From Milton Berle to Jon Stewart, stopping at key comedic points in between, we answered a request from Moment magazine for a “top ten” list of Jewish TV shows for that publication’s January 2011 issue.
We knew from the start two things were certain:
- There were titles that simply had to be on that list.
- People would passionately disagree which ones those would be.
Fortunately, we also know that’s how Top Ten lists work. So, fresh from work on the expanded second edition of Watching TV, we reviewed more than half a century of television offerings for our definitive list.
There was no shortage of nominees. After all, Jews were involved in TV from the get-go, guiding the business side of NBC (David Sarnoff), CBS (William Paley), and ABC (Leonard Goldenson).
Even though television series have generally steered away from showing on-screen religious and ethnically identified main characters, Jews have been able to break through there as well as any group, most consistently in comedy.
Most series have not explicitly labeled themselves as Jewish although there have been shows that specifically revolved around Jewish families (The Goldbergs). There have also been shows with Jewish-themed episodes (Buddy Sorrell has his Bar Mitzvah on Dick Van Dyke; Rhoda’s parents meet her non-Jewish boyfriend) and shows with individual Jewish characters (Mike Myers as “Coffee Talk” host Linda Richman on Saturday Night Live).
Ultimately we were able to settle on a solid list of titles that, each in their own way, have come to embody the ethnicity, sensibility, and attitude of being Jewish.
The complete Top Ten list article appeared at the Momentmag.com website and in the January/February 2011 issue of Moment magazine. The titles included (in chronological order):
Milton Berle’s Shows (1948-1956)
The Goldbergs (1949-1956)
Sid Caesar’s Shows (1949-1958)
The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
Saturday Night Live (1975-Present)
Seinfeld (1990-1998), and continuing that perspective with the Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm (1999-Present)
Brooklyn Bridge (1991-1993)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1999-Present)
Chicago media columnist Robert Feder also shared his thoughts on the Top Ten subject in a profile piece at Time Out Chicago.