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February 10, 1995 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-02-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Queens, N.Y: Peppers her
Solves the family's proble
dom and advice from her ove
Marital status: Single

Indeed, in the cur-
rent television season,
ethnic is "in." In the
1950s, TV writers hid their
characters' ethnicity: But today,
Americans celebrate their ancestry,
and TV reflects this shift, Dr. Post-
man said.
To move the plot along, the char-
acters make it dear they're
Hispanic, or Asian, or African-
American, or Jewish — and then
move on to the story.
"Authors of popular culture don't
have the time or talent to create au-
thentic individuals," Dr. Postman said.
Yet, there seemed to be something
so real about Joel. Fleischman. He fit
many of the Jewish stereotypes —
neurotic, complaining, brash. Al-
though these qualities fell away as Dr.
Fleischman opened up to new Alaskan
experiences, the doctor's origin was
secularly Jewish. Theater, fancy
restaurants, the New York Times, the
hustle-and-bustle of city life — these
initially provided his identity.
"Most American Jews are like Joel
Fleischman," said Sylvia Barack Fish-
man, assistant professor of contem-
porary Jewry at Brandeis University
in Waltham, Mass. `Their Jewish and
American values have coalesced.
American Jews believe in free choice,
in separation of church and state, in
following the dictates of the heart.
Many Jews say these are Jewish
values, when actually they're Ameri-
can values."
When Dr. Fleischman yearns for a
good kosher deli, he's really missing
the excitement of the big city, Profes-
sor Fishman said.
"His real strong attachment is to
urban life," she said. "His memories
are nostalgic, not religious. It shows
how Jews have reached a level
of assimilation and confidence in


Fleischman's Jewish values are so
embedded in his New York attitude
that some viewers — and critics —
almost forget that he's Jewish.
"I never looked at him as a Jewish
character," said Paul Lomartire, tele-
vision critic for the Palm Beach Post.
"He's more of a fish out of water, a big-
city guy stuck in the wilderness."
But even though some fans see
Fleischman as a consummate New
Yorker, many Jewish viewers have
welcomed him into their homes as one
of their own.
"There's something very familiar
about him," said Karen List, 35, of
West Palm Beach, Fla. "He's like a lot
of the guys I knew when I was grow-
ing up. I feel like I know him, and the
other characters, too."

We all know a

Dr. Fleischman; we are Dr. Fleisch-
man. And we'd react the same way he
did if we thought we were assigned to
Anchorage and ended up stranded in
a small town hundreds of miles away.
The premise for "Northern Expo-
sure" arose from the state of Alaska
paying $125,000 to retire Dr. Fleisch-
man's medical school debt at Colum-
bia University. In exchange, he agreed
to work in Alaska for four years. He

post- gradu-
ation, in An-
chorage, prepared to
buy a condo and plunge
into city life. But the state
assigned him to off-the-
beaten-track Cicely.
He arrived to find a
motley assortment of
townsfolk, including Mag-
gie O'Connell, a pilot
whose boyfriends tend to
die; Maurice Minnifield, a
former astronaut who is
buying up the town; Chris
Stevens, a philosophic disc jockey and
a former convict who doubles as the
local minister; Ed Chigliak, a young
Native American whose view of the
rest of America has been shaped by
movies and television; and Marilyn
Whirlwind, the doctor's unflappable
Indian assistant who speaks volumes
in her occasional few words.

The series

wa 6

created by Joshua Brand
and John Falsey, who created the
much-admired ensemble medical dra-
ma "St. Elsewhere." Mr. Brand got the
idea for "Northern Exposure" from a
boyhood friend who became a doctor
and took a job in rural upstate New
Originally planned as a filler for the
1990 summer season, when viewer-
ship generally is down, the series won
rave reviews and found a devoted
audience. It won renewal for the next
Andrew Schneider and Diane Frol-
ov have produced the show for four
years. Although Jewish viewers have
embraced the handsome doctor they
created, the producers' vision of him
was less Jewish than spiritual and
"There's no religious theme we've

Character: Miles Silverberg
Show: "Murphy Brown"
Network, night: CBS, Monday
Actor: Grant Shaud,who is not
Occupation: Executive pro-
duc,er of network news show, FYI.
Definitive Jewish episode:
None, but he often refers to his
Jewishness. During a Christmas episode, for instance,
while his co-workers were singing Christmas carols, he
tried to drown them out with his rendition of "Dreidel,
Dreidel, Dreidel."
Character study: Nebbishy, neurotic New Yorker,
raised by hippie, activist parents. Staunchly conserva-
tive and Harvard-educated.
Marital status: Single. Casually dati g Corky Sher
wood Forest, perky, non-Jewish anchomrnan.


Character: Linda Richman
Show:"Saturday Night Live"
Network, night: NBC, Saturday
Actor: Mike Myers, who is not
Occupation: Host of call-in
show, "Coffee Talk."
Definitive Jewish episode: Idol
Barbra Streisand visited Linda on
her show, prompting Ms. Richmond to bow at Ms.
Streisand's feet and declare, "You're like Buttah!"
Character study: Middle-aged Jewish woman
prone to emotional outbursts and sudden usage of Yid-
Marital status: Single, will date non-Jews.

Character: Jack Stein
Show: "Love and War"
Network, night CBS, Wednes-
Act,or: Jay Thomas, who is not
Occupation: Newspaper colum-
Definitive Jewish episode:
Jack's Jewish mother meets WASPY
parents of his first girlfriend; plot addresses parental
displeasure over interfaith relationship.
Character study: Cynical, New York-based re-
porter finding solace among friends in neighborhood
Marital status: In his second relationship with a
non-Jewish woman.

Character: Paul Buchman
Show: "Mad About You"
Network, night: NBC, Thtzsday
Actor: Paul Reiser, who is Jewish
Occupation: Film director
Definitive Jewish episode: The
Thanksgiving Show -- a meeting of
his wife's chain-smoking non-Jewish
family and Paul's guilt-ridden par-
Character study: New York-raised, neurotic Woody
Allen-type. The show's publicist indicates that Paul
Buchman's Jewishness has never been established, but
is inferred.
Marital status: Married to pretty, blonde, non-
Jewish wife.


"Douglas Wambaugh"of
"Picket Fences":
Loud, aggressive.
Kicked out of synagogue.

Character: 'Crusty the Clown
Show: "The Simpsons"
Network, night: Fox, Sunday
Actor: Voice provided by Dan
Castellaneta, who is not Jewish
Occupation: Host of a chil-
dren's cartoon show
Definitive Jewish episode:
"Like Father, Like Clown," a spoof
of the Jazz Singer, in which 'Crusty, son of Yeshiva Rab-
bi Krustofsky (voiced by Jackie Mason),
is disowned for pursuing a career in show business.
Character study: Chain-smoking, foul-mouthed,
child-hating clown known for marketing dozens of use-
less items with his likeness on it and for his maniacal
clown laugh.
Marital status: Single

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