Jewish Journal

The Odd Appearance of Jewish Superman

by Abe Fried-Tanzer

April 7, 2013 | 6:55 am

Sometimes, a mention of Judaism on television just comes from completely out of nowhere. When I sat down to watch the premiere episode of ABC’s new comedy How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) last Wednesday night, I wasn’t expecting to hear anything about Judaism. Perhaps I should have suspected something, given that Elizabeth Perkins was a series regular for years on Weeds, a show that actually managed to address Judaism in a coherent and detailed way, and Brad Garrett famously referenced his Judaism with a joke about Jews breaking into show business when he won one of his Emmys for his work on Everybody Loves Raymond (Perkins was a multiple-time Emmy nominee also). Yet this show’s intersection with Judaism had nothing to do with the grandparents played by Perkins and Garrett.

The show’s title sums up its focus, which finds Polly (Sarah Chalke) coming with her young daughter to live with her parents, portrayed by Perkins and Garrett, after separating from her kindhearted but irresponsible husband. The ex, Julian, is still in the picture, coming by very frequently to try to innocently assert his place in the family, but Polly isn’t opposed to the idea of dating. While she touts her skills as a juice bar employee and playfully interrupts her manager’s attempts to speak to her by turning on her blender, she is surprised to learn that a frequent customer of the juice bar is in fact interested in asking her out. That customer? Jewish Superman.

Why her prospective new boyfriend is called Jewish Superman is a mystery. Perhaps it’s meant to refer to his physical appearance or his money-related tendencies, but there’s nothing to illustrate either of those things. Instead, while out on his date, Jewish Superman suggests to Polly that he shouldn’t drink since he took medication which does not interact well with alcohol. Familiar with the medication after years of living with her alcoholic mother, Polly assures him that it will be fine. Several drinks later, Jewish Superman is completely out of commission, and after hi-jinks at Polly’s home result in Polly driving him home with Julian, he ends up left unconsciousness outside his house while the alarm goes off, triggered by Julian’s ill-advised attempt to break into his home and leave him inside.

That doesn’t exactly recommend the concept of Jewish Superman too well, unable to hold his liquor and relegated to a punch line after serving no practical purpose throughout the episode. This show just got started, and it’s a peculiar thing to feature in its first episode, mainly since there’s no point or relevance to it. Why this character had to be Jewish or to be referred to by that odd nickname is unknown, and I wouldn’t call it especially positive or creative. I’m not opposed to seeing how the show does in its second week, but this first airing left me with an odd taste in my mouth.

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Abe Fried-Tanzer is a recent import from the East Coast to Los Angeles, and he brings with him his enthusiasm for movies and television. When he’s not watching every...

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