Why Is New TV Show "The Goldbergs" Exploiting Jewish Stereotypes?

3 years ago

So here’s something I’ve always wondered: If Jews control the media (and there are several conspiracy sites on the Internet that proclaim this, so it must be true), why are there so few good Jewish characters actually on television?

Last Tuesday, ABC premiered a new sitcom entitled The Goldbergs.  I think the characters in it are Jewish. Their last name is Goldberg (hence, the clever title). The Mom is obsessively possessive. The dad is fat and yells a lot. The older sister exhibits a downright royal, condescending attitude towards everyone else (if only there were initials to describe said attitude).  The middle brother is self-pitying, whiny and an overall failure. And the younger brother dreams of being the next Steven Spielberg. So… Jewish, right? (Also, the fictional Adam Goldberg is based on the show’s creator, the real Adam Goldberg, who is, in fact, Jewish, and who modeled all the characters on his actual, Jewish family.)


The Goldbergs airs on ABC on Tuesday nights, starring George Segal, Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey. Image: ABC


If the media really is controlled by Jews, they’re doing a pretty bad job of it. (Or, maybe, they’re doing a very good job of it, by producing shows that make Jews look bad, so no one will suspect. Ponder that one for a moment.)

Twenty years ago, another Goldberg, one Gary David (creator of Family Ties and Spin City, saw a show based on his own Jewish family, Brooklyn Bridge, cancelled by CBS after two, admittedly, anemically-rated seasons. The characters in that one were named Berger and Silver, and they featured kids who usually got along and respected their parents, parents who loved each other and their kids and managed to express it at normal decibels, and grandparents who lived in the same building with and watched over their family without smothering them in the process (even when the grandson came home with an Irish Catholic girlfriend, they managed to be civil –- as did the Irish family.)

And this show was set in the 1950s! (Before we all became as open-minded, informed and sensitive to the damage caused by potentially racist caricatures as we are now.)

Also set in the 1950s –- primarily because it actually was the 1950s –- was a show also called The Goldbergs. (If they'd known the Internet was coming, they'd have called it 1.0.)

Developed for the radio in 1929 and making the switch to television in 1946, The Goldbergs was the brainchild of the amazing Gertrude Berg, who initially not only wrote and directed every episode, but also played the lead role of Molly Goldberg, the Jewish mother from the Bronx who, when not fussing over a husband, children and live-in uncle, loved nothing more than to gossip out her window with the neighbors –- and then fuss over them, too.

At one point, the show aired daily and was even considered by some to be as much a soap opera as a sitcom (putting Berg in the same league as another Jewish-American broadcasting pioneer, Irna Phillips, who, more or less, created the soap opera genre and also wrote all her own scripts –- though she only produced, without acting and directing. Slacker.)


Beverly, the mom on the new The Goldbergs, is glammed up in '80s hair and wardrobe. Wendi McLendon-Covey plays Beverly's frustrations, worries (as in the episode where her son learns to drive) and affections broadly. Image: ABC Medianet


By the time the original The Goldbergs made the move to TV (with Molly’s two children somehow remaining the same age they’d been for all their 16 years on the radio), Berg was still writing and starring -– and insisting on a sympathetic portrayal of a woman who, all right, yes, was a touch overbearing, and likely above average on the busybody scale, and she probably should have minded her own business a few more times than she actually did… but it all came from a good place, because she genuinely cared and, most importantly, the targets of her well-meaning advice and interference cared about Molly in return. Those who laughed at Molly Goldberg were laughing with her, not at her.

Something the 2013 Goldbergs certainly cannot claim. But, to be fair, it’s not their fault. They weren’t created to be. These Goldbergs are supposed to be a (Jewish) joke.

A shame Molly (and Gertrude Berg) are no longer around to set them straight.


Troy Gentile, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Hayley Orrantia in The Goldbergs Image: ABC Medianet


When she isn't writing soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries and romance novels, Alina Adams can be found at Soap Opera 451, the NY Gifted Education Examiner, the NY Frugal Family Examiner, and at http://www.AlinaAdams.com

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