Everyone knows about Grace Adler and Seth Cohen. The Jewish characters of hit shows "Will and Grace" and "The O.C." have already become a part of the cultural zeitgeist.
But completing its third season this week is one more show featuring Jewish characters, called "Everwood." The slightly under-the-radar one-hour family drama has a strong teen following and has been making it's own inroads in developing complex Jewish characters.
Set in the fictional town of Everwood,
Colo., the show centers on the Brown family. The father, Andrew Brown (Treat Williams), is a famed New York surgeon who moves his kids to Everwood after his wife dies in a car accident. The kids, Ephram (Gregory Smith), 15, and Delia (Vivien Cardone), 9, are resentful of the move and of their father, who up to this point focused on his career and left the parenting to his wife.
Adding another layer of complexity to the relationships between the characters, Dr. Brown is a pragmatist and a nonreligious Christian, while his wife was Jewish. The kids were raised with both religions, and, in the wake of their mother's death, they make different decisions about the role religion will play in their life.
Interfaith relationships have always been a popular way of integrating Jewish storylines into shows. Sitcoms of the past like "Mad About You," and the contemporary "The O.C." are just two examples. While some Jewish critics may object to this depiction, "Everwood" executive producer Rina Mimoun asserts that the interfaith storyline allows more potential for conflict between the characters.
"That was always a part of the show since the pilot," Mimoun said. "Exploring the different faiths and the dynamics of having an interfaith marriage offers up a lot more story opportunities."
In the context of "Everwood," Ephram rejects religion, but in a poignant first-season episode titled, "The Unveiling," Ephram recites Kaddish for his mother on the anniversary of her death. It was a rare moment for Ephram, whose feelings on religion run closer to those of his father's.
Delia, however, is another story.
"We have our fair share of Jewish writers and we always enjoy throwing out our share of Yiddish terms," said "Everwood" executive producer Rina Mimoun. "But I think when we get to explore the religion itself, I think it's been mostly through Delia."
"Delia, as a way of staying close to her mother, has chosen Judaism," Mimoun said.
Mimoun noted that in the first season, Delia "figured out the miracle of Chanukah." And this year, Delia made a point of wanting to be a Maccabee rather than an angel in the school Christmas play.
("How could I miss you! You were the only Maccabee in the manger. You stole the show, kiddo!" Dr. Brown tells Delia.)
Going into its fourth season, "Everwood" is gearing up for Delia's bat mitzvah next year.
"That'll be a big part of the year next year," Mimoun said. "It's something that Andy will have to struggle with."
In short, more than just throwaway lines and Yiddishisms, the Jewish content in "Everwood's" scripts runs deep. Sure, Mimoun admits, "Yiddish is funny. Bottom line, tsuris will always get you laughs."
But, she said, "Delia exploring her faith and trying to figure out if she believes in God. I thought it was a small subtle story. I don't think we make caricatures out of it."
Mimoun notes that no one has ever had an issue with integrating Jewish content into the show. It has been supported at every level, all the way up to Warner Bros. Studio head Peter Roth.
"When I tell him I want to do a Passover show next week, he's down with it," she said.
'The season finale of "Everwood" airs Monday, May 23 at 9 p.m. on the WB. For more information, visit www.thewb.com.
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