Sunrise, Sunset: A Gefilte-Fish-Out-of-Water Family


Breaking bread — or breaking heads?

"Friday Night Dinner" may or may not make the most out of the motzi ceremony as this BBC America series takes the kiddush cup and pours it all over the head of what one anticipates to be a traditional Shabbat dinner.

But then, the Goodmans may be the most untraditional of Jewish families to gather for such a meal since the first sunrise, sunset of Jewish clans was depicted on TV.

As part of the cable networks's "Ministry of Laughs," "Friday Night Dinner" is a retrograde reunion for brothers Adam and Jonny, two characters who return to the nest looking like a couple of cracked eggs while in search of a good meal.

Not even chicken soup could cure what ails these Jewish Peter Pans tinkering with their own fantasies of what is female companionship.

But Dad's not exactly the best role model either, walking around shirtless in overalls that give a major overhaul to the image of a sweet, caring Jewish father; he's Tevye without the Talmud.

He also has a drinking problem. But then, it's swigging ketchup from the bottle that makes him a Heinz variety unseen before.

And if the Bubba parades around in a bikini? Well, that just gives the program another unsightly wrinkle.

And it all explodes on July 30, at 11:30 p.m.

Robert Popper pops this Jewish family before us, much like he did for his English compatriots the past season. Should it be surprising that one of his more famous creations is called "Peep Show," and that he's contributed to this shore's "South Park"?

But this is more Hyde Park than "South Park." And while the premise is that the Goodmans are Jewish — as is the party Popper — one is hard-pressed to see them as a prototypical Jewish family celebrating a Friday night ritual.

What Would the Fiddler Do?

The sweet wine amid the whining is more treacly than robust and the tam of chicken liver is spread thin on this tea and crumpets approach to a Jewish tradition. But then, wry humor abounds in this wacky family free-for-all that would force the Fiddler to use his strings to strangle himself.

And yet, what's more Jewish than laughing so hard that your kipah falls off?

"It's a heightened version of the ones I grew up with," notes Popper of the Friday night meal that seems ministered by a Shabbat oy.

The dinners were more tricks than treats where he and his brother — as in the show — would do "silly little pranks that manage ruining each other's meal."

Nothing could ruin it more than the topless dad. "And my dad walking around with no top on" and pronouncing expletives? "Yes, that is very similar."

The Goodmans just don't seem a good old-fashioned Jewish family. "The thing is, it's not a Jewish family sitcom; it's a sitcom about a family who just happens to be Jewish."

Pass the bread; it's a motzi meltdown — more salt than honey with this gefilte-fish-out-of-water family and its Friday night din.


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