kamali? They look around and he’s gone. Back in Bogota, they are having a passionately naked reunion in bed, with her mostly on top. In a post-coital cuddle, he tells her about “Kamali”: Y’know that fucking asshole came back to the boat to get you out? If he hadn’t, you wouldn’t be here. Who fucking does that? For a Mossad agent? If it was me. . . She: You’d have let me die. Yeah, me too. He chuckles: See, that’s why we’re made for each other. She’s up and out of bed: I have to go. He: Fuck, really? How long ‘til they get here? That Mossad team you’ve been waiting for? That’s why you’ve been here with me. She: Maybe I want to be here with you. . This is a Mossad mission. You crashed my party, remember. He: When do they get here? She: 24 hours. She advises on a vault with key information. He grins: We’ll get to rob a bank! When they kidnap the brother of the dealer she’d been undercover with, he recognizes her: You lying, fucking whore! She remember the dealer liked the name “Esther” and it works for a password. The partner is sarcastic: What – you two were together long enough to pick baby names? There’s a huge shoot-out after they rob the dealer’s box and she takes a hit! “Damian” shouts: No! and holds her in his arms as the shooting continues. She begs him for water –and does something that really surprised me: she recited the Sh’ma into Viddui, her dying prayer. [Thanks to David Zucker for the reference.] And she does die! Couldn’t they have left it more ambiguous so that she could be brought back later in the season? He closes her eyes, and his partner offers to bring her with them. But he kisses her farewell and proceeds with a carjacking escape. In the getaway ride he keeps flashing back to her smiling at him in bed. But “Kamali” and his cohorts capture, taunt, and torture them: If you stay here you die for nothing, like Rebecca. He then reveals he’s really an undercover CIA agent!: I’m the only hope you have. I wish she hadn’t died. But she knew the risks – we all do! Just when it seems he’s lied again, he helps them escape, again. RIP Rebecca!
While “Damian” doesn’t mention her again while he’s screwing other women who have ulterior motives, this interchange in “Episode 25” written by John Simpson, about the roots of the Middle East’s problems was intriguing. “Lt. Philip Locke” (played by an unsually gritty Robson Greene) is interrogating one tough extremeist IRA broad “Mairead McKenna” (played by Catherine Walker): What were you doing in Beirut? Meeting up with like-minded jihadists? You were going to bring Sharia law to the nine counties and turn the North into some kind of Muslim caliphate? She snarls: Better the Muslims than the British. . .I get to see the look on your face when every fuck you ever trod on for the past thousand years has clubbed together and is coming back to get you.? (updated 9/15/2013)
Magic City – Evans family, etc. in the 2nd, last season (on Starz, available on DVD) By the final episode “The Sins of the Fathers”, by Mitch Glazer, the Jewish females are almost forgotten amidst the violent fall of Jewish gangsters. Only when “Ike” sympathizes with the prosecutor because they both have daughters, and he wouldn’t have wanted his daughter drugged and raped at his hotel as happened to the lawyer’s: I’m truly sorry.(More commentary forthcoming.) (updated 5/19/2014)
Prisoners of War (Hatufim) – Wives, Daughter, Sister, Intelligent Agent, and more women in the 2nd season (Israeli 2012 series streaming in the U.S. as of June 2013 on Hulu, week by week, whole season bingeable on Hulu Plus)
Ziva David on NCIS in her 9th season (The 11th season on CBS, streaming full episodes) was announced as her final season on 7/10/2013 in “NCIS Scoop: Cote de Pablo to Exit This Fall, Producers Promise 'Appropriate Closure' for Ziva”, quoting her statement after her contract expired: “I look forward to finishing Ziva’s story.” Which led USA cable channel, which reruns episodes to great ratings success, to feature “Ziva Appreciation Day” September 7, 2013, in a marathon of “Ziva”-centered episodes, with tweets from her fans. While my commentary on her last episodes is forthcoming, it was suprising that the only Jewish thing about “Ziva” in the last few seasons as she became more Americanized– her Jewish star – came to represent her. (updated 10/6/2013)
Pioneers of Television (PBS) season finale “The Mini-Series” left out the 1978 Holocaust, which was egregious to not even be mentioned alongside the discussion of Roots, Rich Man, Poor Man, and The Thorn Birds. The significant series had a tremendous influence in the U.S. and abroad to generate many subsequent documentaries and features, particularly about women. (3/31/2013)
Family Tree (on HBO), a satirical mockumentary of genealogy research programs, written by Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock, managed to stick in Jews into the roots of“Tom Chadwick” (played by the Irish Chris O’Dowd) when he followed clues to California. In “Indian”, he discovered that the “Rebecca” he’d been searching for from a horseback riding photograph as a presumed member of the Mojave tribe was in fact a different MOT – a Jew from the Barstow “Schmelffs”. In the finale “Cowboy”, it was a bit nasty that the only Jewish women “Schmelff” descendants were off recuperating from cosmetic surgery when he went to visit. (7/23/2013)
MTV’s Awkward is usually a refreshing comedy about parents and teens, but the Season 3, 2nd episode “Responsibly Irresponsible”, written by series creator Lauren Iungerich, was kind of nasty. Joking about standing around while sitting shiva for unpopular “Ricky Schwartz” with silent female relatives, the narrating “Jenna Hamilton” (played by Ashley Rickards) wryly notes his paintings of women spilling out of their dresses: Ricky’s obsession with breasts was evidently home-grown., as she looks over at his big-bosomed, grieving, mother. Her boyfriend “Matty McKibben” (played by Beau Mirchoff): Want to hear something creepy? Ricky’s grandma just told me Ricky was breastfed until he was eight. Their friend “Jake Rosati” (played by Brett Davern) chokes on his drink: It’s insane how much we didn’t know about that kid. (updated 6/1/2013)
Esther Blanco (plus) on Shameless (U.K.) (final seasons streaming this year on Hulu) In the last couple of seasons of this raucously, raunchy take on working class life in a government housing project in Manchester, England, the scam artists, drunks, and petty criminals and their children had more contact with middle class folk, usually on the way down in the recession, so there was now interaction with Jews. In Season 9, the 3rd episode, written by Ed McCardie, had its first Jewish woman character – well, a dead one, from when two scamming old ladies crashed “Irene”s funeral for the refreshments. Pretending to have known the deceased, “Patty Croker” (played deliciously obnoxious by Valerie Lilley) in the ‘60’s, even at Woodstock, starts blathering niceties about her being church-going, before realizing the attendees are wearing yarmulkes, and she has to switch stories:Jewish, of course. That is still a religion, even as it comes out this Jewish mother deserted her 2-year-old son and went off to Australia. She elaborates on their fictional friendship to reassure the now adult “Alan” (played by Marcus Garvey) – and in order to benefit from him spending his inheritance. But he gets creepily obsessed with her as a substitute mother: I should be very fucked up for all that she done to me. I need to know why she left. To get rid of him, she spins a tale of his mother’s true non-Jewish identity, unhappy marriage, and lesbian affair. And then she recognizes her in an old photograph.
In the last, 11th season, the series’ distinctive, and hilariously complicated, “sex degrees of separation” brought in the Palestinian “Kassi Blanco” (played by Jalaal Hartley) married to the Jewish “Esther Blanco” (played by Isy Suttie), and their three kids, including daughter “Talya” (frequently incorrectly spelled as “Thalia”, as played by Jade Kidruff). Interestingly, fans seem to have completely misunderstood that she represents a hippie, less materialistic, anti-establishment middle-class ethos that has similarities, yet counters, to how these working class rogues work the system. (commentary forthcoming) (updated 7/17/2013)
Royal Pains in “Off-Season Greetings”, written by Constance M. Burge and Michael Rauch, finally with this special winter wedding episode of the 4th season of the summer series, at least dealt a bit with the “Lawson” family’s Jewish heritage – but only at the provocation of the new blonde bride, with zero reference to any Jewish woman like a big blank in their lives, implying that tradition doesn’t go on without one. The bride, “Paige Collins” (played by Brooke D’Orsay), excitedly gathers the father and two adult sons together: It’s almost time! The groom “Evan” (played by Paulo Costanzo): Time for what? She: Hello? Sundown? We do it by a window? Stop messing with the shiksa! I know you know it’s the first night of Hanukkah. The guys all act surprised. She: You didn’t know it was the first night of Hanukkah? The father “Eddie” (played by Henry Winkler): I had a feeling that this night was different from other nights. The doctor, “Hank” (played by Mark Feuerstein): Yeah, Hanukkah’s not like Christmas, it’s hard to keep track of, it’s 8 nights, gelt. . The groom: How did you know it’s the first night? Bride: Because tradition matters to me, and I want to respect your tradition the way you respect mine. So I’ve been studying up on Judaism. I wanted to surprise you. Groom: Sorry, but I completely forgot. Bride: OK, where’s your menorah? The guys hesitate. She: you don’t have a menorah? Doctor: We moved a while ago, and I don’t think I brought. . . Bride: Guys, this is a great holiday, your great holiday. These things are important. They have meaning. They should matter. Doctor: They do matter. He takes his phone calls as his dad ribs him: Seriously, Hank, on Hanukkah? Doctor: Excuse me Rabbi Lawson, Happy Hanukkah. Dad: We can make a menorah—all we need is an egg carton and some tin foil! The bride is perturbed: No! No! No! It also pokes at TV’s tendency to falsely make the December holidays equal, which the shiksa doesn’t understand. (12/21/2012)
Happy Endings managed to have an entire episode set at bar mitzvah parties, “Boys II Menorah” by Dan Rubin & Lon Zimmet, without any Jewish females. Instead, one of the shicksas among the clueless friends seemed to be as irresistible as crack cocaine, as she said, to the Jewish 13-year-old boys, though her girlfriend speculates it’s because: You’re a goy with vaguely Semitic looks who looks like she knows her way around a Handrew Jackson. (11/14/2012)
The season premiere, part 2, of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, “Above Suspicion” written by Warren Leight and Julie Martin, was so confusing and convulted that a casual comment could have been misunderstood by many viewers. With Peter Jacobson as the obnoxiously Jewish pimp “Bart Ganzel”, who tosses off Yiddish insults of his African-American lawyer and intends to flee to Israel as “our homeland”, one of the women detectives explains that the threatening “Sergeant Ted Koundak” (I’m not sure this is his accurate name as only one fan site cited this identification and I couldn’t ID the actor) was for another female cop, “Alana Gonzales”, “her rabbi” who she was sleeping with -- and I think there’s viewers who took her literally. Oddly, the slang phrase got repeated the following week, in “Twenty-Five Acts”. teleplay by John Paul Roche, when “Det. Benson”s interim captain hands her his business card before he moves up to another position: If you ever need a rabbi. . . (10/12/2012)
On Hawaii Five-0 (CBS) in the “Ohuna” episode by Mike Schaub, the detective’s sister’s elderly patient “Morty” (played by Shelley Berman), visiting Honolulu for his bucket list, advises her: I need you to go see your mother. . .You get a second chance. Not everybody does. I’d give everything I’d own for one. I’d give anything to see Zoe Ann Sapirstein. . . My only daughter. . .We got into a fight, over this boy she was seeing. Her mother and I disapproved. She left college and took off for San Francisco, with the guy, we didn’t speak for years. One day the phone rang, it was the highway patrol. A carpet salesman from Oakland had too much to drink and hit my daughter’s car, killed her instantly. Not a day goes by I don’t wish I’d picked up the phone and called her. I missed the privilege to know her because I was a stubborn SOB. Go see your mother. You only have one family.
In contrast, “Kapu”, written by David Wolkove, threw in an even more gratuitous comic relief comment about a Jewish female. When the homicide detective seeks his hacker helper, known as “Toast” (played by Martin Starr) who I cannot recall ever revealed any Jewish identity, his roommate “Bullwinkle” says he went home, home to Baltimore, for his sister’s bat mitzvah. I know it’s crazy, right? Twelve years old and already a woman by the Laws of Moses. A little young, no? Mazel tov. Which is an excuse for him to light up his pineapple bong, and offer it to the cop. (updated 1/17/2013)
On New Girl, the “Katie” episode by series creator Elizabeth Meriwether, the roommate “Schmidt” (played by Max Greenfield) goes on one of his bragging jags about his past sexual escapades. This time he reminisces about when he was at his most irresistible to the opposite sex: For me, it was the 3rd night of Hanukkah, or as I call it, ‘The Night of the Shoshanas’. (10/9/2012)
On Parks and Recreation (on NBC), fans assumed that when “Mona Lisa” (played by Jenny Slate) was introduced this season as the hilariously obnoxious, irresponsible, and sex-obsessed sister of “Jean-Ralphio” (played by Ben Schwartz) she was Jewish, which I didn’t presume at first because I hadn’t realize they shared the last name “Saperstein”. While these two funny actors usually play Jewish characters, I didn’t pick up a single explicitly Jewish reference in the three episodes she guested on. Per TV Line, 2/23/2013, by Michael “Ausiello: Her character, Mona Lisa Saperstein, is being brought on primarily to terrorize Ben. ‘One of my favorite things to do in the world is take awful people — like Jean Ralphio or Mona Lisa — and just put Adam Scott in scenes with them,’ says exec producer Mike Schur with a laugh. ‘I have them act so horrifying and then have Adam just basically be the conscience of the show, and be absolutely blown away by how horrifying they are.’” (6/25/2013)
The sixth season of Mad Men, set in 1968, has been notable for showing Madison Avenue’s increasing hiring of Jewish men, as Rachel Shukert noted in “Mad Mensches”, 4/12/2013 in The Tablet. But until “The Flood”, written by series creator Matthew Weiner and Tom Smuts, with its Biblical references, there hadn’t been a Jewish woman character in awhile, until here when Michael Ginsberg (played by Ben Feldman) was set up by his father for a date with a presumably Jewish school teacher “Beverly Farber” (played by Nicole Hayden). (Commentary forthcoming)
In the penultimate episode of the season, “In Care Of”, written by Carly Wray and Matthew Weiner, “Peggy Olson” (played by Elisabeth Moss) goes over budget with a Rosemary’s Baby-satire TV ad for St. Joseph’s Aspirin by using too many actors – including a Jewish mother-type character who is surprised to recommend it over chicken soup – as amusingly enacted with a Yiddish accent in a run-through for the client by the very goyish red-haired “Joan Harris” (played by Christina Hendricks), and described in this interchange with Alan Sepinwall, posted on 6/5/2013, “Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner on Don's confession, Bob Benson's origin and more from season 6”: Q “And Christina Hendricks' old Jewish neighbor lady? I don't know how long you've been sitting on that, but that was gold. Matthew Weiner: ‘That was a shock to me. We had written it, but I didn't know it would be that good. Christina is so funny. These people are really funny. There is a lot of stuff in the show that we want people to laugh at. That was a huge welcome surprise; I was not there the day they shot that, and I just saw it in the dailies and am still laughing about it.’” (updated 6/25/2013)
Spies of Warsaw, an internationally produced mini-series shown on BBC America’s DramaVille, based on the Alan Furst novel I haven’t read (yet) that he co-adapted with Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais, is set on the eve of World War II, and at least the Jewish woman was a different victim than usual. The least attractive and blandest woman in the series, “Malka Rosen” (played by Linda Bassett), is a middle-aged Bolshevik who, with her husband, agrees to tell Russian secrets to the French embassy liaison in exchange for asylum, though that doesn’t provide safety from assassination attempts, even hiding on a luxurious estate outside Paris. When war breaks out, it appears that the couple give up into suicide. (4/11/2013)
On Southland, the “Babel” episode by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas about how the diversity of languages leads to violent miscommunications on the streets of Los Angeles, the cops come upon a little old lady (Bunny Levine) yelling at a group of African-American skateboarders who complain she assaulted them: I defended myself! I’d do it again if I had to!. . .These young men! They play in the street! They hit me, so I hit him! The young black guy, who explains how he accidentally bumped into her: Tell him what you called me! She: What – a schvartze? Bleep. I didn’t survive Hitler to be run over by a skateboarder. . .I’ve lived I nthis neighborhood for 60 years! My father built the baker, my husband ran the deli! The young man challenges where she’s pointing: That’s BS! That buiding’s been abandoned! She: At the end of the day, that’s all we had. One cop mutters something like: Gentrification’s a bitch. The Latino “Officer Hank Lucero” (played by Anthony Ruivivar) teases the teens: So how did Grandma hit you – with a haymaker or an uppercut?, then smiles a Yiddish phrase to the old lady as he leaves. [In trying to find anyone else who might have understood what he said, on the IMDb Forum
“AxemanLOTRDT, 4/13/13: I watched it with a friend who speaks Yiddish and he said that it sounded like (translated literally), ‘pretty clothes’ or (more loosely), ‘nice dress.’ We both agreed that it still didn't make a whole lot of sense.” (updated 4/15/2013)
In The Bible (History Channel), you would barely know there were Jewish women in the Old Testament (what with Jesus’s 33 years getting a lot more hours of air time than millennia of Jewish history). In Part 1, “The Beginnings”, the few seen are querulous nags – Lot’s Wife gets seen (sparing viewers the sexual conspiracy of her daughters), but not the matriarchs Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Curiously, Sarah is even deprived the authority of naming her son, instead that is attributed to the male angel. She survives discovering her son was nearly sacrificed, unlike the more meaningful midrash that explained her immediate funeral in Genesis as from dropping dead at the news Isaac brings her about The Akeda. In Part 2, “Homeland”, Aaron’s wife is seen, but no Miriam. While I appreciate the racial diversity shown among the ancient Israelites, Samson’s dark-skinned mother gets more attention than the briefly seen Michal, Saul’s daughter/David’s first wife, or even the glimpses of the adulterous Bathsheba. In “Part 3 – Hope”, evidently the only Jewish woman in over 500 years from Judea to Babylon and back to Jerusalem is Mary, who was flirting with a young, virile Joseph in synagogue before she got virginally pregnant with “The King of the Jews”. I stopped watching once Jesus met John doing baptisms. (updated 3/29/2013)
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 3rd season (on WE) I kept meaning to watch the rest of the 2nd season and all the 3rd season of their “reality series” but I downloaded them to make room on my DVR, so I just may yet watch them eventually, if the copy works. (10/26/2013)
On Raising Hope (on Fox), I still have to catch satirical episode “Burt Mitzvah: The Musical”, written by Paul A. Kaplan and Mark Torgove, to comment on this family of scammers taking advantage of matriarch guest star Shirley Jones claiming to have Jewish roots, including the musical number "Rock the Torah” set in a deli. (1/2/2014)
On Children’s Hospital (Cartoon Channel’s Adult Swim), the deliciously hilarious satire of Grey's Anatomy and other such hospital soaps, in the “Wisedocs” episode, written by series creator Rob Corddry, David Krumholtz, who pretty much always plays a smart Jewish character, is here “Dookie”, a Mafioso’s dim-witten son who is flirting with “Dr. Cat Black” (played by Lake Bell): My dad says I should ask you out. She fends him off with a revelation near end of the 4th season that contradicts her declaring herself not Jewish in another episode as a reason she was breaking up with the Jewish doctor, but then her character has also died and had amnesia a couple of times: Really? You’re sure your family wouldn’t mind if we dated? Because I’m Jewish and I’m terrible at keeping a secret. He: Why would they care about that? They kiss in the corridor. He: Wow, I can’t wait to tell my dad I’m in love with a blabbermouth Jewish broad who kisses like a black chick! She defends him as he’s arrested by the deaf cop that he’s not like the rest of his family, but he admits he is: Goodbye human Kat. Or in your people’s language - ‘Meow’. (updated 3/1/2013)
I mostly watch a Lifetime movie for seasonal December dilemma promotion of interfaith relationships, so I didn’t expect to see one for Black History Month, let alone just a week after one celebrating Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz’s friendship: Twist of Faith, teleplay by Joyce Gittlin, Janet Fattal & Stephen Tolkin, story by Gittlin and Fattal. An Orthodox cantor in Brooklyn “Yaakov Fischer” (played by David Julian Hirsh) is happily and lovingly married to “Ruth” (played by Kyra Zagorsky), with 3 kids, including 2 daughters, “Miriam” and “Sarah”. (While he teaches a male class at a yeshiva, he teaches his daughter a secular song on the piano – “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.) He spends Shabbat with his mother (played by Paula Shaw) and sister “Naomi” (played by Gina Leon). His wife complains that he has to work on furniture because he isn’t paid full-time as a synagogue cantor – see, he’s a Jewish carpenter. He walks his family to the bus stop on a Sunday, when he’s going to stay home to watch sports, but one of the daughters is quickly accosted by a punk teen, the wife calls over the busdriver, but the volatile (white) kid pulls out a gun, and shoots dead first the driver, then the family. (Gosh, that’s quite a mass killing in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood.) At the shiva, the sister expects him to be already getting over it all, so no wonder he escapes in shock and roams the countryside anonymously – until he ends up at a gospel church choir in Alabama with singer Toni Braxton’s single mom “Nina”. His worried female relatives contact the police, and he finally sends them a card just to let them know he’s alive. Starting to fall for “Nina”, he kisses her, but flees home, explaining his behavior to his mother: I couldn’t breathe without them. Mom: Baruch hashem, you’re back. He weeps over his wife’s headstone (dated 1979-2012), so presumably this is 11 months after her murder. Mom can tell he’s depressed: Where did you go Yaakov? Did you leave your heart there? You can tell me. Evidently he told her the whole story, and who he’s now in love with doesn’t bother him, but rather the timing: With Ruth barely cold!. . I shouldn’t have let it happen. . .Too soon. . .Not fair to Ruth or the children. Mom is surprisingly encouraging: It is not right for a man to have his heart in two places. He argues he has his work in Brooklyn.: It’s over. Mom quotes a rabbi who would doubtless object to know his words from A Narrow Bridge, a tribute to Chedva of Shemiras Ha-lashon, were being used to justify an interfaith relationship: Always be happy. He objects: There’s other ways to happiness than running away. Mom: Maybe that’s what you were doing when you came home. Just when the African-American family is about to leave to find him in Brooklyn, as they have just figured out he’s Jewish from some Hebrew scrawls he left behind, he shows up at their front door for a big hug and kiss finale in front of the church that fills the screen. (2/10/2013)
On Upstairs Downstairs (shown in the U.S. on PBS), the “The Love That Pays the Price” episode by series 2 creator Heidi Thomas, continued the story line of the German-Jewish refugee girl “Lotte” into Autumn 1938, who is now under the guardianship of the upstairs family, building up to the organization of the first Kindertransport (more commentary forthcoming). (10/17/2012)
In the 2nd season of Episodes (on Showtime), in “Episode Three” written by series creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, the first explicitly Jewish woman was at least glimpsed around slimey studio executive “Merc Lapidus” (played by John Pankow) – his weeping mother at his father’s Jewish funeral. (9/8/2012)
In Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new small town California dance studio show Bunheads (ABC Family), writer/director Daniel Palladino stuck in a Jewish woman wisecrack in the “Blank up, It’s Time” episode. Amidst an Astaire/Rogers tribute rehearsal, short “Carl Cramer” (played by Casey J. Adler) in tuxedo asks his much taller blonde dance partner: Tonight you should come over to my house and watch “This Entertainment”. I’d loan it to you but it’s my mom’s and she’s not in to loaning. I’ll whip us up a lasagna for dinner. . . .From scratch. . .My grandmother taught me. How a lifelong Jew learned to make a killer lasagna I don’t know, but she taught me and it’s the best. But her BFFs make her reluctantly turn down the tempting request with a lame diet excuse.
In the episode “Channing Tatum is A Fine Actor”, written by Daniel Palladino, “Carl” insists that the girlfriend “Boo Jordan” (played by Kaitlyn Jenkins) meet his parents. But she gets unfortunate advice from her dance teacher, who obviously has never met a Jewish mother: Be whoever the parents want you to be, and say whatever you think they want you to say. “Boo” thought she was going to say “be yourself” but is hopeful: Good, because I don’t exactly know who I am. The ensuing dialogue at the “Hunan Garden” restaurant would be an offensive portrayal of an annoying Jewish mother if, well, “”Mrs. Cramer” didn’t sound more natural than a caricature, as played by Gilmore Girls aluma Alex Borstein. As his parents argue about ordering too little vs. having left-overs and the mother insists on more string beans, “Carl” whispers to “Boo”: It’s a Cramer family tradition. We never order enough food. . . Then we order too much. Mom addresses “Boo”: You’ll eat more food, right?. . Please call me Sweetie, everyone calls me Sweetie. . . Do you like pork? “Boo”: Yes! Mom, quickly: Ugh, because I do not. “Boo” just as quickly: Neither do I. Mom zings: So which is it-- you like pork or you don’t? The girl goes into a tortured cover-up explanation. “Carl” interrupts: Just order the pork, Mom. Dad speaks up: This is why the whole world hates us. Mom: Nobody hates us., and keeps ordering and arguing with her husband. Mom turns to the girl and motions around her own face: So what’s going on here? Are you Jewish? Girl stalls carefully: I could be. “Carl” interrupts quickly: She isn’t Jewish, Mom. Mom pursues: So what is this? I’m seeing a lot of Eastern Europe. Poland, maybe Hungary. The girl parries: Do you like eastern Europe? Mom muses: Depends on the era. (Or did she say area?) Carl tries to change the subject with an anecdote, but Mom interrupts: I do not need to hear this story again, and neither does your little girlfriend. Now I am here to get to know her, not you. So, Boo, does your famiy ski? To “Carl”s surprise she says yes. Mom: God I hate skiers. “Boo” quickly: I mean no. Mom even quicker: Really, because I was going to say that I hate them because they get to ski. I would love to ski but I never learned how. . . Maybe you could teach me. Mom and Dad get distracted over the string beans order. Mom: But Boo wanted those string beans, didn’t you Boo? “Carl” again tries to change the topic, to Boo’s dancing. Mom: Carl raves about your dancing. The girl is modest. But Mom sees a topic of conversation: Who’s your favorite ballerina? Carl tries to help with a list,but Mom waves him away: Is your name Boo? So, who do you like? Gelsey Kirkland? “Boo” quickly affirms. “Mom” stage whispers: Terrible cocaine problem. The girl switches to No. Mom hones in: No? She didn’t have a terrible cocaine problem? . . .She wrote a book, a whole book about snorting cocaine, about quitting cocaine. . .You’re a ballerina, surely you have a favorite? Who’s your favorite? But the girl had followed the teacher’s advice to set an alarm for relief at 90 minutes and jumps up saying she has to go to the bathroom. Mom is confused: You set an alarm to remind you to go to the bathroom? As the girl walks away, she listens in on the family’s continued conversation. Mom: What kind of person sets an alarm to tell her to go to the bathroom. “Carl”: Mom, will you back off? You’re making her nervous! Mom: Please, she showed up nervous. Carl, this girl -- she’s like a loaf of unbaked bread. “Carl”: Mom don’t do this! Mom: This one has no opinions. She’s skiis, she doesn’t. “Carl”: Stop! Mom: She’s from Poland, she’s not from Poland. “Carl”: She never said she was from Poland. And you don’t know her. But you better get to know her because she’s the one that I like. I could marry this girl. Mom: You talk about marrying this girl – you’re in high school! All of which panics “Boo” even more, and she later confronts “Carl” with an hysterical plan for their young married future, but “Carl” tamps her down: I didn’t mean it literally. My mother, I love her, but she yaps, and she doesn’t listen. The only way I can get her to shut up is to be ridiculously dramatic. “Boo”: So I’m not just a loaf of unbaked bread? “Carl”: No, you’re fully baked. And they kiss. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new perspective on The Eternal Appeal of the Shiksa: Compared to Mom, she’s not only blonde, she’s bland. (updated 1/16/2013)
In the premiere of the 8th, and final, season of Weeds (on Showtime), “Messy”, series creator Jenji Kohan finally dealt with a subject she’s avoided about “Nancy Botwin” (Mary Louise Parker). As she lies in a coma from a gunshot, her family gathers in the hospital waiting room. Her older son “Silas” (Hunter Parrish): Will we bury her next to Dad? His Jewish uncle “Andy” (Justin Kirk): Can’t. He’s buried in a Jewish cemetery. “Nancy”s sister “Jill” (Jennifer Jason-Leigh): She took conversion classes before “Silas” was born. “Andy”: She never actually finished them, didn’t she? “Jill”: I don’t know. She took the classes. “Silas”: Mom eats cheeseburgers and shrimp. We’ve had Christmas trees every year. “Andy”: Like most Jews. Maybe she did convert. . .I can pull the plug for her. She did that for Bubbe. But she seemed to have forgotten what she learned in the episode “Threshold”, by Brendan Kelly, when she offered her new rabbi (younger) lover a lunch of ham and cheese. But he anyway invited her to Shabbos dinner with his “old, close friends”, two couples, both with presumably Jewish women, with one married to an African-American. One of the curly-haired, brunette wives, played by Meredith Scott Lynn, a bit coarsely feels out this new girlfriend on the benefits of pomegranate juice, then makes a joke about a new sushi place: Torah Sushi -- where half the selections are for people with faith, so chef’s choice, and half are for those who don’t have faith – with directions to the nearest McDonald’s. That drives “Nancy” into the kitchen, where she sees a photo on the fridge of the rabbi with his late wife. The jokester follows her in and apologizes: Did we come on too strong?. . .We just want to see Dave happy, and he seems happy lately. . That was taken at the seder two years ago. It’s only been 15 months. She listens in avidly from the dining room as “Nancy” still in the kitchen confesses her pot dealing to the rabbi and breaks up with him. “Nancy”s description of the break-up leads her brother-in-law to Google photos of his rabbinical school lover Yael Hoffman, from an earlier season, and repeating her first name over and over. In “God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise” episode by Stephen Falk, he’s back in California ruminating about her: Yael of rabbinical school. Yael of sharp tongue and eyebrows like throwing blades at the Mossad. His nephew is disgusted: You came to bone her? His uncle: Back to her. But when he goes to the college she doesn’t recognize him, though she’s barely recognizable with long dyed blonde hair and bangs. The series finale “It’s Time – Part 1”, by Jenji Kohan, was set several years hence, when “Nancy” had married “Rabbi Bloom” and been widowed, again. He had adopted her son “Stevie” by the drug kingpin, so that as her extended family gathers for his bar mitzvah, he is described as “half-Mexican, half-Jewish”, but, in Part 1, there was no indication that she had converted, let alone there were no other Jewish girls or women around.
”Part 2”, by Kohan, finally fills in clarifications. “Stevie”, having just found out about his biological father, makes announcements in his bar mitzvah speech: David Bloom adopted me and I love him very much. . . My mother is Methodist. She converted for Dave, but seriously, once a Methodist, always a Methodist. The man I called ‘Dad” all my life was Jewish. I’m not Jewish. My brothers are half-Jewish. I’m not chosen. I don’t choose to be. . .I call bullshit on this whole show for family and friends to feel good about. I don’t know who I am. He declares that he rejects all religion, and an Asian girl sitting next to him on the bimah named “China” (played by Catherine Chan) speaks up that she, too, is adopted and therefore she’s not Jewish. Her lesbian mothers in the congregation call out: You are Jewish and we love you! “Nancy” explains to “Stevie” why she’s going ahead with the party: Technically, you are Jewish. You had a bris, you entered into the covenant. Andy insisted on it. If anyone is your real father, it’s him. Son: Just what I need is more fathers. . .Your history is very confusing to me. At least the family joins in for one last toke in the snow at the end. (updated 11/25/2012)
On The Mentalist (CBS), the “Devil’s Charry” episode by Daniel Cerone, had a murdered diamond cutter, so, of course, he was Jewish. His tearful daughter “Madeline Mendelssohn” (played by Charlene Amoia), who lived with him but was at her remote cabin in Big Sur for solitude on the night of his death, describes him: He was raised not to trust security services. His father was a German Jew. He survived the Holocaust. Banks stole the family money. So she’s just a freighted set-up to explain why he had the big diamond with him. (10/8/2012)
In The L.A. Complex (Canadian series showing/streaming in the U.S. as a summer show on The CW), the penultimate episode of the 2nd season, “Xs and Os”, written by Brendan Gall, the struggling comic “Nick” (played by Joe Dinicol) had a gig at a network executive’s party. But it turned out to be the bat mitzvah of the guy’s daughter, and he had to dress as a rabbit. As his hyper girlfriend jealously commented in a call: Great, there must be dozens of celebrity parents there, the party planner scolded him for talking on the phone in costume and trying to take the head off, and resorted to cliché: No, no no, Chuck never breaks character! Do you see that girl right there? Today is the most important day of her life. Today she leaves childhood behind and becomes a woman. . . You take the head off, you don’t get paid., when the comic protested (I didn’t take down his whole rant): If she’s a woman she knows there’s a man inside sweating. A magician advised him: See that clown? He’s on the way out. We’re the future – mitzvah wise. When the comic quickly cleaned up his act to perform next to a huge pink-framed photo of the bat mitzvah girl, the 12 year old girls cheered at his Justin Bieber and vampire references that substituted for his usual sex talk, and they called him back for a standing ovation encore. He was happily surprised to make $500, but was not happy to be invited into “the mitzvah circuit” as a “bunny comedian”. (9/30/2012)
American Horror Story: Asylum (on FX, out on DVD) found a new excuse for the sadism on excruciating display all this season in “I Am Anne Frank”, Part 1 episode written by Jessica Sharzer. Set in 1964, a woman, played by Franka Potente, who was unfortunately underused in the first season of Copper, explains why she’s been sent there in an involuntary psychiatric hold after her violent response to an anti-Semitic incident at a bar. She heard a guy say: ’Don’t let them Jew you down.’ I stabbed him with a beer bottle. They’ll live, but they will never forget. The crazy nun who runs the place (played by Jessica Lange) is unusually sympathetic, for her: I’m not unmoved to the atrocities your people suffered in the war. Did you lose people in the war? The patient just whistles (which could be a reference to the killer’s signature tune in Fritz Lang’s M but neither me nor my husband thought it sounds like "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from the Peer Gynt suite by Edvard Grieg). She’s next seen writing to “Kitty”, as in the diary: The walls are closing in. I can hardly breathe. It’s Amsterdam all over again. But there are eyes everywhere. The eyes of madness and disease. These people here are resigned to die here. We were never resigned. We always hung onto a shred of hope. She freaks out at seeing the sadistic “Dr. Arthur Arden” (played by James Cromwell) and identifies herself: You were there! Auschwitz! Nazi! Nazi swine! Don’t you remember me Doctor? I’m Anne. Anne Frank! The nun wryly confronts her: What a relief it will be to school children to know you survived. “Anne”: You think I’m crazy. Nun: Anne Frank died in Bergen Belsen in 1945, just weeks before the camp was liberated. Anne: There were so many bodies when the Allies arrived, thousands buried in mass graves. But I wasn’t one of them. I was too sick to tell anyone my name, even if someone asked my name and no one asked. The Brits nursed us back to some semblance of health. Afterwards, I kept to the streets in Germany, a pickpocket, a thief. And then I met a soldier, Pvt. William Snow of Rutherford, NJ. He saved me. He brought me to America. . .I’m a widow. He was called back to service in Korea. He was killed there in 1952, the same year my diary was published in America. And I realized then that my father had survived the war. Nun: And you made no attempt to contact your father? “Anne”: I wanted to at first. But he had a new family, a new life. But because of the diary, people finally started to pay attention to us, what they had done to us. All because of a martyred 15-year-old. She had to stay 15 and a martyr. I could do more good dead than alive. Nun: Your story is indecent. “Anne”, whose monologue is illustrated with black-and-white flashbacks to the Auschwitz barracks: No, you’re indecent! You have a Nazi war criminal working here. . .He was Hans Gruber then. I saw him the night we arrived in Auschwitz. He seemed kind, gentle. He said he couldn't treat us all, so he'd flip a coin to decide who to take. I remember thinking they were lucky. But no one was lucky in Auschwitz. . . He would visit us regularly in the women’s barracks, bringing chocolates and sweets. When they came back, if they came back, they were changed. She shows the skeptical nun her number tattoo. (I’ve seen one poster claim the number is inaccurate.) After the cop who brought “Anne” to the asylum questions the doctor, the doctor attacks her: You don’t know you who are! Anne Frank – she died! Or didn’t you bother to read the book? Your lies have caused me a great deal of embarrassment. He insists he’s from Scottsdale, Az. But she pulls out a gun she had lifted from the cop and demands he confess: Are you going to do to me what you did to those girls at Auschwitz? Confess! She shoots him in one leg and threatens the other, until she gets the key to his locked door – behind which she finds the woman he’s been subjecting to hideous surgery.
I’m surprised that other commenters have found this episode offensive, though this is an endlessly over-the-top series anyway. Maybe non-Jews have turned Anne Frank into more of a sacrosanct icon than Jews with relatives who died in the Holocaust (I’m named for a great-uncle who died at Auschwitz) who can already personalize the six million. I had no interest in joining the l-o-n-g lines visiting her hiding place; I instead stood outside the apartment in Amsterdam where my friend’s mother and grandmother were successfully hidden, and the store of her uncle who was taken -- and did not live to return. At least AfterEllen’s Jeff Jensen added some useful references for the episode. Joan Rivers, in the version of her one-woman act shown on Showtime this year as Don’t Start With Me, even included an Anne Frank joke: I flew on Lufthansa Airlines. I opened the overhead and Anne Frank fell out: “I’m an orphan!” She wrote one book! There was no ending! When audience members reacted with discomfort, Rivers retorted, as she did throughout the show: Grow up! She continued on with Auschwitz jokes, particularly about the gift shop. However, Rivers was castigated by the Anti-Defamation League for making a comparable joke on the 2013 Oscars Special Edition of Fashion Police. Checking out what German-American supermodel Heidi Klum was wearing: “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.” But it’s not the first time the ADL has been shocked, shocked by how she pokes at the sacrosanct. Wilfred, a few months later in June (3rd season on FX in the U.S. adaptation of the Australian comedy), in the “Uncertainty” episode by Reed Agnew and Eli Jorné, continued mordantly making Anne Frank jokes, as the obnoxious dog (played by Jason Gann in both versions) claimed he was not a hallucination of his mentally ill neighbor, but a magic dog, a mythical being: I’m remembering certain things from my past. Yes, it’s 1945. There was a little girl, Anne, Anne Frank. . .Anne and her rules. No walks, no trips to the groomers. In the end, I just snapped. I just screamed at her – ‘Anne! I’m dying here! How come we never leave the house!’ Thank God those well-dressed German men heard my barking and broke into the attic. Those brave heroes rescued me. (updated 9/17/2013)
At the opening of “Part 2”, by Brad Falchuk, “Anne Frank” is holding a gun on the doctor: This man is a monster! You should see what he has in his office! . . .I’ve waited so many years for this! I can wait a few more minutes. But she’s grabbed, and is next seen in a straightjacket on a bed, still protesting about the doctor: He would have killed me! Gruber – I told you! I hope he dies! A man comes in identifying her as his wife “Charlotte Brown” – but her maiden name was “Cohen” (though her real Jewish identity is never referred to again in the episode as adding to her identification with Frank). He explains that she was always “high-strung”, that after they saw the play in Boston when she was pregnant, she read the book, went to the library, and read up about Auschwitz, but it got worse after their baby was born: She went on about babies who were gassed and tortured. There’s flashbacks to her room full of clippings and research, where she ignores her crying son “David”: He’s not the one who needs me! The shrink stops by, who we find out later in the episode is a serial killer, and immediately diagnoses “post partum psychosis”. Her husband notes: She’s a very emotional person. In the asylum, she rejects him and goes on about Gruber, but she has a visceral reaction to a family photo with him and the baby, and agrees to return home. But next she’s being dragged back screaming as the perplexed husband pleads: Charlotte’s not normal. She’s worse. You have to take her. I can’t handle her. She’s locked in a padded room and into the treatment of the evil doctor who gets her husband to agree to a lobotomy. (PBS’s American Experience episode on ”The Lobotomist” sadly shows this was a realistic element in this episode.) She’s next seen as a perfect Stepford wife and mother: I have never been happier., while her husband throws out her Holocaust research, and the camera closes in on a photograph of a Nazi who looks like a younger version of the doctor.
The Nazi doctor had a gruesome memory of a Jewish woman inmate to taunt the demonically possessed nun in the “Unholy Night” episode by James Wong, oddly playing on the legends of Jews hiding jewels in the camps rather than the truth of stolen gold fillings. He presents “Sister Mary Eunice” (played by Lily Rabe) with a Christmas present of improbably big ruby chandelier style earrings and explains their awful provenance as she admires them and preens in a mirror: They belonged to a Jewess in the camp. She was always reminding people that she was a woman of considerable means and that her husband was an influential and wealthy doctor in Berlin. She was always complaining to me about her stomach problems and as a doctor I thought I should do something about it. I followed her one day, thinking I might dignose her condition and take a stool sample. She was on her hands and knees picking through her own feces to retrieve those earrings. She confessed to me that she swallowed them every day, day after day, carrying them around inside her as if she might return to her former grandeur. Ridiculous woman. She died from internal bleeding. The earrings were very hard on her intestines. Obviously, I retrieved them. I knew that some day I would meet someone who was worthy of their exceptional beauty. The smiling nun: You were very clever to retrieve them. Look how beautiful they are on me. They bring out the rose in my cheeks!. The doctor: I so dearly hoped you’d throw them back in my face, that you couldn’t stand to touch those shit-stained earrings. I was hoping there’d be a glimmer of horror. (updated 12/15/2012)
In Covert Affairs (on USA, available on DVD) “This Is Not America” episode by Julia Ruchman, the secret agent went to Israel – but she only encountered a faux Jewish woman, an Iranian agent with long curly, dark hair going by the name “Ilana Ben Ashkol” (played by Sarah Podemski), who convinced American scientist “Isaac Reiss” he “found love” and he even wants to learn how to say sweetheart in Hebrew for her: We met at a farmers’ market, buying organic pomegranates. She’s a scientist, too. She’s the first person I’ve been with who understands what I do. Meanwhile, the returning Mossad agent “Eyal Lavine” (played by Oded Fehr), returning in the 3rd season watches from afar his son, to whom he years ago gave up custody to his ex-wife.
”Eyal” saved “Agent Annie Walker” from a Russian prison in the “Rock 'n' Roll Suicide”, setting up their relationship in the next “Wishful Beginnings” episode, also by Julia Ruchman. He walks into CIA Headquarters at Langley with a character rarely seen on TV – a mature female Mossad boss, “Rivka Singer”, played by Tovah Feldshuh, in her full Golda’s Balcony mode (the William Gibson play she toured extensively). She’s a tough negotiator with her female CIA counterpart over sharing intelligence about a compromised informant against the Saudis, is sarcastic about their following laws - American rules – so baffling!-- and thinks “Agent Annie Walker” is reckless, though her subordinate “Eyal” defends her. (Nice touch to have the two Mossad agents speak Hebrew together when they’re alone.) “Rivka” teases if he's sleeping with her. He says no, but she smirks: Why not? It might speed things along. After he protectively sets up “Annie” in his own D.C. apartment, he joins “Rivka” in her car to hand over the intel “Annie” gave him against her boss’s instructions: So, you are the right man for this job., and gets him to agree to the next steps in her plan, but he lies to her about where “Annie” is staying.
”Rivka” was back in “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”, by Tamara Becher, admitting that the CIA had proven intel she had passed on to them was faked: I’m afraid I owe you an apology on behalf of me and my agency. . . .We were not the only ones who were duped. She confesses that the agency has a “black eye” – that “Eyal” has gone rogue, which he admits to “Annie” and tells her about a woman in Amsterdam he turned into an asset (and fell for) who was discovered and killed. But at the end of the episode, he reports back to “Rivka”, who slips in and out of Hebrew with him: You had a role to play here, for Mossad and Eretz Israel. But he’s distraught at losing “Annie”s trust. “Rivka” promises him a desk job in Tel Aviv, but he quits. “Rivka”: What is happening here is much larger than you know. We’ve all had to play our parts. We’ve all had to pay the price. “Eyal” is bitter: What you lost in this grandiose scheme? “Rivka”: You. He walks out. (updated 11/12/2012)
In the 2nd U.S. season of Strike Back (on Cinemax, out on DVD), in Episodes 15 and 16 written by Richard Zajdlic, a very sexy assassin turns out to be a Mossad agent ”Rebecca Levy”. (While she makes no explicitly Jewish reference, she does comment about being Israeli, so I figure she’s not a putative Jewish woman.) The 2006 source book by Chris Ryan was set in Lebanon rather than the “prequel” storyline in Iraq. “Rebecca” (played by tall, dark, and beautiful Belgian actress Lyn Renée) is first seen as a flight attendant at the Cape Town Airport trailing a retired nuclear scientist. She flirts her way past Section 20 agent “Sgt. Damien Scott” (Aussie Sullivan Stapleton playing an American working for the Brits) into the closed circuit security TV center with a sly I’m going to see my boyfriend., murders the security guard, and gives efficient directions to her team. She’s next seen in a package delivery disguise, point blank shoots another old nuclear scientist living on a fancy estate, and strides past the dead body of his security guard. She does look thoughtfully pensive as a colleague drives their getaway car. Meanwhile, the British intelligence service has identified an explosive used against Section 20 in the chase as an Israeli weapon previously deployed against an Iranian nuclear scientist. It’s explained that Israel helped South Africa develop their nuclear program in the 1980’s, and have since “made sure they do nothing against them”. “Rebecca” next appears chatting up “Scott” at a bar as if he had been a passenger on her plane. Next they’re having brutal sex, with she on top strangling him and he squeezing her breasts hard. He protests the condom broke (with his regular couplings even in the most dangerous situations around the world, I don’t recall he ever stopped for a condom before, and maybe this will come back to haunt him later in the series), and she purrs: I want you to come in me. As she dresses, he turns coy: Was that even sex? I’ve had easier cage fights than that. She mocks: Men never admit about physical fighting with each other – how intimate it is. He: You know, you fuck like I used to. She: How’s that? He: Like you stopped believing. Later at the safe house, the scientist notes that that the Israelis had insisted everything be destroyed, but then the house immediately comes under attack. Next we see “Rebecca” shooting a machine gun at “Scott”s car. They point guns at each other and he mutters: Fuckin’ bitch. She doesn’t shoot him - - because she had placed a tracker on him. He finally figures that out and jumps into a water tank to disable it. At the cliff hanger, they’re again pointing guns at each other. At the next episode, she backs off: You’re not my target. He turns uncharacteristically insightful: I know what you’re doing. I was trained to do the same thing. You depersonalize at all times, that they’re not real people. But he’s here to save his family, not threaten Israel., in reference to the scientist. She: What do you know? He: I know you don’t have to kill him, just rescue some hostages. She: No. He: It might help you sleep better at night. She: I sleep fine. But she next appears at his apartment door at night. He: Trouble sleeping? She talks about the case. He: So what are you doing here? They make love, with missionary position counting as more romantic than his usual rigorous doggy style quickies in this premium cable display of female nudity and male behinds. He even kisses her afterwards, and, whoa, they spoon. She: You still think I’m only using you? He: I don’t care if you are. . . They discuss the case and who she’ll be assigned to target. She: Maybe they will. There’s always one more person to kill. He: You could just walk away, disappear. They can’t hand you the next file if they can’t find you. She: Did you ever put your gun in your own mouth? He: That’s the day you should quit. She: It’s our mess. We helped build those weapons. He: Walk away. She: To where? He: Promise you’ll try. Shocker – they cuddle! Back at headquarters, his female boss shows surveillance photos of the two together. He: You missed the ones of us fucking. Boss explicitly warns: She’s Mossad. She’s an assassin. He: Yeah, and she wants to quit. Just as the Section 20 agents secure the scientist and his family, she shoots him, and “Scott” instinctively shoots at her. He reaches out to her bloody body: What the fuck did you do that for? She: This is my way out. I needed you to kill me. He: You’re not going to die from these wounds. You’ve got your out. Promise me. Hold on tight. You’re going to get out. She: I promise. (Very operatic.) Later, his boss reports not finding her: She’s a ghost. In the following episode, by John Simposon, the blonde CIA agent he’s been banging is jealous :I heard about the Mossad agent – Rebecca Levy. . .Is it true you couldn’t kill her? He: Not I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. She sneers: Redemption in a bullet? He: She was looking for a way out. (updated 8/7/2013)
In Major Crimes (on TNT, available on DVD), the re-boot continuation of The Closer, which never had any Jewish women in its Los Angeles, “The Ecstasy and the Agony” episode, by Adam Belanoff, had an exaggerated Beverly Hills-type Israeli mob wife. “Roma Strauss” (played by Necar Zadegan) wore a Jewish star as she shrieked about her Israeli-born, American-naturalized husband being gunned down at her front door, who was about to go into witness protection for ratting out his close cousin/business partner in importing ecstasy and laundering money through B-movie productions: They wanted to send us to Oklahoma. To Tulsa! As if anyone would believe we are the McDougalls! FBI agent: Ma’am, that was just one option. In her interrogations, she answers every question with a resentful question, such as: You think you have to know everything? She yells at the cousin: Don’t threaten me! I know things! Why would I murder Elon when you were going to do it for me?. . .Want to know what we were planning? Divorce! She nags her 14-year-old son “Avi”: So it would kill you to have a glass of water?. . .That’s enough water!. . .Don’t worry, I’m going to get you a better dad. It turns out she told everything to her life coach, who turned it into a movie treatment: He gave me a reason to get up in the morning. He’s helping me find myself. Neither of us wants to be in Tulsa. She’s more upset that her “intuitive life strategist” was sleeping with the other Israeli mob wives too: Some of them were fairly attractive, and they were paying me. (The delicious irony was intended that he was played by Michael Weatherly, whose law enforcement character on NCIS has considerable “shipper” tension with an Israeli agent.) When her son confesses to the murder because he, too, didn’t want to move to Tulsa, the cops offer her a plea deal for her information so he’ll be treated as a juvenile: He was protecting his mother. You can’t blame a son for doing that, can you? (9/5/2012)
In the 2nd season Alphas (on SyFy) “Gaslight” episode, written by Terri Hughes Burton and Ron Milbauer, “Anna Levy” (played by Liane Balaban), the autistic, or whatever, leader of last season’s Red Flag rebellion of People With Special Abilities, came back as an apparition, after a surprisingly specific Jewish headstone unveiling at her grave. Though I don’t recall her having a Jewish identity, the year-later memorial was a convenient story-line. Her somewhat more talkative autistic, government agent boyfriend “Gary” interrupts the rabbi to talk about her: She’s not with us. She doesn’t live on – that’s the problem! Why does he get to talk? He’s lying! Anna wasn’t peaceful – she was a rebel! Now she’s a dead rebel. . . I didn’t get any catharsis. . .Where do I put my stone? When she appears to him, through another Alpha’s electromagnetic Special Ability, they can now talk to each other: You’re not real, but I like seeing you. The doctor gets him to give her up to save another’s life, and she kisses him goodbye. But he found another way to honor Anna, as he Tweets The revolt is coming. “@Annalives”, which SyFy is using for their social media promotions of the series. (8/25/2012)
In the second season opener of the New York-set Suits (on USA, summers), “She Knows”, written by series creator Aaron Korsh, the whole law firm turns out for the Jewish funeral of “Alicia Hardman” the wife, dead of breast cancer, of senior partner “Daniel” (David Costabile). When his competitor in the firm had found out he was taking money from client escrow accounts, he had taken time off over the last five years ostensibly to care for her, though later in the season an affair is revealed. He’s pleased that he also used the time get to know better his daughter “Sarah” (played by Natalie Krill). He’s proud she just graduated high school and is on her way to Harvard. The competing partner’s ally pays a shiva call, not that it’s called that but he does bring food) and finds “Sarah” grief-stricken. He threatens her father with exposure to his daughter in order not to get him to return to the firm. But he’s outfoxed when the father not only confesses to the staff about the funds he “borrowed” but tells the negotiator I told my daughter everything. In the “Asterisk” episode, written by Justin Peacock, “Louis Litt” (played by Rick Hoffman) says he’ll first tell his rabbi about his promotion in the law firm, then he’s skyping with his kvetchy parents. Mom: Partner? Senior partner? It all sounds the same to me. . . .Louie, I don’t want to die before I see my grandchildren. He protests that his sister “Esther” has children, but his father challenges that they’re not “Litts”. Mom perks up at an interruption: Is that Harvey Spector? It’s about time I met your best friend. . . and “Louis” quickly closes his lap top to cover up his lie about this relationship to her. (updated 9/15/2012)
Inside Amy Schumer Comedy Central promoted her new sketch series in advance with Amy Schumer: Mostly Sex Stuff, a filmed, bleeped version of her stand-up routine. The comedienne makes one comment to establish her ethnic identity when she runs through a bit about how long it takes women to get ready for a night out compared to men as she holds out her straight blonde hair: This Jew-denial took like 50 minutes. In the first episode, “Bad Decisions”, she does man-on-the-street interviews, in what looks like NYC, and asks a black man his ethnicity. She’s a bit surprised when he answers: West African. and even more when he rejoins: What’s yours? She: I’m kind of a Jew. He: I’m Muslim. She: As-salam alaykum. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s September 2013 satire of her act, in “The Gang Broke Dee”, written by Charlie Day, Glenn Hoverton & Rob McElhenery, made only scatological references, not Jewish. (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming. The co-executive producer and head writer is comedienne Jessi Klein.)
Interviewer Julie Seabaugh in “Variety’s 2014 Breakthrough in Comedy Winner: Amy Schumer”, posted 1/6/2014, just barely avoids saying she “doesn’t look Jewish” much less frankly than Schumer does in her act: “Bookers and producers quickly took notice of her long, blonde hair and all-American look. Schumer is forthright about the circumstances of her early breaks. ‘I was funny enough,’ she says in hindsight. ‘But I was probably marketable, and I was given opportunities that forced me to get stronger (as a comic).’”
Promotinoally playing “Not My Job” on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, on 4/5/2014, she made an incorrect presumption when told the quiz questions would be about the baseball team House of Team: “I’m half-Jewish, so I’m half-confident.” (updated 4/15/2014)
Annie Edison in the 4th Season of Community (on NBC) The new showrunner for the last season, who took over from the series’ creator, conveniently remembered she’s Jewish in the 4th episode “Alternative Version of the German Invasion”, written by Ben Wexler. The study group is in the midst of a historically pun-filled conflict for space with the German students (who lost their foosball scholarship), and have captured the study room. Another nemesis, senior citizen “Leonard” (played by Richard Erdman accuses them: You’re like those guys on “Hogan’s Heroes” - Nazis! “Annie” challenges: You take that back! Then looks around and whispers: I’m Jewish. “Shirley Bennett” (played by African-American actress Yvette Nicole Brown): Don’t call us that! He cites: You’re wearing SS T-shirts! They are shocked that their promotional T-shirts for her business “Shirley’s Subs” with “SS” on the sleeves supports his contention. Later they figure the whole situation was really a lesson their new history teacher (played by Malcolm McDowell) set them up to learn (which it wasn’t). But they decide to give reparations by cleaning up the study room. (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming.) (3/23/2013)
Deborah Gorn in the 1st season of Ripper Street (seen in the U.S. on BBC America) was introduced in the 2nd episode, “In My Protection”, by Richard Warlow. In 1889 London, an escaped, “Fagin”-led urchin falsely convicted of murder is identified as a “Christ-killer” who was “cut”, so “Det. Insp. Edmund Reid” (played by Matthew Macfadyen) tracks him down to “The Jewish Orphanage” run by “Deborah Goren” (played by Lucy Cohu, with flowing, brunette locks). Under the decorations of a large Jewish star and menorah, she’s not only caring and maternal to her charges, particularly the fugitive, but is feisty – she saves the Detective’s life when the killer is strangling him with a well-placed and timed blow to his head. She’s contrasted to the Detective’s cold wife who has retreated into strict Christianity and her church after the death of their daughter.
She re-appeared a couple of episodes later in “For The Good of This City”, written by Julie Rutterford & Richard Warlow, pleased to see the detective return: We are friends now. But he’s there for business – bringing her 2 children of a traumatized witness to a murder: It’s men who are the ruin of this family. She, ruefully: This family – and many like them. He: My wife would say the same. She’s regretful he brings up his wife, as she lingers over his handshake. Later that night, she’s attacked and the children stolen. He’s apologetic: All I bring you is violence and stress., but her concern is only for the kids. She’s also a bit disappointed to hand the recovered kids over to his wife at the Christian charity she runs.
In “Tournament of Shadows”, by Toby Finlay, she and Russian Jews in London are unusually portrayed not as helpless victims of pogroms, but as intellectuals and political refugees. “Deborah” comes to the Inspector to claim the body of the brother of the man she fled Kiev with, who the London police believe was an anarchist fomenting labor strife during a strike: The man I know was no bombmaker. . .I’ve seen enough of Russian soldiers to last me a lifetime. . .Why do you imagine so many have fled Russia?, and she fervently tells the Inspector about her belief in the dignity of the working man. When the police repress the strikers in a complicated scheme, she lets him know which side she is on: If this is civilization, count me curious to witness barbarism.. She strongly defends the dead man and challenges the inspector: He was unafraid to pursue the truth! When the police drive us from our homes, when they tortured with impunity, Joshua saved me! We come here because we thought we would be safe! Get out! Out! She pushes him against the wall, but that reveals scars on his neck, and he pours out the truth about the ship accident that sank his daughter, with his secret belief that somehow she’s still alive –and he kisses “Deborah” big time, and she responds, too. But they are interrupted by his shocked Sergeant with one of her orphans. He guiltily goes home to his wife to plead for her attention from her Christian activities: I need you! Before your shelter and your church! But not only does the wife walk out, she’s no longer wearing mourning weeds and is determined to clean out their daughter’s room.
In the season finale, “What Use Our Work” written by Richard Warlow, the Inspector turns to her for consolation after the death of a young police officer on his case. Incongruously, naked in bed together she speaks fervently of moral principles. With the scars from his ship accident visible as she holds him, she admonishes him about his thoughts that his daughter is still alive: The secret dream you have now that takes life. It’s not for you to share with me. Your daughter had a mother. I can not be the sounding board for your guilt. You seek forgiveness. I hope that your life will return to what it once was. I cannot provide these things to you. Please, you should go home. Even more incongruously, at the conclusion, he brings for her care the rescued orphan he’d hoped was his daughter – accompanied by his wife. updated 3/10/2013)
Felicity Smoak in the 1st season of Arrow (on CW, out on DVD) , in “Year’s End” episode, story by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim and teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Guggenheim, “Oliver Queen”s indispensable, shy, socially awkward, bespectacled IT employee/crack web searcher “Felicity Smoak” (played by attractive Emily Bett Rickards) surprisingly reacts I’m Jewish. when he wishes her “Merry Christmas”, so he quickly responds with “Happy Hanukkah”. The original DC Comic character, from the “Firestorm” series, is a businesswoman who manages a computer software company, but I don’t see any fan documentation that she’s Jewish. In “Trust but Verify”, written by Gabrielle Stanton, he induces her help to break a computer code with a fake story of a scavenger hunt for bottles of rare Lafite-Rothschild wine. When she uncovers the real robbery plans, she ruefully realizes: So no wine, then.
Too bad there was no sense of her Jewish identity as she got a bigger role. In “The Odyssey”, story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and teleplay by Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim, “Oliver Queen” trust her enough to collapse on her door, letting her in on his secret identity so she can save his life. She admits she was suspicious about the research he had asked her to do, like checking out a bullet-ridden laptop: I may be blonde, but I’m not that blonde. She figures out how to fix the defibrillator paddles: I’ve been building computers since I was seven. Wires are wires. “Oliver”: Does that mean you’re in?. . .You’re practically an honorary member of the team. . . .Then why did you update my system? “Felicity” who had helped him further by hacking his blood sample out of the crime lab’s computers, noted Your system was from the ‘80’s, and not the good part of the ‘80’s, like Madonna and legwarmers. . .I’ll help you rescue [your stepfather]. He was nice to me. Then I’ll go back to my boring work as an IT Girl. And is there a bathroom because I’ve had to pee since I got here. (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming.) (updated 9/17/2013)
Shoshanna Shapiro in the 2nd season of Girls (on HBO, out on DVD) In David Rensin’s interview with Lena Dunham, 3/14/2013, in Playboy: “One of the louder criticisms of Girls is that it takes place in a narrow world of young, urban, middle-class white women and is thus not suitably diverse and representative of your generation. Dunham: I think that’s a valid criticism, but we can’t let that erase someone’s ability to tell a personal story. While being racist and promoting inequality are crimes that should be punished, the sin of writing two Jewish girl characters and two Waspy characters feels less egregious to me. I’ve tried to be elegant about it and receive the criticism, and I understand what’s hard about it. At the same time I’m like, Really?”
In a pre-season interview on Charlie Rose, 1/11/2013, creator Lena Dunham corrects his description of the main characters as “two WASPs and two Jews”: “Well, I play a half-Jew. I’m a half-Jew in real life so I decided that on the show I would represent the bi-religious. But ‘Shoshanna Shapiro’ is full Jew. She was initially supposed to be the kind of character who bopped in to illuminate the difference between the Sex and the City New York and our New York, and then popped off to drink another Cosmo. She was not supposed to be a recurring character, but Zosia played her so beautifully that she became one. She’s a bit younger than the other girls, she’s a bit more innocent, she’s more outwardly ambitious. She’s fun to write because she talks so fast.”
”In Praise of the Sane TV Heroine” by Erin Coulehan, 3/14/2013 in Slate: “Shoshanna entered this season freshly de-virginized but was neither clingy or blasé about the experience. Throughout the season, she’s been the girl with the most guts and the most wit: It’s not easy to live with an over-30 and under-employed boyfriend while also putting up a friend in need, going to classes, and figuring out those funky hairstyles. But her character is equal parts compassionate and assertive, and that’s not crazy at all.”
In anticipation of the 2nd season, a profile of “Zosia Mamet Is Still Getting Used to Being Your New Best Friend” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in The New York Times, posted 1/2/2013, mentioned the actress’s sense of identity, but not her character’s (though comparisons were the theme of the article): In “Los Angeles, where she went to an Episcopal school — just because it was a good school, not for religious reasons; neither of her parents is Episcopalian, and she identifies as Jewish, like her father. ‘The only WASPy part of me is that I like gin. . .Oh, and I ride horses.’”
So while the first episode of the season, “It’s About Time”, by Dunham and Jennj Konner, doesn’t specifically give “Shoshanna” a Jewish reference, the positives about her characteristics as a Jewish woman outweigh the negatives, unlike most shows that are more grudging. She is first seen performing a spiritual cleansing ritual in her room, including the incantation: I thank the higher powers for all of the gifts that I have already received, like a keen mathematical mind and relatively fast-growing hair. She holds her head up high (with an adorably old-fashioned hat) when she comes to a party where she’s nervous that “Ray” will also be attending: I may be deflowered, but I am not devalued., though her then quoting Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” song from 1971 seemed age inappropriate. “Ray” corners her as she’s searching for her purse, rueful that: My computer tells me you’ve unfriended me on FaceBook. She: I didn’t feel like seeing you in my feed every morning. He: When I’m not around you, when you just send me a text of emojis, it’s so easy to dismiss you. She’s indignantly defensive: What’s wrong with emojis? He: A panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift? It makes no sense! She, very fast: You weren’t very nice. You hurt me. OK, you hurt my feelings. But I can deal with it because I have my girl pants on. . . You don’t want to date me? That’s fine, because I don’t want to date you either, because I only want to date people who want to date me because that is called self-respect. But I do not have to like you, OK? You were never my friend, you were only my lover, and that is now over.. . .You rejected me and you are now insulting me so you do not get to have me like you now. He: Let me finish. When I’m around you, I remember, OK. I remember your charm, your innocence, your strength, this beautiful, fresh, vibrant sincerity. I wish Rachel on Glee will talk back like this at her age: I’m really tired of being insulted, even when it comes before a compliment, so I’m going to leave. And he grabs her for a big, romantic kiss.
In “It’s A Shame About Ray”, written by Dunham, “Shoshanna” starts out as flustered and embarrassed when she and “Ray” arrive late to “Hannah”s dinner party, until he, more than a bit smugly, announces: We're all adults, you can tell them we had sex. That's why we're late, because we had sex. She’s perturbed when the discussion turns to butt plugs, and she insecurely asks him: Do you want that? But she shifts from naïve to a growing realization about their relationship when living arrangements are discussed: He stays with me a lot – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and the weekend – Oh My God! Do you live with me? Where do you live when you’re not living in my house seven days a week?. . .If I had been informed of this fact. . . I could have bought some new sheets, or called my aunt!. . . I’m not okay, but we can talk about it when we get back to our shared home. She is still fuming about proprieties as they wait for the subway: You're older than me, you should have your own place. You can’t pay for anything. “Ray” is embarrassed at being called out by her, with the loveliest declaration to a young Jewish woman on TV (though fan sites have only posted the deprecating comments about himself): Just say it. I'm a huge fucking loser. You don't think I wasn’t counting down the days until you figured it out? Maybe I wasn’t that excited to tell my beautiful, smart, 21-year-old girlfriend that I’m a 35-year-old homeless guy whose one valuable possession . . .I’m a fucking loser in a lot of ways. What makes me worth dating? What makes me worth fucking anything? She: That I’m falling in love with you. He: It’s way too early to say something like that. As the subway rumbles into the station, she: I’m sorry. He: I love you so fucking much. Dunham’s commentary after the episode was quite revealing: “Shoshanna in many ways to me is the voice of wisdom in the show. She has a real moral content with real ability to be sort of intuitive about other people’s feelings that the other girls totally lack. That’s one of the reasons she can fall in love with “Ray”, whose kind of a complicated person. He’s a real curmudgeon, but she’s really coming to care about him.” Talking about the two characters telling each other they love each other for the first time, she admired what the actors brought to the subway scene: “It could have been really cartoony but you could really feel that these two people had a magnetic pull and it was really lovely to watch. . .We spent a lot of time waiting for the subway, but it was worth it. I was crying as much as The English Patient.”
”Boys”, written by Murray Miller (and directed by early feminist filmmaker Claudia Weill), illustrated the current image of pushy Jewish women on TV, as being more ambitious for their non-Jewish boyfriends than they are, in addition to more complicated, braided hair-do’s. “Shoshanna” wants “Ray” to take an entrepreneurship semimar at the Learning Annex that includes a lecture by Donald Trump: The $139 fee seems like a lot, but its totally a bargain consider they teach you how to be a millionaire. . .Yeah, obviously there’s a lot of bad stuff there, like he totally shouldn’t have hired his daughter Ivanka as a judge on “The Apprentice”. . . It says here that it gives people the tolls they need to be happy every single day of their lives! “Ray” rolls his eyes while he mops the floor of Grumpy’s: Why would I want that? She: Don’t you want to own your own coffee shop one day? He: No. But he does want to get back a present from his godmother (I thought he said grandmother, and I’ve seen recaps that think he said his aunt), a personally annotated copy of Little Women: How exactly does she think Little Women relates to your shit? Like does she think you're a Marmie or an Amy?, and vigorously nods at “Hannah”s acerbic comment that he’s more like the flu-killed off father. So she’s firm that he should get his book back from “Adam”: It’s like really your duty as a man to go. In contrast, she’s impressed by “Hannah”s e-book deal: It’s so adult and intriguing! She’s also impressed that “Marnie” is dressing up for a party she’s hosting with her boss (who she is now sleeping with): OMyG You're like Bella Swan from Twilight, and I'm like her weird friend who doesn't understand how fabulous her life is because her boyfriend won't spend, like, $4 on tacos. Who goes to get tacos on a date?. . There should be like a mood for dating. It’s a huge deal. He must totally like you. Can I come? “Shoshanna” is also a subject of discussion between “Ray” and “Adam” as they venture together into the real world of Staten Island. “Ray” appreciates “Adam”s laugh at a guy joke, though the conversation takes a surprising turn: If I made a joke that to Shoshanna, she would just stare at me and give me that slow blink. . . [It’s going] good. Considering that she knows I haven’t done more with my life, considering my age. But how do you tell someone so young that things don’t always turn out the way you think they will? Maybe it’s weird I’m dating someone so young. “Adam” is supportive, and they discuss sex with young vs. older women, until “Ray” points out: Shoshanna is the longest relationship I’ve ever had. “Adam”: You guys have been together like a week -how is that possible? Aren’t you like 40! “Ray”, very defensively: I’m 33, and that’s hurtful. And we’ve been together 4 weeks, 7 weeks since the first time we made love. I took her virginity. It’s a big deal. I kind of feel like her fucking father now. “Adam” later really unloads on “Ray” after he criticizes “Hannah”: You don’t know shit about love! . . .What are you doing with Shoshanna is not real! She’s just some kid you feel safe with because you know it won’t work out! You’re just babies holding hands! She clearly doesn’t like you! Combined with a verbal lashing from a trash-talking local (who misattributes him as “a kike” – does anyone even use that slur anymore, even on Staten Island?), “Ray” ends up weeping. (more commentary on the season coming) (updated 8/7/2013)
Sarah’s 1st season on House of Lies (on Showtime) About halfway through the 2nd season, in “Sincerity Is an Easy Disguise in This Business”, written by Karen Gist, the very WASPy blond, socially inept numbers guy “Doug Guggenheim” (played by Josh Lawson) tried out a client’s San Diego online dating service: Sarah and I have kind of really hit if off and she was glimpsed lying naked on his hotel room bed after noisy sex. His co-worker “Jeannie” (played by Kristen Bell) is quite surprised: That’s your match? My match sucked balls. “Doug” knowingly: Yeah, so did mine. But it wasn’t until three episodes later, in “Wonders of the World”, written by David Walpert, that he revealed she was Jewish as he plans to buy her a gag gift for their one-month anniversary – a Jesus light switch plate: She’s Jewish, but so she’d open it and be like what? In addition to the surprise that guest star Lisa Edelstein did not play a Jewish character earlier in the season, it was that much more ironic when “Doug”s very Jewish co-worker “Clyde Oberholt” (played by Ben Schwartz) annoyingly came on to “Sarah” (played by Jenny Slate) pool side at a corporate retreat, in “Family Values”, written by Wesley S. Nickerson III. (more commentary on the rest of the season coming) (updated 5/31/2013)
Dr. Zoe Hart in the 2nd Season of Hart of Dixie (the CW, streams free a week later on Hulu; out on DVD). She (played by Rachel Bilson) and the series seemed to forget she was Jewish until December, in the “Sparks Fly” episode by Jamie Gorenberg. Her hunky Southern good ole boy lover “Wade Kinsella” (played by Wilson Bethel) lists just about everyone in Bluebell she’ll probably ask before going on a real date with him, and adds: I know you want to consult the Pope or whatever. She protests: Jews don’t really have a pope. This seems mostly a set-up to emphasize why their date gets uncomfortable, which she forlornly analyzes at the end with implicit reference to her background as she complains she wants everyone to stay the same: Maybe some people can overcome differences, but Wade and I? We shouldn’t have [dated]. Why does everybody have to change? I changed my whole life to come here. Isn’t that enough?
The “Blue Christmas” episode, written by series creator Leila Gerstein, continued the identity contrast theme with more Jewish references than were in the series the whole season, let alone in a negative context. The African-American mayor tries to cheer “Zoe” up after her break up: It’s hard being alone on the holidays. . .Your mother arrives today. “Zoe”, with little irony: Why did I agree to this visit? This is going to be the worst Christmas ever! Mayor: Come on, the holidays are a time for joy and. . . She: In my family they are a time of judgment and fear. My mother once spent an entire Rosh ha Shanah dinner criticizing my eyebrows. Which will she go after first-- that I’m still in Alabama or that I’m not a practicing surgeon? Carolers sing about “five golden rings” in the background. Let alone that I don’t have a golden ring. She suggests help for the cookie contest: My mother the born judger will fill in for you. The she warns hunky “Wade” her mother is coming: Just so you know how difficult she is. The last thing I need is for her to know that you and I were. . . Her mother “Candice Hart” (again played by JoBeth Williams) keeps resisting her plans to keep busy, then confronts her about her excuses: I have come all this way to be with my baby girl and I’m not going to let her out of my sight. I want to hear all about your life in Bluebell, but let’s stop by a drug store and buy you a tweezer first. . . .Let’s go get a manicure and discuss that hair cut. . .The lies aren’t even well-executed. . .You didn’t even bother to make the lies good. “Zoe”: I didn’t want you to judge me like you always do. Mother: If you had spent any time with me, you might have noticed I haven’t judged you at all. Well, not on any important things. Significantly, “Zoe”s heart-to-heart with her mother takes place in front of a large menorah in her living room, in contrast to every other scene in the rest of the town that’s been smothered in Christmas decorations, and she starts with a joke before getting serious: You didn’t judge me, I did. I made some big mistakes and I didn’t want to see them through your eyes. . . Being a GP suits me. . .I like my life here. I’m even getting a taste for catfish. It’s my romantic life that’s been a disaster. . . I got scared so I pushed him away. Mother: I don’t really see you two having a future, but I don’t want to judge you anymore. Besides, what do I know? The only real risk I ever took was having an affair with a small town GP on a Greek cruise years ago and that got me you. You’ve made some decisions in your life that I absolutely question. Beginning with your choice to live so far away from me. But don’t let my irrational fears or worse your irrational fears stop you from being happy. So “Zoe” apologizes to hunky “Wade”, since she had gotten insights into his family during the episode: You really put yourself out there. I was so scared it wouldn’t work because we have nothing in common so I kind of sabotaged it. But the thing that I realized was that I like you Wade Kinsella. It turns out I like you, Wade, I really like you. Who knows maybe there’s a chance you and I could be happy together. But we’ll never know unless we try. “Wade”: What are you saying? She makes the usual case for an interfaith romance, complete with Jewish woman stereotypes, seem quite victoriously adorable and sexy: Would you maybe consider being my for real out in public everyone knows about actual boyfriend? It’s OK. You can think about it. I know I’m a handful, I’m neurotic, I know I’m too bossy, and sometimes I do. . . And he grabs her for a big kiss and carries her inside: It’s Christmas Eve. Crazier things have happened between a doctor and a bartender. and chases away the carolers: I’m kind of busy in here.
In “Take Me Home Country Roads”, written by Carter Covington, on the plus refers to her professional work helping the whole town through a flu epidemic in the previous “Lovesick Blues”, at the cost of her personal life, before a surprising synthesis for a Jewish woman on TV (minus any reminders she’s Jewish, of course). She walks home to “Wade” all muddy after falling down a hill: I was looking for cell service and it wasn’t zany like in the movies., i.e. like in a rom com. He teases her: Face it Doc, the whole town’s been treating you like Princess Leia at a Star Wars convention. And you love it. She: Oh, so what if I do. He: I’m just trying to spend some quality time with you and you’re so desperate for your fans’ attention. . . She: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying it when people appreciate your work. He: It’s a fine line between enjoying it and being addicted to it. She: It’s called career satisfaction and you’d understand that if you. . . . .That came out wrong., as he walks out. Yet he grudgingly gives her a ride and she apologizes again: I’ll just check [on a patient] then I’ll meet you back at your place? He stiffly: Take your time. She walks in on her patients gathered at the other doctor’s office: I can’t believe you people! I worked my butt off getting you people through the flu. I stayed up three nights in a row making house calls. I even neglected my own relationship. Why? Because I felt needed. I felt appreciated. Then you tossed me aside like last season’s sweater. Shame on you Bluebell! Shame on you! But shame on her, because it turns out they were all gathered for the other doctor’s surprise birthday party. She sits outside alone. His doctor son, in from out-of-town, comes out and tells her about the local blogger: He’s always mentioning this mythical Zoe Hart. . .All I’ve heard since you arrived is how amazing you are, how much you’ve done for this town. You can relax, you’re beloved. . . Maybe I should come back. It’s rewarding. She : We have more than enough doctors. She returns to “Wade”: I come in peace. . .You were right. I have been putting work before our relationship. So she booked a weekend away for them: Have you ever done it on a 4-poster bed?. . .I feel really bad about what I said. But she had inspired him to think about making plans for his bar. He: I came back to give you another shot. They kiss! She announces she’s turned off her phone and they kiss again. But there’s a knock on the door from the unlucky-in-love Mayor seeking commiseration. She and “Wade” hold hands behind his back. (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming.) (updated 10/8/2013)
Raviva on Underemployed (on MTV, full episodes streaming free on MTV.com, though usually only for a week at a time) In Chicago, when the lapsed boyfriend “Lou” (played by Jared Kusnitz) complained: You’re hard to read sometimes., the very pregnant “Raviva” retorted English is not my second language., I wondered about her ethnicity, as her blondish mother had no accent. (I’ll keep checking who plays the mother.) I even thought she might be Russian because her mother complained about her behavior at home: She is like a set of Russian dolls right now, and every one of them is a total bitch. “Raviva” had returned from Los Angeles 9 months after their break-up sex just before college graduation and announced at the ex’s door: Who turned out to be pro-life?. . .I kept thinking I wasn’t going to have it, and then I ended up keeping it.. She tells her girl friends: I didn’t want to disapoint you guys. I said I was going to get a record deal and conquer the world. Instead, I got pregnant and worked at a club. When her friend reassures: You can still conquer the world., she’s rueful: I know. But now I have to do it with a baby strapped to me. She reports on telling her mother, who then, surprisingly, affectionately welcomed “Lou”: She cried a lot and said she raised me wrong. I had to make her feel better. But, when after giving birth to her daughter “Rosemary”, she closed the pilot episode, written by series creator Craig Wright, with Next year in Jerusalem! (which “Lou” ripostes with Next year in Chicago!), I discovered the character is played by the lovely Israeli actress Inbar Lavi, in her first lead role. I asked on her FaceBook page if “Raviva” is also Israeli: She only responded: "yeah she is : ) )) )) ) ) )", and just joked about the actress playing her mother isn’t.
In the 3rd episode “The Roommate”, written by Emily Whitesell, one of the friends is worried about their just out lesbian friend spending so much time with her new lover and asks “Raviva”: Can’t you get the Israelis to copter in on a zip line and grab her? She jokes back: I’ll put a call into my people. Though her mother is unseen in this episode, she’s evidently taken a break from yoga for some babysitting: She turned my old room in some kind of baby brain learning lab. It’s kind of cool.
While the show is a ratings-failure with episodes appearing erratically on the network, there has been zero reference to her background since the early ones. But the 9th, “The Confession” by Emily Whitesell, wallowed in one of TV’s most blatantly familiar stereotypes of a young Jewish woman -- as a bully broad. Her Asian friend “Sophia Swanson” has been writing a roman a clef on her computer. “Raviva” spills breast milk on it, so takes the computer to a repair shop, worrying the author, who explains why to their friend “Daphne”: When Raviva sees what I was writing when she broke it, she’ll kill me. . . A passage about her. . . sort of, a version of her, I called her Ravina. . .I thought it was poetic. . .It just has a character describe her as being sure of herself, and opinionated and pushy and ultimately kinda oblivious to how her way of being affects other people. “Daphne”: Wow, accurate. “Sophia”: Yeah, affectionately accurate though. “Raviva” picks up the computer and tartly comments to “Sophia” about “her imagination” to write about what’s not right in front of her: People who are just so annoying and unbearable.. . I’m just saying, I’m impressed. She’s sarcastic in describing their college days apartment-sharing experience: But I just take up so much space with my attitude. You’re such a good observer of people. . . Sure you are Soph, you just sit at your computer all day long drawing conclusions about everyone! . . .Course I read what you wrote! “Sophia”: Raviva, it wasn’t about you. “Raviva”: Really? Who was it about? Ravina? Ravina! “Sophia”: Yes. “Raviva”: Who is named Ravina? “Sophia”: Someone I made up. “Raviva”: Really, who just happens to have a baby and happens to write songs and just happens to be a royal pain in the ass. Give me a break. Is there anything about me that you like? Anything that you admire at all? “Sophia”: Yes of course! “Raviva”: Then why did you only choose to write about all the stuff about me that sucks! “Sophia”: Those parts of you don’t suck. Those parts of you are flaws, yeah, but flaws that make you interesting. “Raviva”: You are really interesting. You are really, really interesting. “Sophia” slams the door into her bedroom. “Lou” comes along after putting the baby to sleep and blames her: What did you do now? “Raviva”: Me? Nothing! She pissed me off. . . She wrote a story about me, or some crazy weird version of me named Ravina, and all she talks about is how she’s this pushy opinionated bitch. “Lou” smiles. She: What you agree with her? “Lou”: You do have opinions. “Raviva”: Everyone has opinions. You have opinions. “Lou”, referencing interactions with him, their friends and dates seen in the opening scenes: But yours are strong and you just come out with them. She: You asked me for my opinion. You just want me to lie. . .You and she just want me to lie all the time. “Lou”: Sometimes people just want to talk, not asking for your opinion, but trying to figure things out. Then she finds out that “Lou” had sex with a co-worker and kicks him out. “Lou”: Fine I’ll go! . . You’re obviously the one in charge!. . .She makes me feel good, OK. She likes me and she doesn’t judge me. “Raviva”: Maybe you ought be judged. From the minute I showed up pregnant you came up with this brilliant idea. . .to come up with this huge sacrifice that nobody asked you to do. . Going to work doesn’t make you a hero. . .Going after your dreams makes you a hero. He: I can’t live with someone who’s so perfect and right all the time. It’s driving me crazy. She: Then maybe you should go. . . We’ll have to figure out something about Rosemary. Amidst the crying baby, “Sophia”: I’m sorry that what I wrote hurt your feelings. “Raviva”: I apologize for being a bitch. “Sophia”: I don’t think you’re a bitch. I think you’re doing all you can under pressure. It’s hard. “Raviva”: I didn’t mean for being a bitch my entire life, I meant being a bitch last night. . . .Keep writing, we’re fine. Don’t get a job! That story is great, for what it’s worth. “Sophia”: I’m an idiot for pretending Ravina wasn’t you. “Raviva”: Do me a favor, call her Raviva. Ravina sounds like a European soda., and “Sophia” agrees. When “Raviva” compromises by following-up an offer of a bartending job where she had hoped to gig, the boss warns, as he happens to be playing her “not bad” demo CD, but still won’t let her perform: I’m kind of a pain in the ass. She smiles: Yeah, apparently I am also. He: Then you’re hired. At least in the series finale, the comopromises she made in her personal and professional lives were on her terms. (updated 1/25/2013)
Mrs. Wolowitz in the 6th season of Big Bang Theory (on CBS and out on DVD) (As heard and referred) Until I get around to posting my transcriptions, that I can vouch for, of all the nasty comments by and about “Mrs. Wolowitz”, fan episode transcripts are eventually posted. The top-rated comedy was the cover story by Lynette Rice, in Entertainment Weekly 9/28/2012: “Burning Question: Will we ever meet Mrs. Wolowitz in the flesh: ‘Technically, we saw her in the season 5 finale. When the satellite shot of Bernadette’s rooftop wedding to Howard was pulled wide, there was a speck in the corner. That was supposed to be Howard’s mom,’ explains [Steven] Molaro [the showrunner]. Otherwise there are no plans to have Carol Ann Susi – who voices the role of Howard’s mom—step in front of the camera’.” The writing staff is described as including “Eric Kaplan, a yarmulke-wearing Harvard grad who’s considered the smartest guy in the room.” Executive Producer Chuck Lorre is admired for managing three CBS sitcoms “without sounding as crazy as Howard Wolowitz’s mom.”
Executive producer Steve Molaro mostly reiterated these comments on “Mrs. Wolowitz” in The Vulture interview with Kimberly Potts, 6/7/2013: “Q: Will we finally get to see Howard Wolowitz's mom? A: Are you aware that there was a glimpse of her this season? More than a glimpse of her; we had a little fun having her cross back and forth in the background, almost like Bigfoot or a yeti. Does that not count as seeing her? Or do you mean seeing her on camera, speaking? We kind of got a little bit of a glimpse of her, this season in the kitchen. And she was on the roof at Howard's wedding. But there are no immediate plans to have her actually speaking on camera. It's more fun to keep the mystery alive.”
Posting about I Went to Work on Sukkot on her blog on 10/17/2012, Mayim Bialik gave a Jewish perspective to being on this series: “One day, I hope to be in a position to set my taping schedule around the 8,000 Jewish holidays that I want to observe according to halacha, but for now, I remain a Jew in exile, a soul yearning for its way home, and a happily employed actress on The Big Bang Theory.” (And on 3/4/2013 wrestling with Orthodox dressing strictures.) Maybe next she’ll comment about the portrayal of the Jewish mother. But she did, on 3/8/2013, comment about her casting: “I understand the appeal of ‘beautiful,’ but in terms of what I want to be like and aim for, I like to stick with the complicated and unusual, rather than the mainstream, I guess. (When you’re labeled a “character actress” from the age of 11 because of your “ethnic” nose and chin, it’s a good thing to embrace it!)” (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming.)
Ziva David on NCIS in her 8th season (The 10th season on CBS, streaming full episodes):
In the season premiere “Extreme Prejudice”, written by Gary Glasberg, “Ziva” and “Tony” are stuck in an elevator for hours after a bombing of their headquarters – and her father calls: My father says it’s all over the news in Israel. Tony nags her to ask “the Great Eli David” to help find the terrorist, and she assures him he has already offered. (Translation of Cote de Pablo’s Hebrew conversation with “Ziva”s father – with the show’s popularity, this fan-produced support material is easier to find on the web these days.) She responds in English to his continuing chatter: No Abba, Tony’s never going to change. “Tony” is both sarcastic and admiring: That’s sweet your dad called.
In “Recovery”, written by Scott Williams, there’s, surprisingly, two references to “Ziva”s unique identity within the squad. First, as ex-Mossad. “Dr. Wolf”, a crisis counselor, identifies her as The spirited warrior would be Agent David, from the bullet points he was given for their mandatory psych evaluations. She pronounces on her own evaluation: I’m perfect! Then, as Jewish. A suspect rants sex discrimination for not being hired by the murder victim, and calls “Ziva” a “Femi-Nazi” for supporting her decision, making “Tony” unusually uncomfortable: You may not have noticed, but that’s not a swastika hanging around my partner’s neck.
After weeks of no references to “Ziva”s background, could the “Shell Shock Part 1” episode, written by Nicole Mirante-Matthews, have a resonance to the People of the Book? “Tony” is opening up to her about his late mother and the last movie she took him to The Little Prince. “Ziva” says a line, surprising film fanatic “Tony”: Ziva David, did you just quote a movie? She, very gently: No, I quoted a book, that was made into a movie. In the follow-up episode “Shell Shock – Part 2”,
written by Gina Lucita Monreal, “Ziva” is on the phone insisting that she has to have tickets for the opera on Saturday night. “Tony” overhears and teases if he’s someone special she's going to the opera with, because it’s one of the big 3 dates: #1 - Beach. #2 - Picnic with impromptu dancing in the rain. #3. Opera. She: He’s no one. Tony: You serious about this guy? Later on a stakeout, he keeps teasing her, until she gets exasperated: You are only being nice to me until I tell you what you want to know. . .You wonder why I cannot talk to you. Why do you care? I thought we were past caring about such things. He: I thought we were telling each other about things, you know, the things that matter. She: There is no one, only Tali. He: Your sister. She: I think about her every day, but this week is the most difficult. He, evidently oblivious that would be marked by a yahrzheit: Is this when you lost her? She: Her birthday actually. Tali used to sing Puccini. Even my father’s eyes would get filled with tears. Her dream was to be on stage. So every year on her birthday, I go to the opera in honor of her. This year, this year. . . He: It was sold out. She: I know it’s silly, but I feel like I’m letting her down. The love of a sibling is. . .I’m lucky to have known it. (She didn’t feel that about her brother.) At the end, Tony puts on an opera CD for her: Maybe you’re at the opera and it’s like Tali’s there with you. She thanks him, and sits and listens to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sing "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi while the rest go off to Thanksgiving Day dinner.
“Gone” episode, written by Reed Steiner and Scott Williams, included inaccurate references to “Ziva”s Israeli heritage amidst a ludicrous plot of a white suburban adolescent girl sex trafficking to order, that she compares to her life: At her age, I was about to go into the military. “Ziva” first explained a happy telephone conversation: A very good friend called from Israel. He forgot the time difference. . .Yes, Tony. I have male friends. . .’Shmeel’ has layover on the way to a conference in Seattle. She claims it’s a common name in Israel, but Tony mocks it. She protests: He’s a very wise and influential man, and I happen to share things with him that I wouldn’t dream of sharing with other people. . Do not try to compete with my Shmeel. He jokes: There is no getting in the way of Ziva and her Shmeel. “Tony” asks an outside consultant: Ever know anybody name Shmeel? What kind of name is it? The British agent, played by Alex Kingston, passed on incorrect information, oblivious to the story of Hagar’s son as the progenitor of the Arab people who no Israeli Jew would be named for: It’s a respected Hebrew name, actually derived from the Biblical Ishmael, meaning his name is God. He’s impressed: She did say he was influential. “Ziva” comes in: Who is influential? Yes he is, and I love him dearly for it. She dresses up to go out with ‘Shmeel’ (played by the elderly Jack Axelrod): He’s just a man. Shmeel Pincus, poet, philosopher, Middle Eastern historian., who jokes that she’s kvelling about him: I’ve known my Ziva since she was 3 yrs old. Trust me, we’ll be talking ‘til dawn. “Tony” drily: Let’s party! In “You Better Watch Out” episode, written by George Schenck and Frank Cardea, she continues to assimilate but still has vestiges of her Jewish identity: Even though I do not celebrate Christmas, I love the holiday season.
A multi-episode arc dealt again with “Ziva”s feelings towards her father, which is heavily symbolic about her identity as an Israeli and Jew. “Shabbat Shalom”, written by Christopher J. Waild, first had the team joking as they go through items from old cases. They find her undercover disguises –a green evening gown, sexy lingerie, and a “Bun in the Oven” T-shirt, for when she infiltrated a pregnancy group with a belly prosthesis. While “Tony” comments how happy she looked in a photo faking pregnancy, she’s practical about keeping the shirt for exercise: I make time outside of work. What I learned from my time in the Mossad – never sweat where you eat. Her father surprises her after her work-out: You are the director of the Mossad, Abba, nothing is impossible. He: My daughter has made no effort to visit me in the last 2 years. . . .I didn’t want to be refused. . . .My intentions are honorable. No one will know I am here. After she corrects his mis-use of an American idiom (Not my first radio to rodeo) to show how Americanized she’s become, he says something in Hebrew (not even identified on fan sites) and she gives him a hug. But she tattles to, her in effect American father, “Gibbs” why he says he’s in town: To spend time with me, or so he says. I know it sounds silly when I say it out loud. “Gibbs” being paternal: Not silly. . .Spend time with your father. . .And keep me updated. She: Of course. Until we find out what he's up to. Catching up with Dad again, he’s surprised she’s seen “Schmiel”, who is not a fan of his. Seeing the photo when she was posing as a pregnant woman: Now this is what retirement should look like! He talks about the world changing, though my sins might be too great for them to get past. She: I think you might be confusing retiring with repenting. Only the latter makes any difference to me. He: Then let this visit be a first step to my redemption. . . Was it a boy or a girl? She: It was not real. He: I know. But what did you tell people when they asked you? She looks more vulnerable than usual: I said it was a girl. He smiles. Later, as she leaves work she has to explain because “Tony” notes she has changed clothes: I have a dinner date. He exaggerates the Hebrew pronunciation: Shabbat dinner? She: It is Friday night. But I have no idea what or who you’re talking about. He: Tell him Meatball says hello. She chuckles: He would not mock you if he didn’t like you. She meets up with Dad, who’d explained he was in D.C. to secretly discuss peace feelers, with an Iranian intelligence agent who, in a bit of confusing geography, were cross-border orchard neighbors as children. But she challenges him about “the truth” as it relates to their murder investigation: Did you lie about when you arrived in the country? He: Ziva, the truth has many faces. . .I wanted to put an end to your perpetual suspicion. . .I want you to look at me like you did when you were a child. With pride. I saw that earlier today. . .I came to show you the good. I needed to protect that. She: An innocent man is dead. And you disposed of his body. He: Yes, I did. But why is that the only part of this that you can see? Why can’t you see the good? She cries: Because you were right. Your sins are too great. Dad: So be it. But will you please sit across from me at the dinner table one last time? Sitting down to dinner at the African-American NCIS director’s house, Dad compliments the wife: You have gone out of your way welcoming me. The candles and the meal, you have gone all out. Truly a Shabbat feast. Wife, sardonically: The magic of internet research. Dad: Even the challah. Wife: Store-bought, last minute. He stops the awkward-feeling director -- It's hard to keep it all straight.-- from drinking the wine by asking for the blessing first: Ziva used to say the same thing when she was young. But the purpose of these traditions is to always remind us of what God has given. Life, freedom, and family. That’s too much for “Ziva” to take. She stalks out, followed outside by her father and hosts, and calls “Gibbs” to tell him that her (Israeli) father is the murderer. Then the house is strafed by gunshots! Gun drawn and shooting, she chases down the assassin, who is surprised she’s followed him: I did not expect you to come after me. I thought you’d care for your father first. He dies by suicide, and she kicks his body, restrained by “Gibbs”. She goes back to the murder scene, screams Abba, weeps, and holds him in her arms while mumbling Hebrew.
The impact of his death, and the presentation of Israelis, if not Jews in general, as tribal, continued in the next, high-rated, episode “Shiva”, teleplay by Scott Williams, story by Christopher J. Waild and Gary Glasberg, opening with “Ziva”s childhood memory of lighting the Shabbat candles and saying the prayer, and young “Hollywood Kid” Gabi Coccio did the blessing quite nicely. That morphs into her now with her eyes covered, praying in a synagogue, as movies and TV usually misrepresent Jews using synagogues like Christians praying alone in churches, while she would have, instead, sought out a morning or evening minyan, discomfited at having to sit and whisper kaddish because his death has to be kept secret. But, instead, she speaks out to God: Why? Why should I not be angry? With all that has been taken? Why should I have faith in you? Show me a sign! Shown me a sign that I should not lose hope? She hears someone behind her and grabs her gun – but it’s “Tony”, who tracked down her GPS: What do you want? He: I want whatever you want, whatever you need. A friend to talk to, a shoulder to cry on. She: I'm done crying. He: Ziva. I am sorry. She: I appreciate that. But sympathy's the last thing I want right now. He: OK, then. Tell me. What can I do? What do you need? She: Revenge. Meeting with “Gibbs”, the Iranian insists he only approached the dad to discuss peace and is innocent of the murders. Eli had to many enemies. And they brought us together. The usual stereotype is needlessly thrown in for comic relief when “McGee” video calls their sexy Mossad contact in Israel “Gavriela Adel” (played by Georgia Hatzis) to find out they’ve heard rumors where the father went. But “Tony” is more focused on the flirtation: So help me, McBlivious, if you don't pounce on that hot Israeli action, I will never forgive you. “McGee”: Gabby's a spy, Tony. Flirting's just another weapon in her arsenal. “Tony” leers: And what an arsenal, huh? That wasn't just flirting, Tim, that was ‘flirting’. But for whatever reason, she's caught the McFever and you're the only cure. Down in the morgue, the forensic pathologist compares the assassin who killed himself with a cyanide pill to Goebbels, Goering, and other Nazi murderers who committed suicide. “Ziva” discusses with the pathologist her arrangements to bury her dad in Israel ASAP. “Tony” insists she stay at his place for her safety, and even brings back the oddly-named, elderly “Shmeal” from NYC to comfort her. At night, “Ziva” is crying out as she tosses and turns, so “Tony” wakes her up to let her know she’s having bad dreams, but she’s still upset and awake: Leave me alone, Tony. I’m fine. Really. An angry Deputy Director of Mossad “Elon Bodnar” (played by Oded Fehr) shows up because he’s heard the rumor that the father is in town to visit his daughter, and he gets the run-around to not find her. But he cannot be shunted aside in the investigation, even as he tends to talk in stereotyped phrases while he’s being very rude and insulting to the NCIS staff (thus alienating fans), especially compared to the more sophisticated Mossad agent the handsome, talented actor gets to play on Covert Affairs: Eli David was my dear friend, my leader, my mentor. . .Surely, Palestinians or Iranians were involved. . . You do what you must, but we’ll do what we have to do. Eli David may have died on U.S. soil, but the blood in his veins pumped through a heart that belonged to Israel. I make no promises. Back at “Tony”s, “Ziva” is emailing on his computer, to his chagrin as warns he’s protecting her: Who are you emailing? She: Old friends. They do not know. But that’s how she’s found out the Deputy is in D.C.: Apparently, my father’s protégé is in Washington, looking for me. Does he know what happened? Tony: He does now. She: And you did not think to tell me? He, with a double entendre: I think a lot of stuff all the time. I’ve been thinking of how to keep you away from all of this, but clearly that’s not working. She, sounding like her old warrior self: Why must I be kept away? I have known Elon since we were children. He always fancied himself, a part of our family, a son to Eli, which he is not. I am blood. And I’m not allowed the same access? “Tony”: He’s Mossad. She: I was Mossad. He: And now you’re the daughter of a dead man. Why don’t you let yourself act like one? Back at the office, “Elon” is furious about some ridiculous pipe dream of peace, insults the NCIS guys some more, and Skypes her: How did you find me? He: We both learned things from your father. We are both Mossad. She: Speak for yourself. He, with a surprising lack of irony: I need to see you, to mourn the loss of a great man. I loved him like a father. Mine was always too busy to spend time, but not yours. Never Eli. “Ziva” wryly: He was always fond of you. “Elon: And of you. So proud – always boasting about his American daughter. We should meet, talk face to face. She: There are rules, I can’t. He: Your father is dead, you shouldn’t be alone. You know I can find you and I will. As the team tracks down a clue to who was behind the killings, “Ziva” translates the code word they’ve found: “virtue” in Hebrew, “tohar”, is “Elon”’s middle name. She: He’s on his way here! The team is convinced he’s coming to kill her, but he’s disappeared. Back at headquarters, the Iranian eulogizes: One can only hope that Eli David will be remembered for dying in the name of peace., and “Gibbs” adds his praise: That was brave, what you and Eli tried to do. The Iranian: Our worlds are different, Gibbs. Our goals the same., and then his car blows up while he’s talking to his wife on his phone. At the airport, “Shmeal” joins “Ziva” with her father’s body, with a little joke. “Tony” assures that they’re all looking for “Elon” the killer: Shmeal’s got your back. You can do this. She: I’m going to a funeral. I’m delivering his eulogy. “Tony”: How’s this for an opening line – He did it his way. She: My father was not an easy man to understand. He: Complicated runs in the family. She gives him and big hug and he whispers in her ear (here’s the phonetic Hebrew and translation): Aht lo leh-vahd (You are not alone). She whispers back: I know. In Israel, we see her in an amber glow, praying at the Western Wall (on the women’s side, with a head covering) and sticking a written prayer in a crack. (Not that she’s joining the egalitarian protests of Women of the Wall). Outside, somewhere, she plants a tree (well, it looks more like a bush) and determinedly pulls out what looks like a machete!
But in the next episode, “Hit and Run” by Gary Glasberg, there’s only brief recognition of what she’s been through. “McGee”: She told me her stay in Israel was therapeutic. “Tony”: In a good way or a bad way? “McGee”: You think she’s OK? Which is left unanswered. (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming.) (updated 2/1/2013)
Rachel Berry and Sugar Motta in the 4th season of Glee (on Fox, out on DVD) In the season premiere, “The New Rachel” by series creator Ryan Murphy, she is now a freshman at NYADA (the New York Academy for the Dramatic Arts). Her bully of a dance teacher “Cassandra July” (played by Kate Hudson) sneeringly nicknames her “Little Miss David Schwimmer”, shortened to to “Miss Schwimmer”, presumably an odd Jewish reference, even as she wears a name necklace. When “Rachel” is finally provoked to stand up to her, the teacher compliments: You’re mouthy and you’ve got guts. That will make it more fun for me when I make your every working hour hell on earth. Back at high school, “Kurt” has graduated, but can’t help still making a snide comment about her: Even when Rachel was her most controlling, she still made sure everyone felt included. But when she is teary and homesick, he ends up joining her as her new roommate in NYC , who she welcomes with a big hug.
While continuing to be conflicted about the bossy stereotype of Jewish women, “Britney 2.0”, written by Brad Falchuk, faced the not-sexy shibboleth. The mean dance teacher rejects “Rachel”s request to learn the tango: You don’t have enough sex appeal to pull off a credible tango. You’re awkward and tentative in your body, and you move like you’re ashamed of it. “Rachel” sets out to prove her wrong and shows up at class, in a black, skirted, low-cut teddy, to the teacher’s sneer that she was dressed like a Walgreen’s underwear model. “Rachel” pulls herself up: The reason I’m dressed all Bob Fosse chic is to show you that I have what it takes to be sexy, a la Roxy in “Sweet Charity”, and proceeds to have the whole dance class back her up for Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again”, where she mostly got carried around on tables and manhandled on her arms and thighs. The teacher is not impressed: You can memorize a routine, so what. . .She was OK. . .You want the truth, fine – Maria Von Trapp, Willie Loman, Shrek – those are the roles that are appropriate for your level of sex appeal. “Rachel” explodes: You’re just jealous of me, of all of us, because we have our futures ahead of us. We’re the future and you’re just some YouTube joke. The teacher kicks her out of class, but when “Rachel” comes back later to apologize, the teacher notes that school rules require that she can only be on probation, and warns her: All it took for you to snap was a little feedback, in dance class, and you expect to make it on Broadway? The upperclassman “Brody”, who’s been flirting and dancing with her, brings flowers to her work-in-progress Brooklyn apartment and declares: I think you’re very sexy. . .Whatever we’re doing I’m thinking of kissing you. While she’s thinking of her boyfriend in the Army, “Brody” watches her dance the tango in class.
While I’m behind transcribing a kind of pitiful episode about “Rachel” changing her Jewish image in NYC, “The Break-Up”, written by Ryan Murphy, had implied, related Jewish resonances, as she pours her heart out to “Finn” back from the Army, both visiting high school: This place is kind of like our Jerusalem. All roads seem to just lead us back here. . . Don't you get it? No matter how rich, or famous, or successful I become, when it comes to you, I'm always going to be that moon-eyed girl who freaked you out at a first Glee rehearsal. You are the first boy who made me feel loved, and sexy, and visible. You are my first love. And I want more than anything for you to be my last. But I can't do this any more. At least not now. We're done.
“Glease”, by Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, continued the series’ odd treatment of “Rachel”, doling out compliments then grinding her down by a Mean Girl that lasts longer as an impression. At school in NYC, the hunky upperclassman “Brody” reacts to her news that she’ll be auditioning for a role in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie: You’re too hot to play Laura. She lets her nasty teacher know about it, who revenges on “Rachel” by picking up “Brody”s phone and claiming they’ve been together: You blew off your play date with the hottest piece of ass in NYADA to go to your loser ex-boyfriend. Said hot ass was lonely, distraught, didn’t know what to do with himself. I was more than happy to have him help choreograph a new routine, then another, next thing you know, he’s at my place. “Rachel” listens teary-eyed and jealous: You and Brody? Why? “Cassandra July” (played by Kate Hudson) continues her venom, with Jewish insinuations: Why don’t we consider this one of those little nasty life lessons. Auditioning for an off-Broadway play, throwing yourself at an upperclassman and telling me that I need to get back in the game? I need to get back in the game? I think you were overreaching and needed a little bit of a reminder: I am the game, Schwimmer. You are what you’ve always been – a privileged, self-indulgent, dime-a-. . “Rachel” hangs up in tears, and “Finn” catches up with her in the high school hallway after his directing debut of Grease. She: I shouldn’t have come here – it’s just too weird. I came for “Kurt” and for you. I just have a couple of notes, and they’re little ones. “Finn” jokes a bit: The whole time I was directing I was basically just thinking what would Rachel do? You’re kind of my moose. She corrects his pronounciation of “muse”. “Finn”: Were you crying about me? “Rachel”: I wasn't crying about you. “Finn”: Oh. I know you and I know you have four different kinds of crying. You’ve got the fake crying when you want something, which always involves a tissue. You’ve got the sing crying which this can’t be. The disappointed crying, which involves sobbing. And the crying over a guy which I know very well, because it used to be reserved for me. . . Now we have no contact, not even in song. “Rachel”: You know, I don't really know what's going to happen between us, but I know that you used to be the guy that would make me feel like the most special girl in the whole world, and it doesn't feel that way anymore. Now it just feels sad and confusing. And the worst part is that it doesn't even feel that bad any more. “Finn”: For two years, I was the guy you came to with every little problem. Are we just gonna pretend we're not even friends any more? . . .And what happened with this Brody guy made you cry, and this doesn’t? “Rachel”: I just - I shouldn't have come here. It's just too weird. She joins “Kurt”: I just want to go home. “Kurt” about their hometown high school: I thought this was home. Her reply: Not any more.
The portrayal of “Sugar Motta” (played by Vanessa Lengies, a Canadian who reportedly comes from a half-Egyptian, half-German background) is getting very close to being a new face for an anti-Semitic stereotype, unleavened by the grudging admiration “Rachel” gets for her talent. In the “Dynamic Duets” episode, written by Ian Brennan, the chorus members are taking the roll in their new “Super Heroes Club”, introducing their alternative persona and super-power. Costumed in rhinestones and gold, she grins: Sweet and Spicy, here. My super power is money. Oy, a line could have at least been added about, say, philanthropy.
“Swan Song”, the first episode written by Stacy Traub, was perceived by fans as a triumph for “Rachel”, but I thought it was still an uneasy mix. It opened with praise for her in comparison to a current member, as if a high schooler would know about a line from the 1988 VP debate: “Tina: This is all Marley's fault. New Rachel, my butt. I knew Rachel Berry. I was friends with Rachel Berry. And you, Marley, are not Rachel Berry. Back at NYADA, “Rachel” gets one of the ten prestigious “Golden Ticket” invitation from “Carmen Tibideaux” (played by Whoopi Goldberg) to perform in the “Winter Showcase”. But dance teacher “Cassandra” (Kate Hudson) keeps calling her as Schwirmer as she gives her instructions and mocks her when she asks to stop for water: Of course, yeah, everybody stop, because that’s what t happens when you’re thirsty on Broadway . They stop the show so mommy can hand you a sippie cup. “Rachel” protests: I’m not being a diva, I’m just dehydrated. I’ve been working my butt off in this class and I have gotten better. “Cassie” is relentless: Three months in you still have no stamina and no precision. . .You won’t even be able to keep up. “Rachel” continues to talk back to her: I’ve kept up with you. I’ve been able to keep up with everything you’ve thrown at me.. “Cassie” pulls rank: I don’t throw things, I teach. Nothing I do here is random or unintentional. You don’t understand my methods. “Rachel” sounds a bit whiney: It’s not my fault that you don’t see how good I’ve become. “Cassie”: OK show me I’m not wasting my time. Anybody else can join in, but this is between me and the platypus. They proceed to have a dance-off with the opening song from Chicago, “All That Jazz”. “Cassie”: Now do you see what I’m saying Schwirmer? You’re not good enough yet. “Rachel”: Maybe you’re right, I’m not as good a dancer as you are. “Cassie”: Oh, you’re finally learning something in here! “Rachel”: But I’m just as good as a singer. Maybe even better. “Cassie”: Do you think anyone in here believes that? Because there’s a big difference between self-confidence and delusion. “Rachel”: No one else has to believe it, no but me. But thank you, you actually did teach me something. If I’m going to win this showcase, the only way I’m going to do it is with my voice. Beyond the support of hunky “Brody” (played by Dean Geyer, who in the previous episode had admitted to sleeping with “Cassie”) --Remember what I said when we first met. You're here because you're the best of the best.--“Rachel” has gained inner strength, in a speech widely cited by fans online: I know I may not be a typical beauty, and no one's ever gonna pay me to walk the runway on Fashion Week, or I'm not gonna cure cancer, or write the great American novel, but if you give me a stage to sing on, I know in my gut, that no one can beat me. . .I know who I am and I know what I’m gonna do. I’m just going to go out there and sing my heart out like I’m never going to sing again. She impulsively kisses him: I’m just going to start doing things like I’m never going to get another chance. Wearing a sexy white gown on stage: Hi, I’m Rachel Berry and I’m just going to sing for you., she channels her idol Barbra Streisand with “Being Good Isn’t Good Enough” (an old track from the show Hallelujah Baby, newly heard on Release Me). Great, a standing ovation, a “Superb” from “Tibideaux” and she is pronounced one of the first freshman winners in many years. But then she announces her encore number as My favorite holiday song. Would it be about Hanukkah or about lights at solstice? Nondenominational about the winter season? No -- she picks an ultra-religious hymn “O Holy Night”, with its explicit references to the Savior. OK, so it’s from the Season 2′s Christmas album, but what a blown opportunity to put her victory over slurs in the context of her identity. Yet, in the next episode, “Glee Actually”, written by Matthew Hodgson, half-brothers by a Jewish father “Jake” and “Noah ‘Puck’ Puckerman” bond by singing "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah" together. They bring together “Jake”s African-American mother and “Puck”s Jewish mother (played on a recurring basis by Gina Hecht) to meet for the first time. Reacting to her husband’s former mistress with the nasty insults “Puck” has frequently commented on as characteristic of his mother, he gets them to commiserate over what an ass the father was. (Further commentary on the rest of the season forthcoming.) (updated 9/30/2013)
Prisoners of War (Hatufim) -- Wives, Daughter, Sister, Intelligent Agent, and more women in 1st season (Israeli 2009 series streaming in the U.S. as of Summer 2012 on Hulu; available on Region 1 DVD). While it is the basis for Homeland, there are more women featured in addition to the spy in the American adaptation – a sister, a girlfriend, a wife, and a daughter. In Tim Molloy’s interview with the series’ originator: “Gideon Raff on Creating Homeland, His Hopes for Peace and 'No Nuclear Iran'”, posted 9/28/2012, on The Wrap discussed his Israeli series, whose 2nd season debuts about the same time as Homeland’s: “It's almost a taboo. The lives of prisoners of war after they are returned is almost never discussed, never explored. That's part of why I wanted to make this show. I realized there is a world of drama no one's tapped into. And we are so obsessed in Israeli society with bringing back the boys. We go out to the streets for it. We campaign for it. We demand our leaders pay a high price for it. We pay a high price for it. But once they're back, that's the happy ending we need, and we don't want to hear about their post-traumatic stress disorder. We don't want to hear about what they have to face. For some of them, it's just the beginning of the journey and harder than captivity itself. I wanted to make a show about coming back and having to deal with all that… But the heart of the Israeli show is the re-integration into Israeli society. Meeting the family. Meeting the wife that has been waiting for so long. And have you dated anybody?” As to the role of the female spy, he noted: “In the Israeli version, the investigation is from the Israeli [counterpart of] the CIA. We kind of exposed how the system did the surveillance and followed these prisoners of war after they came back and spied on them and that became a very controversial topic in Israel. People just didn't know about it.” (My commentary on the Jewish women forthcoming.) (updated 7/9/2014)
In series creator Richard Price’s failed NYC 22 cop show, that CBS burned off in summer Saturday night broadcasts, Jewish reporter turned cop Ray 'Lazarus' Harper (played by Adam Goldberg) finally mentioned a female in his life in a Jewish context in “Jumpers”, written by Ken Sanzel. Upset by vandalism of a synagogue, he rants against hate crimes even as he admits that he hasn’t been to temple since my daughter’s bat mitzvah. The brick thrower turns out to be the rabbi’s son who includes his mother in his angry justification for his behavior: We did -- me and mom and Richie – we let go and surrendered to God and God killed him., referring to his brother who died of leukemia. In a subsequent episodes, his daughter “Ruby” was played by Lizzy DeClement, looking straight out of Gossip Girl, because her step-father the endocrinologicst is paying tuition at private school. (updated 8/9/2012)
In the first episode of The L.A. Complex (a Canadian series shown on the CW), “Down in L.A.” written by Martin Gero, Mary Lynn Rajskub cameo’s as a version of herself at an improv comedy club. She excoriates a new guy for confusing her with Sarah Silverman because she’s Jewish. The joke is on him as he stutters surprise that she is Jewish – which she’s not. Another Canadian series had an odd reference, in Endgame (streaming in the U.S. on Hulu) episode “Turkish Hold Em”, by series creator Avrum Jacobson, Russian chess master “Arkady Balagan”(played by Shawn Doyle) is interviewing a robbed, stereotyped movie producer who throws around some Yiddish and talks of old Hollywood. He mispronounces “Balagan”, but praises him: You must be Jewish. He responds: I’m one-quarter, my mother’s mother. The rich guy approves: Ah, the right quarter. ((updated 6/14/2012))
In MTV’s hipster Brooklyn-set I Just Want My Pants Back, the lead guy “Jason Strider” (played by Peter Vack) announced in the first episode he’s Jewish, but in the second, “Baby Monkeys”, written by series creator David J. Rosen, he put dating Jewish women in a negative context, if he doesn’t find the “Jane” who took his pants after a one-night stand: At least then I can start Plan B: becoming religious and finding a nice girl via an arranged marriage. But his blonde best friend “Tina” is even more so: I don’t know. Religious girls aren’t really into personal grooming. I had gym with Tikla Rubinstein – huge bush. While her comment is taken directly from his book, it was surrounded by a more positive context, where “Jason” is Jewish, and he did sleep with the sexually aggressive Orthodox girl her comment referenced, who he met at a synagogue class in marriage officiating because he is presiding over the wedding of his law student friend “Stacey”, who is also not Jewish on MTV. (updated 5/23/2012)
In “Time Machines”, the first episode of Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, which I hadn’t realized is in its 2nd season on PBS’s Great Performances, his mother is interviewed, and her son puts her in a Jewish context. While she kvells he was always “special” (just because he was interested in older popular culture or because he was gay?) so that she treated him differently than his older brothers; he brags that he convinced her to let him avoid being bar mitzvah. (I seem to be more and more commenting on real Jewish women seen on TV.) (2/7/2012)
In Homeland about terrorists at home and abroad in relation to fighting in the Middle East, there’s no reference to Israel, or the Mossad, though this is based on the Israeli TV series Prisoners of War (Hatufim), and only one odd, passing mention of Jews at all. In the 4th episode, Semper I”, written by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, when the returned POW’s best friend explains his divorce and what happened to his ex-wife Victoria: She married a Jewish orthodontist in Fort Lauderdale, and she and the kids converted last year. (1/22/2012)
While almost all the episodes of The Sarah Silverman Program are still on my DVR because of my procrastination to transcribe and comment on them, I try to catch shows she guest stars on because she usually plays a Jewish character. But, oddly, in the “Thanksiving” episode of The League, a raunchy FX sitcom I haven’t yet been monitoring, she inexplicably was the sexually know-it-all sibling of one of the gentile guys – maybe so she could end up being happily boinked in the rear by the one Jewish father “Ruxin” (played by Jeff Goldblum). (12/9/2011)
On Lost Girl, on the episode “Dead Lucky”, written by Emily Andras (broadcast in Canada in 2010, but shown on SyFy in the U.S. in February 2012), the supernatural bookie, a “Dark Fae”, named “Mayer” (played with thick Yiddishisms by Aron Trager) has a nephew named “Seymour”, so presumably his teenage niece “Cassie” the Oracle (played by Vanessa Matsui), is also Jewish, but there’s more reference to the mythological Cassandra than to her being Jewish. (2/18/2012)
In the 4th season finale of In Plain Sight (on USA), there was finally definitive confirmation that the marshall’s sister’s rich fiancé “Peter Alpert” (played by Joshua Malina), who had met her at AA, was Jewish, as he was wearing a yarmulke and waiting by the rabbi under the chuppah for her at their planned wedding. His mother “Dora” (played by Randee Heller) was only portrayed in 3 episodes as snooty, nothing particularly Jewish, but that was enough to make her potential daughter-in-law a nervous wreck. (8/11/2011)
In HBO’s How To Make It In America (out on DVD), Jewish men are specifically identified as such in the financing and manufacturing end of today’s garment district, so a viewer can only infer that the influential, aggressive and verbally pointed fashion talent agent representative “Nancy Frankenburg” (played by the ever sexy Gina Gershon) is Jewish. Though she sends her kids to a St. Maximilian's middle school, she’s married to an Israeli and beds her client “Ben Epstein” (Bryan Greenberg). (3/22/2012)
In the “An Emo and A Mensch” episode of Mulher de Fases, the 2010-2011 Brazilian comedy series (executive produced by Nora Goulart, but I couldn’t figure out the specific writer) carried this year on HBO Latino (and On Demand), the protean central character “Graça” (played by Elisa Volpatto), a real estate agent, becomes fascinated by her Orthodox Jewish client “Moises” (played by Sergio Wilkin), as she does by every man she meets, and tries on conversion, in her fashion. She dresses modestly, avoids pork, buys books, reads up on Judaism to try an follow mitzvot, throws some Yiddish words into conversations, and tries out adopting a Hebrew name. But when she pursues him to synagogue on Rosh ha Shanah, he accuses her of trying to seduce him, and he walks away from her, despite that most online synopses say they dated. (6/8/2012)
In the 3rd episode of Pan Am (on ABC, available on DVD), “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” by Yahlin Chang, the French stewardess “Colette Valois” (played by French-Canadian Karine Vanasse) revealed bad childhood memories of the German occupation of Paris. Given how little American audiences know about this history, many viewers assumed she was Jewish. In Berlin during President Kennedy’s visit on June 26, 1963, she bristles at an East German courier’s memories of delivering bread from her parents’ bakery to the then Luftwaffe headquarters, has frightened flashbacks at hearing German, emotionally sings the first stanza of "Deutschland über alles" as she remembers being forced to learn it (a bit awkward at a cocktail reception for its Third Reich resonance), and tells her co-workers how her parents left her with neighbors, promising to return for her, and they never did. It could be just as probable that her parents were Socialists, Communists, union organizers, or other anti-Nazi activists, as she explains: I came to Germany to forgive, but I still hate them, and I don’t want to stop. In the “1964” episode, the season, possibly series finale by Nick Thiel, “Colette” is being investigated by the aides of the Middle Eastern Prince “Omar” who is courting her (yeah, it became that kind of soap), and she explains that her parents were in the French Resistance, so that’s why they were killed by the Nazis and she was raised in an orphange. But the prince’s people do more investigating to discover that her last name doesn’t match her parents’: The nuns changed your name to protect you and themselves. They changed your name from Halevi. (Or maybe he said Levy?) She: My parents were Jewish? My parents were not in the Resistance? How did they die? Prince: That’s not important. She repeats her question. He: Dachau. I stayed up all night wondering how I would tell you. She: My whole life I’ve only known lies. Even my own name. He: It doesn’t change who you are now. She: No, but it changes us now. He shows her a photograph: It was taken by the friends who brought you to the orphanage. It’s of her and her parents -- with a baby boy. The Prince explains they found out he was adopted a few days later. (Highly unlikely as circumcised boys were riskier to pass off for a gentile adoption.): As far as we know he survived. While she’s shocked at all the news, which derails the courtship, she smiles that she has a brother. Later at the New Year’s Eve party, another stewardess reacts: You lost a prince, but gained a brother. She tells the handsome, cheating pilot she had earlier broken up with: Tomorrow I start looking for him. But he wants her back and begs to help her look. (updated 1/29/2013)
I watch secret agent shows for the appearance of the inevitably stereotyped, usually sexy Mossad agent. In Covert Affairs (on USA), “Eyal Lavine” (played by Oded Fehr) returned in the second season to reference Jewish women in absentia in different TV stereotypes, on the kibbutz and in the Holocaust, in “A Girl Like You”, by Normal Morrill. He explained the 2002 incident that drove him to quit medical school and drives him to revenge on a specific terrorist: He assassinated an IDF guard and six kibbutzniks. He was hoping to poison the peace talks. One of the civilians was my sister. I love my country and I would do anything for it, but it was the reason I became a Mossad agent. 9 years, 2 months, 8 days ago. Her name was Sarah, after our grandmother who died in Treblinka. The perky blonde American CIA star argues: Don’t do it! It’s not what your sister would want. But he chuckles in response: You didn’t know my sister. It’s exactly what she’d want. (11/25/2011)
In the New Girl (on Fox) “Kryptonite” episode, by series creator Elizabeth Meriwether, “Schmidt” the womanizer (played by Max Greenfield) helpfully delves into his “Lost and Found” from the women he’s slept with at the apartment. When an unraveled wig is pulled out, he sighs: Ah, Rosh ha Shanah ’06. Nothing Orthodox about what we did that night. None of the many fansites I checked got the joke. (The Jewish references could be courtesy of a co-producer from Queens I’ve known since she was in primary school with my sons.) Later in the season, he commented about his bar mitzvah, which his best friend mocks as having been too expensive. In the episode “Fancyman-Part 2”, written by Berkley Johnson & Kim Rosenstock, he warns the super-model he’s sleeping with who is trying to distract him from work by putting on various outfits: If you want to seduce me, don’t dress like my Aunt Frieda at seder. It seems that every sit com with a Jewish man has such negative mentions of Jewish women in their family. (updated 4/8/2012)
Two genealogical discovery Docu-Series featured women with Jewish ancestors.
On Who Do You Think You Are (the NBC version of the Brit series),
Helen Hunt confirmed that her father’s grandmother, who he knew with the last name of “Roberts” in Pasadena, was born into the NYC “Rothenberg” family, which led to a historical discussion, with photos and political cartoons, of anti-Semitism and assimilation. All Hunt had known about this ancestor was that she was wealthy enough to live in a residential hotel; a Jewish woman genealogist shows her they are related through Bavarian Jewish immigrant brothers who made it big selling clothes amidst the California Gold Rush to become financial partners of Levi Strauss, in what became Wells Fargo Bank.
Rashida Jones, who expresses her sense of Jewish identity firmly, participated in the project to learn more about her matrilineal line through her mother, the actress Peggy Lipton. They are surprised to discover that when her grandmother Rita Rosenberg, a NYC taxi dancer, changed her name to Benson she was adopting her family’s patronymic traced back to 18th century Lithuania when Jews were required to adopt surnames, and that only her emigrant branch survived the Holocaust. (detailed commentary forthcoming) (updated 8/11/2012)
On PBS’s Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (available on DVD), Barbara Walters learned that her Polish Jewish immigrant ancestors also changed their name (from the Anglicized “Warmwater”) when they went to San Francisco (after stopping in London, as I’ve learned my father’s family also did). But with Gates’s emphasis on tracking the Y chromosome, there’s no mention of her Jewish female relatives (she recalls her mother lighting Friday night candles as her only religious observance), even though an enterprising researcher finds her grandparents’ NJ graves with informative headstones. Worse, when her DNA reveals 8.1 % European make-up, in comparison to the rest what the geneticists identify as Middle-Eastern, Gates chuckles about “creepin’ and crawlin’ at night” in her family tree, instead of considering conversion, intermarriage, or raping pogroms, even though he specifically shows historical illustrations of Jews “fleeing violent anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe”. He continued to be insensitive, creeping into offensive, when dealing with Kyra Sedgwick. Because her father’s family is so eminent in American history from colonial days on, he expected her to be oblivious to her mother Patricia Rosenwald, who he describes as being from “prosperous Jewish immigrants . . . from another kind of royalty, a princess, a Jewish American Princess from New York City”. While it’s only mentioned in passing that her parents divorced when she was young so that she was apparently raised by her mother, Kyra repeatedly emphasizes to him: “I do describe myself as Jewish. I embrace my Jewish side. . .I want to be half-Jewish. I’m proud of my Jewish heritage.” So why is Gates so surprised when her genetic test confirms that she is 50% Ashkenazi? He did a bit of a mea culpa with Maggie Gyllenhaal - commentary forthcoming.
The episode on celebrities with Latino roots included the discovery that conservative Catholic commentator Linda Chavez’s ancestor who first came to the New World from Spain returned with his wife in 1567, because she had been charged by the Inquisition as a converso, an expediently converted Jew. Chavez’s genetic test of 20+ percent “Middle Eastern” markers indicated a continuing pattern of marriage among the “crypto-Jews” of New Mexico in her ancestry. (updated 7/17/2012)
Castle is yet another crime series (filmed in L.A.) set in a NYC with few Jews. So maybe writer David Grae intended the Jewish woman in “Til Death Do Us Part” to be tongue in cheek. A witness reports seeing a woman flee the scene of the crime wearing a Star of David: I’m pretty sure that’s a symbol of El Al. The cops track down El Al flight attendant “Collette Roth” (played by Parisa Fakhri) and accuse her of being a member of Mossad because the victim was poisoned. With a heavy accent and rolled rrrr’s that series fans didn’t realize was typical of Hebrew-speakers, she insists she’s not a spy: We were soul mates., even as she describes staking out his apartment to find clues as to his claimed enemies: I was looking out for him. . . There were r-r-r-ruffians in ski masks! I fought with all my strength but it was in vain. She’s sure they killed him, but it turns out his pick-up artists friends staged it to get rid of “the crazy stalker chick”. (1/22/2012)
In Prime Suspect, “A Gorgeous Mosaic” by Kevin J. Hynes, showed the Typical Jewish Woman in Crime Shows Filmed in NYC: the wife of a Hasid Who Works in the Diamond District. Though only her scarf somewhat identified her as dressed as a modest Orthodox woman, “Mrs. Simon Kesh” (played by Sara Mornell) weeps for her dead husband and his envy of the rich rappers who wore the bling he made for them (presumably inspired by Jacob Arabo). But her own prejudices are detailed by an African-American suspect: That woman asked me what my African name was. It’s like medieval times up in that house. (12/19/2011)
In The Secret Life of the American Teenager (on ABC Family), Jewish women characters were introduced in the mid-4th season episode “Smokin' Like A Virgin”, by series creator Brenda Hampton. “Dylan Green” (played by Ana Lucasey) follows up a party at the lake by calling “Ben” a lot and describes herself on the phone as: My mom’s Jewish. My Dad’s Catholic. Her mother “Natalie” (played by Mindy Cohn) asks her about him and is excited when she declares that he may be her first real boyfriend. But even as she describes her parents as nosey and overprotective, Mom listens in on her only daughter’s conversations with her girlfriends about his past, complicated relationships. They lo jack her, track her down to “Ben”s house, and discover they’ve been sitting around smoking pot. (3/29/2012)
In the “Leap of Faith” episode of Blue Bloods (on CBS), written by David Black, it seemed oddly gratuitous that the mentally unstable daughter “Sandy Huffman” (played by Aubrey Dollar), who is insisting to the Catholic cops that God told her that her step-father killed her wealthy, MS-stricken mother “Caroline” in their Park Avenue apartment, declares I’m Jewish, but it’s the same God. The stepfather “Charles Bynes” (Timothy Busfield) points out she has been hospitalized for mental problems in the past, including attacking an economics professor because she said God told her to, but she’d benefit financially: She may be crazy, Detective, but she’s not stupid. She credits God’s help for the crucial information on the murder and the key clue: I’m sure he has a plan for me. While the detectives joke about the Bible, her references just don’t sound Jewish, par for the course in one of those shows set in a NYC with few Jews. (3/1/2012)
MI-5 (Spooks) (First shown in the U.K. as Episode 9.5 on 10/18/2010, but shown in February 2012 on U.S. PBS stations) “Anna Cohen” (played by Maya Lubinsky) is an ex-Army ex-Palestinian kidnap victim who has serious, revengeful issues with her diplomat father “Levi Cohen” (played by Paul Freeman). (Commentary forthcoming) (2/18/2012)
In The Good Wife “Affairs of State” episode by Corinne Brinkerhoff, the politically ambitious ex-wife of "Eli Gold" (Alan Cumming) is finally seen --“Vanessa” (played by Parker Posey). Despite implications in earlier seasons, not only is there zero reference to anything possibly Jewish about her, even when they argue about their marriage, she is revealed to have committed adultery with a Bin Laden, while doing PR in Dubai for an oil company. She returned in “Live From Damascus”, teleplay by creators Robert King and Michelle King and Leonard Dick, story by Ted Humphrey, to spar about her State Senate campaign. (She: Do me a favor – either stop caring or officially get on board.) But despite her admiration for his aggressive advice how to handle her affair PR-wise, as a challenge to anti-Muslim prejudice, she gives him a peck on a cheek: I miss arguing with you. Win or lose this will be nice., there is still zero reference if she, too, is Jewish. There is certainly more chemistry between them than with his competitor who he slept with, played by Amy Sedaris. (updated 3/2/2012)
I could barely stand watching the first two episodes of Happily Divorced (on TV Land) to see if Fran Drescher’s based-on-her-own-life character “Fran Lovett” would be explicitly identified as Jewish. Evidently she, as well as her mother “Dori” (played by Rita Moreno), and probably her friend played by Renee Taylor, were later in the season, but in order to review I’ll have to make myself watch more episodes sometime when I have absolutely nothing else to do.
Moreno commented in an interview: “We were rehearsing one of the kitchen scenes between Fran and her mother and father, and Fran stopped in the middle of the scene, and she said ‘Have you ever played a Jewish woman before?’ And when I said ‘no,’ she couldn’t believe it. But I’ve always loved doing accents and I’m pretty good at them too. [Fran] said, ‘It’s unbelievable. You are the quintessential New York Jewish woman.’” (10/1/2011)
I only bothered to watch the first of TNT’s Mystery Movies because it was Scott Turow’s Innocent, as adapted by director Mike Robe, and I’ve been meaning to read more of his books. So I was surprised that the victim “Barbara Sabich” (played by Marcia Gay Hayden) was Jewish seemingly for the only reason to portray her as over-protective (when she wasn’t being crazily manic-depressive). Her husband characterizes her as The Jewish Pillsbury when she fussily insists her adult son wear fluorescent gloves while biking. Her murder (or suicide) is caused by her meds ingested with pickled herring and salami, albeit Italian salami. (12/2/2011)
I haven’t gotten around yet to commenting on the 2nd season of Bored to Death (on HBO, out on DVD), when the Jewish girlfriend quickly left, but the opening episode of the 3rd season (out on DVD), “The Blonde in the Woods” by creator Jonathan Ames, came the closest to having the lead character’s mother “Florence Ames” (played by Allyce Beasley) be identified specifically as Jewish. (Could it be because a young woman from Queens I’ve known since she was in primary school with my sons is now a co-producer?) She expalins that he was conceived via a donor from a sperm bank: It was in Fairlawn, near the kosher nosh restaurant. You know, the place with the wonderful kugel.. She notes reassuringly All we know is that he was Jewish and very bright, which is what we requested. He was a member of Menscha. His father “Ira” (played by Richard Masur) corrects her: He was a member of Mensa. Fan sites haven’t gotten her quotes fully correct with their Jewish resonances. In “Gumball”, by Ames and Martin Gero, she defends her son to the cops who want to arrest him for killing a Jockey: He says he’s innocent. He went to Princeton – he wouldn’t lie! (He was framed.) (12/2/2011)
Modern Family (on ABC) used a Jewish woman for a punch line of a joke in the “Door to Door” episode by Bill Wrubel. When the older father takes his Latino son out for a lesson in suburban door-to-door salesmanship for a school fundraising effort, their spiel for Christmas wrapping paper gets several negative responses, including one woman who says apologetically: Actually, I’m Jewish. Even the dad winces when the kid brightly responds: Then you must appreciate a good value! (10/20/2011)
The CW mocked its own Gossip Girl’s reputation for having no Jews on its version of the Upper East Side of Manhattan by running an ad as “Gossip Goy” to promote the episode “The Fasting and The Furious”, written by Peter Elkoff. That was probably to deflect the borderline offensiveness of the episode where everyone was eating and working before the “Waldorf”s” trendy Yom Kippur break fast. In the morning, resident rich bad boy “Chuck Bass” meets a beautiful EurAsian woman with a randy dog in the park, finds out she’s psychologist “Dr. Eliza Barnes” (played by K.K. Moggie), shows up at her office to flirt, but is brushed off when she says she has to get to services. (Then what was she doing at work?) He expresses surprise she’s Jewish, and she, annoyed, explains she converted last year. He, cynically: Good move in your line of work. He pursues her from services that night and brags he gave a huge bribe to find out what temple she attended. She proceeds to give him a zinger of a detailed diagnosis on what he needs to lead a happy and a normal life. He’s shook up and calls her: I don’t need another notch on my belt - -I need help. I’m serious-- if you’ll help me. She has a busy night after break fast, because “Prince Louis” also calls for her help. At least in the next episode, her religion isn’t mentioned when her unethical actions on his behalf are revealed. (updated 11/12/2011)
Hawthorne (on TNT, out on DVD) is set in one of those TV hospitals that has no Jewish doctors (they probably think the Richmond, VA setting is an excuse), but the "Let Freedom Sing" episode by Sibyl Gardner, featured an Orthodox Jewish couple, in a story line that would have made a lot more sense if they were Conservative Jews. As the wife “Sarah Colton” (played by Rachel DiPillo with long brown curls) coos at the doctor’s photos of his kids, the yarmulke-wearing husband (played by Andrew Rothenberg) explains: You can see why she wants to be the youth director at our temple. [sic – Orthodox guy would have said synagogue.] But the doctor has bad news – the cancer has spread to her other vocal chord. She insists: Keep my voice box right where God put it. I stutter except when I sing. . .God’s given me something that that that not only takes away my embarrassment, but I can use to share Him with others. I can’t lose that. Later, she falls to her knees, and sings with her eyes closed, explaining with mordant humor to the interfering teen operating room administrative assistant: I was just praying, but it’s like talking to a wall. [sic – An Orthodox woman would be singing in Hebrew, standing, and swaying in davenning.] The insufferable teen lectures her about what she’s learned about life and God. “Sarah” earnestly justifies her attitude – which would make a lot more sense if she were a cantor in a non-Orthodox environment: I believe my life and my voice are a gift from God. I hope to be a youth director in a few years. Her husband interprets: We walk by faith. But later she cries alone: I asked him to run an errand. I don’t want him to see me like this. . . I’m hurt and really confused and angry! Why do I have to choose between my life and my voice when all I want to do is sing about my faith? (So why would she just want to be a youth director and not a cantor?) The teen suggests she postpone the surgery, as the wife is torn: I can’t just go by my feelings. . . .I have to trust God. . . I have to believe that I won’t [lose my voice]. She hums on the gurney to the O.R. and explains the Psalms: The words have been preserved, but we don’t know the melodies, so I come up with my own. The unqualified teen tells her post-surgery that the doctor tried to save her vocal chords, but the tumor had grown. The wife cries, gets up from her recovery bed to again inaccurately pray on her knees, as the soundtrack plays the Psalm she can never sing again. All of which inspires the annoying teen to get informally baptized by the O.R. doctor. (7/24/2011)
Southland- “Community” episode (description forthcoming) (2/8/2012)
Shoshanna Shapiro in the 1st season of Girls (on HBO, out on DVD) The first three episodes didn’t explicitly say that any of the characters were Jewish. So this reference by creator Lena Dunham in her post-episode commentary on the main females was a bit jarring, and may have been referring to executive producer Judd Apatow: They have “that kind of interesting mix of complete self-confidence and no self-worth that is the trademark of most 24-year-old girls and Jewish comedians.” But in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air on 5/7/2012 she described the characters: "I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs.”
In “Hannah’s Diary”, written by Dunham, the youngest of the four, NYU student “Shoshanna Shapiro” (played by Zosia Mamet), the cousin of the sexy blonde, globe-trotting British rose “Jessa Johansson” (played by Jemima Kirke), is stopped on the street by “Matt Kornstein” (played by Skylar Astin), who recognizes her from Camp Ramah (of all the Jewish camps that could have been referenced, this religious one was the oddest choice in this context, either out of ignorance or shock value): You led the most intense kitchen raid in my time time as a junior counselor. . . It was the most intense. She beams: We planned it for like weeks. They stare at each other as he concurs: It was really awesome. She murmurs: I knew. and they go from sit and talk on a stoop, to reveal more of her neuroses that led to her leaving camp early. He: I heard a rumor that you tried to kill yourself by sucking all the air out of a raft. She: No, I’m anxious, not depressed. I did that on a dare. She has a much more positive memory of him saving a girl on a kayak. He asks her to hang out that night, and they watch a movie together, and she nervously rattles off more to watch. But he’s wearing a knee brace and claims he needs to stretch his leg. She offers: U can put it on me, if that would help or whatever. He: You can touch it, if you want. She: I don’t want to touch it if we haven’t kissed. So he kisses her and then he’s quickly undressing her in her bedroom. He’s going on complimenting her body, including City girls are so much hotter than Long Island girls., when his face is quickly down between her legs: I like to eat pussy. It seems weird but I freakin’ love it. She squirms uncomfortably and hesitantly asks: Do you want to have sex instead? If you want to. He thinks that’s cool, but she goes on to confess she’s never had sex before, and he stops. He: Virgins. Not my thing. Virgins get attached and bleed. She pleads on and on that she wouldn’t be like that, repeating his terms with negatives, and begs. He: Not going to happen. In Dunham’s commentary: “When you’re in your 20’s, sex is the battleground where a lot of stuff gets played out. . .She’s getting so close but sex didn’t happen. Zosia was such a champ. I’ve shot a lot of awkward sex scenes, but that was especially painful because the character didn’t know how it worked.” Though she isn’t credited as directing this episode.
In “Welcome to Bushwick aka The Crackcident”, written by Dunham and Jenni Konner, “Shoshanna”, who “Jenna” introduces as “my maternal cousin”, has an experience inspired by a friend of Dunham’s of accidentally ingesting crack at a “warehouse party”. She motormouths about being very high and details having smoked “a glass cigarette”. When “Jenna” realizes what she’s smoked, “Shoshanna”s first reaction is: Oh, no, don’t tell my mom! Don’t tell me! “Jenna” volunteers to be her crack spirit guide to get her through it, but quickly abandons her to her best friend’s ex’s bandmate “Ray” (played by indie darling Alex Karpovsky), who has a nasty, stereotyped response: I’m not a fucking JAP day care! But when she runs off, he follows her down a deserted street, even when she bellows for him to stop chasing her and she attacks him with a move to the balls she learned to do in a kickboxing self-defense class (or some such) that she had only practiced on a mattress. She contritely offers a groin massage in a non-sexual way she learned in a sports therapy class. He ends up complimenting her technique. There’s another odd reference, when “Hannah” (played by Dunham) tries to empathize with an unusually-named woman that Sometimes people pronounce my name ‘Chana’ like it’s Israeli, which is completely disorienting. I’m beginning to think she’s so obviously not a New Yorker that she doesn’t get that her Jewish associations are a bit tone deaf.
HBO Interview: Q: “Ray tells ‘Jessa’ in this episode that he isn't running ‘a J.A.P. day care’. Do you worry about her coming across as a type? Zosia Mamet: I tried really hard to not make her too much of a caricature. I know Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner are always on the lookout for that. She's most definitely a character; she's not a subtle role to play. I'm sure some people think of her like that, but I hope that the majority of people don't. She might seem initially ridiculous, but she has a complicated inner life.”
In the season’s penultimate episode “Leave Me Alone”, written by Dunham and Bruce Eric Kaplan, the other “Girls” are jealous and sarcastic about the success of their college classmate publishing the titular, angsty memoir. But “Shoshanna” enviously thinks the vaguely Jewish-sounding-named author “Tally Schifrin” (Jenny Slate, who has played Jewish characters before) is “so beautiful”, whose experiences get her thinking. She monologued this really fast so I tried to catch the most significant sentences: I don’t know how much time I have left, so, like, I have to start living. I did something kind of crazy. I made an internet dating profile. My nutrition teacher who is like so cool met her boyfriend on match.com. . .I joined [?] one with the most expensive subscription. . . I got this message from a great sounding guy named ‘Bryce’ which is like a good name. He works in product development, which is good for me because I love products. And he’s Jewish. (Her cousin “Jenna” is particularly surprised by that, and repeats “He’s Jewish.”) He likes movies and food. . . .We’re starting in a public place because I know you’re supposed to do that in case they want to rape you. . .So we’re meeting at the café at the Old Navy flagship store. . .I’m going on a JDate!
In the season finale “She Did” (which applies to each Girl), by Dunham, “Shosh” starts the day in a bad mood: I hate today so much that I might not even go to class. “Marnie” protests: But it is so gorgeous a day. “Shosh”: Yeah, I know. It gives me such an uneasy feeling, like a spring itch. I saw 3 people touching tongues yesterday outside my final. “Marnie”: Three couples? “Shosh”: No, three people. “Jemma” invites the Girls to a mystery party (“Shosh” says she threatened to gut me like a fish if I didn’t come), and they are all shocked to discover it’s for her wedding. “Shosh” focuses only on her own inadvertent violation of social rules: I wore white. Because nobody told me. When “Jemma” throws a garter, instead of a bouquet, directly at her, she walks away with great annoyance, and tells “Ray” she’s too upset to dance with him: Everyone’s a dumb whore! “Ray” persists: You’re the strangest person! You’re so raw and open. You vibrate on a very strange frequency. She’s startled: Are you punking me? He: It’s very confusing to me, too. I want to go with you tonight. She: Fine. Just stay out of my emotional life. They sneak out of the party, and they’re next seen in bed, she looking very nervous. She: It doesn’t hurt. He: Because I haven’t done anything yet. He sits up and she panics, repeating such phrases as: You hate virgins! You totally don’t like me! You totally lied! You totally lied about liking me! He: You’ve never done it before. Thus, I’m teaching you how it’s done. It’s a lot of power that I don’t know I deserve. She: My aunt said it’s like scratching a sunburn. He: But I probably do. In Dunham’s post-episode discussion, she explains that “Shosh” is offended at not being involved in planning the wedding, when she’s read up what to do in brides’ magazines. While she describes “Ray” as being attracted to “Shosh”s “sweetness”, she says the cast discussed how “Shosh” would handle losing her virginity, including keeping her bra on, putting on a cheesey girly song (being identified), and lying very still.
To Vulture’s Katie Van Syckle, 6/21/2012, Girls’ Alex Karpovsky Calls Shoshanna an ‘Anti-Hipster’-- “As for what he thinks ‘Ray’ sees in ‘Shosh’: ‘A lot of things. Most strikingly her sincerity, her courage to be who she is, her belief in her own convictions even if they are not totally formed, her innocence. She hasn’t been warped by New York and its hipster bullshit. She is either an anti-hipster or a pre-hipster, one of the two. Either way, she is not a hipster, and that is a good thing for ‘Ray’.’ Not to mention, Brooklyn.”
As the show gained in popularity, there was online grumps that “Shoshanna” wasn’t in each episode, but she did qualify to be included for New York Magazine Vulture’s Kyle Hilton to create a series of Girls “Paper Dolls” to print out, with items representing her memorable appearances: “Listen Ladies book, abortion snacks, stuffed animals, ‘Just Smoked Crack’ face, ice-cream, missing skirt, and crack-fueled fighting stance!” (updated 12/7/2012)
Magic City – Evans family, etc. in the 1st season (on Starz, out on DVD) – The premiere episode, “The Year of the Fin”, by series creator Mitch Glazer, is set just at the dawning of January 1, 1959 in Miami Beach – but that’s no excuse for the plethora of Jewish women television stereotypes: the dead first wife (who we find out in the second episode was named “Molly” as if she was her mother, but then I can’t figure out why her sister looks like such a shicksa), the spoiled little rich girl protesting her upcoming bat mitzvah, and “the necklace of bubbes” on the beach, as one of the adult sons says his late mother described them. The patriarch “Ike Evans” (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) criticizes his daughter “Lauren” (played by Taylor Blackwell) as she prepares for the New Year’s Eve performance of Frank Sinatra at his ersatz Fountainbleu Hotel: If you’re going to wear your skirt this short, you better start shaving your legs. More commentary coming, hopefully before the second season, as the stereotypes got worse and worse. (More commentary forthcoming.) (updated 10/1/2012)
Joan and Melissa Rivers in Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? – 2nd season (on WE). Will the 2nd season of their “reality show” have Jewish references, as inevitably came up in this promotional interview “A Joan Rivers Moment” with Ralph Gardner Jr. in the 1/23/2012 Wall Street Journal?: “In private, Joan's obsessions sound little different than those of a thousand other Upper East Side mothers. Getting into the right schools—first for Melissa and now for Melissa's 11-year-old son, Cooper. Who knew that Melissa, in her early 40s, attended Park Avenue Christian, a tony preschool, before the family moved to Los Angeles? Joan admitted that she wouldn't reveal the school's full name to her Jewish relatives. ‘I said, 'It's called Park Avenue.'"
While the 1st episode of the season, “Skintervention” had no Jewish references as Melissa tried to convince Joan not to have additional plastic surgery, her mother made a frank, poignant declaration that she’s competing against the likes of Jane Fonda and Betty White as show business age peers, so she has to keep looking the best possible. As presented in the 2nd episode, “High Times”, the only Jewish reference when they are hosting Melissa’s boyfriend’s out-of-town parents, the Zimmermans, is when Joan is, in effect, performing for them, as they expect her to do, while she guides them around Hollywood. In a tour of Madame Toussaud’s Wax Museum, she poses next to a replica to mock: Mel Gibson with a Jew! (commentary coming on each episode -- updated 3/22/2012)
Annie Edison in the 3rd Season of Community (on NBC): I only discovered halfway through this season that one of the ditzy characters, the ultra-competitive one played by Alison Brie, was Jewish. (I’m catching up on earlier seasons in repeats beginning 2013.) In the “Advanced Gay” episode by Matt Murray, the farcically extremely prejudiced father of the oldest student in the Greendale (CO) Community College study class pointed her out as “a Jewess”. Then in “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”, by Chris Kula, she nervously embroidered a cover-up tale after she broke a Batman: Dark Knight special edition DVD: Some of my jewelry is missing. A necklace. It was gold. White gold with emeralds. With my name engraved in Hebrew. It was a bat mitzvah gift. From my nana. She was a Rockette. She married a count. Who was blind. He loved her for her mind. “Abed” dresses as Batman to put together the clues in the theft: Hebrew-themed jewelry. She helpfully adds: My nana gave it to me. But what I especially like is the expectation of “Troy Barnes” (played by Donald Glover) that she would come up with something complicated: I know you think you can think yourself out of this with your thinkingness, but don’t think too much. You just have to confess. And she finally does. But I’m going to use that phrase as a funny take on smart Jews.
”Studies in Modern Movement”, written by Adam Countee, generated a #Annie’s Move T-shirt for sale at the NBC Store after “Troy” and “Abed”s twitter hashtag for a real time account of her move into their apartment, during the original broadcast:
In the annual Christmas episode, “Regional Holiday Music” by Steve Basilone & Annie Mebane, the zealously Christian African-American describes her plans: I will be spending Christmas giving gifts to the more persuadable of our Jewish friends. “Annie” begs to differ: I wouldn’t call an unannounced visit from your pastor a gift. And don’t bother this year. I’ll be at the movies with my bubbie. Another classmate is confused: You’re not taking both of them? “Annie” tries to explain: Well, one’s dead. The rest was a hilarious satire of Glee. “Annie” enthusiastically gets into the spirit of the season as a sexy Santa’s Helper: This is one of the many costume changes I’ll be doing during the show. I guess we’re a shoo-in for regionals, right? When the cute guy she has a crush on protests her participation in the choir and Christmas: Annie, you’re an intelligent woman – and you’re Jewish!, she purrs: Guess I have a lot to learn about holiday traditions. and deliciously sings a la Betty Boop/Marilyn Monroe or Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” in Teach Me How to Understand Christmas. When she lands on his knee, he grinches: At some point you reach a point of diminishing returns on the sexiness., and she pouts that she doesn’t understand. “Contemporary Impressionists” had a funny batch of putative Jewish women at a bar mitzvah fawning excitedly over a strutting “Jeff Winger” (played by Joel McHale) as a fake Ryan Reynolds, but the joke was on his egotism.
In the satirical “Pillows and Blankets”, Season 3, Episode 14 first shown April 5, 2012, written by Andy Bobrow, as a funny mockumentary of Ken Burns’s The Civil War, the ponderous narrator identifies “Annie” as A health care administration student who turned a storage room into a sactuary for soldiers with broken glasses and lightly grazed testicles. . .A proud humanitarian providing relief to both sides. In the concluding parody of PBS fundraising DVDs, Greendale TV hosts offer: “From Labs to Riches: The Annie’s Boobs Story.”
In “Course Listing Unavailable”, written by Tim Saccardo, a classmate at the community college dies in a meth lab explosion and Annie implores the study group to discuss his death seriously. The tycoon “Pierce Hawthorne” (played by Chevy Chase) retorts: Why is it always about the Holocaust with you people? (updated 1/2/2014)
Harriet Korn in the 2nd Season of Harry’s Law (on NBC) In the 5th episode, the central, middle-aged bully broad attorney, played by Kathy Bates, suddenly proclaimed she was Jewish, in “Bad to Worse”, written by series creator David E. Kelley. That was news to me after watching the first season, and seemed typical of Kelley just throwing that in to stir the pot in an episode that started out about her defending a teacher of evolution to a creationist pastor.
In “The Rematch”, by Kelley, Amanda Johns and Susan Dickes, “Gloria and Abe Gold” (played by Katherine Helmond and Fyvush Finkel) are a lawyer’s first and oldest clients. The wife proposes the unethical and illegal process of divorce so that her Alzheimer’s husband can afford to be in an appropriate residential facility while she can keep the house. The story line is a bit of an opportunity to rail against how the health care system treats the elderly while Medicare is going broke due to such fraud, but the only reason for the couple being Jewish, with no connection to “Harry”, seems to be so that the ill husband can be a former stand up comic and Kelley can be the self-righteous defender of Jewish stand-up comics’ wives. Far beyond the Henny Youngman/Don Rickles mode, the old comic randomly spouts old routines that raunchily insult his wife (I didn’t get every word to transcribe). When the lawyer offers to pay for 24-hour care, she still tearfully insists on divorce-- turns out there’s a widower she wants to marry. For 60 years I had to hear to those jokes, always at my expense, in the privacy of my own home, at dinner parties. Now it’s all I listen to. How often do I have to listen to my genitalia be referred to as a ‘black lagoon’? I can’t take it anymore, not for a month, not for a day. I want that man gone. . . Chances are he’ll never know. “Harry”s lawyer is disgusted that she not only wanted to lie to the government, but to her lawyer as well. The wife returns to explain: I know how disappointed you must be in me. I’ve spent 60 years loving that man. I’ve been his nurse-- and more his brunt. I’ve never had a life, Tommy, outside of this. I have a chance of one now, however short, with a person I very much love. Is it so wrong for me to know a little bit of that life before I go? The lawyers talk about her case at the end of the day at a bar and sympathize. His lawyer tries to get “Abe” to stop telling jokes so she can explain the divorce, but he slides in and out of patter. I get the house. She can keep the mirrors so she can see what I had to look at all these years. . .We always said we’d wait ‘til the kids are dead. What am I going to do without her?. . .We were happy for so long--and then we met. When I make love to her, I like to think of something nice, like not making love to her. Oh, I have a recurring nightmare about my wife's funeral, like it would never happen. Ha ha hahaha. The lawyers try to explain to him that they’ll make sure he’s taken care of.
In “American Girl”, by Kelley and Lawrence Broch, “Harry” blasts a cop for stopping her driving her rented Mercedes Benz to a quail hunting weekend: