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October 13, 1989 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-13

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Jew In TV

Continued from preceding page

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neering Jewish mother. Lewis joked that
his real mother felt threatened by her
because she was so real.
"The network has never said a word
about Jewish jokes, but it was concerned
about having us do things that would not
be understood," Myman said.
That did not stop the show's writers —
many of whom are Jewish — from having
a character say, "I won't get around to it
until Sukkot" in a recent episode.
In a theme that runs through the lives
of all the Jewish characters on television,
Marty Gold will develop a relationship
with a non-Jewish woman, who is played
by Jamie Lee Curtis. Myman said the show
will not explore any Jewish-Gentile roman-
tic conflicts this season.
Next season, if the show lasts, may be
"I want to see a set designer build a
chuppa," joked Lewis, who works on some
of the show's scripts. "I might have to
build my own."
Nonetheless, Jewish-gentile romances —
both humorous and serious — have found
their way into many of the other current
television shows featuring Jewish
Perhaps the most clear-cut example this
fall is the new ABC show, "Chicken Soup,"
starring comedian Jackie Mason.
The show was created for Mason by two
veteran television producers and writers,
Saul lbrteltaub and Bernie Ornstein, both
of whom are Jewish.
Mason plays a Jewish bachelor, not
unlike himself, who works at a community
center. He develops a relationship with an
Irish Catholic widow with several children
played by Lynn Redgrave.
Mason's character has a Yiddish-speak-
ing mother living with him who is unhappy
about the relationship, while Redgrave's
character has a militantly Irish brother
who also complains.
Redgrave said the show has already
received some criticism for its Jewish-
Catholic romance, but she said the con-
troversy will only help the show's ratings.
"In 10 years, if people are still saying
we're controversial, I'll be very happy,"
Redgrave said.
A more serious review of the issues that
develop between Jews and gentiles in rela-
tionships or marriages has taken place in
recent years on "L.A. Law," NBC's Emmy-
winning drama.
On the show, Jewish attorney Stuart
Markowitz fell in love with and ended up
marrying Protestant lawyer Ann Kelsey.
Markowitz is played by Michael Tucker,
a short Teddy bear of a man while Kelsey
is played by Tucker's real life wife, the
elegant and patrician Jill Eikenberry.

Finkelstein, who has a law degree to go
along with his Emmy nominations, said
NBC has been very supportive of the
show's efforts to portray the complexities

inherent in the Markowitz and Kelsey
"God knows there is conflict between
Jews, but it is an easily accessible conflict
if you have a Jewish worrier married to a
tall aristocratic Gentile woman," Finkel-
stein said. "It immediately sets something
up which for TV is very useful."
In one of last season's more dramatic
episodes, Markowitz toppled a breakfront
filled with dishes to protest his future
mother-in-law's obvious anti-Semitism. In
true television fashion, however, Kelsey's
mother came around. At the end of the
show, she declared her respect for Marko-
witz and a new found appreciation of his
world view.
Finkelstein said he believes- TV will
someday portray a Jewish couple's trials
and tribulations, but he argued that the
mixed marriages and relationships on TV
today reflect life outside the TV tube.
"lb a certain extent, TV mirrors what
people see in society, he said. "I know an
inordinate number of people who have
mixed marriages."
Some in Hollywood, however, respond by
saying the reality that Finkelstein is
discussing is a limited view that comes
from living in the insular world of the
entertainment industry.
"Intermarriage is the norm here," said
Powell, who conceded he is not happy
about that reality. "It's why the shows
have Jewish characters involved with non-
Jewish characters."
Even though Finkelstein has faced criti-
cism for portraying a world in which
Jewish men seem to fall in love only with
non-Jewish women, he said his Jewish
identity informs his view of the world and
gives him a perspective on life.
"There is an aspect to being Jewish and
living in a gentile society that can't be
ignored," he said. "How it's expressed in
my work, however, is less clear."

"What Hollywood
and TV does is
portray Jews as
weak and
perpetuates the
image of the Jew
who needs a non-
Jew to go to
battle for him."

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