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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jews On The OTN.

With the recent passing of Gary David Goldberg, it has brought to mind the paucity of shows about Jews in recent years.
Gary David Goldberg had a wonderful show some years back called "Brooklyn Bridge"
It was about a young Jewish boy, growing up in the late 1950's, in Brooklyn.
It was a soft comedy.
Very touching.
Marion Ross was in it as the Jewish grandmother.
She was wonderful, and she displayed her enormous versatility.
"Brooklyn Bridge" was a wonderful show, and deserves to be seen again, if only to honor Gary David Goldberg's memory.

The granddaddy, or grandmommy, of all TV shows about Jews was "The Goldbergs"
It starred Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg.
Gertrude Berg was a true auteur of early television.
She was in complete control of the show.
She wrote the shows.
She produced the shows.
She cast the shows.
She got into fights with the networks when necessary.
"The Goldbergs' was about as Jewish as a show can get.
I have seen many episodes, and it is almost the equivalent of what 'Amos 'n Andy was for blacks.
I thought it depicted Jewish men in a very bad light.
They were pretty much all depicted as weaklings.
Particularly compared to Molly.
I don't think it holds up very well.
But Gertrude Berg was a great actress and performer.
A lot of the humor was derived from her use of malaprops.
"The Goldbergs" would have trouble finding a mass audience today.
Ever since people started getting TV sets in Wyoming, the landscape changed.
When "The Goldbergs" was a hit, only people in New York had TV sets.
The same fate befell Sid Caesar.
When TV found it's way to the boondocks, Sid Caesar was slaughtered in the ratings by Lawrence Welk.

I'll also make one of the rare excursions into including one of my own shows.
"Busting Loose" was on CBS in 1977.
We shot 26 episodes.
22 were aired.
I don't even know if the unaired episodes were even edited and spliced together.
It was a show that was ORIGINALLY about Jews.
It was an attempt by CBS to rip off the movie "Next Stop Greenwich Village", which was certainly about Jews.
And the first 4 or 5 episodes of "Busting Loose" was about a young Jewish guy in his early twenties attempting to break away from his parents.
Then, the network folk, all Jews, got rather gunshy about selling Jews to the general public, and the kid's parents gradually faded from view.
And it became the equivalent of a gang comedy, a la "Happy Days"
The word "Jew" was never mentioned again, except indirectly, in that the lead character's last name was Markowitz.
We couldn't change his name in mid stream.
But it was a really funny hardball three-camera live audience show that REALLY deserved a longer life than it had.
Like Prime Time on the OTN.

Mark Rothman, CEO of the OTN.


My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
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Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
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If you'd like one, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



  1. And ABC has a new show this fall called THE GOLDBERGS. What an insult.

  2. This one got me to thinking about how religion has been handled generally over the years (I know, you're talking more about the cultual aspect as opposed to the practice of faith).
    Anyhow, I spent most of last evening with my TV GUIDE collection, concentrating on 1955-57.
    During that time, ABC had a series called CROSSROADS, an anthology devoted to experiences of clergymen.
    The theory was that priests, pastors, and rabbis would appear more or less in rotation (the show had an advisory board with one each).
    A week-to-week scanning of the listings, however, did show a tilt towards Christians, in particular Catholic priests.
    And as you've probably guessed by now, not very many rabbis.
    Actually, that surprised me a bit, given how often I've heard that Hollywood is dominated by "secular Jews" (and if you've never heard Bill Donohue of the bogus "Catholic League" bleat out those words to his buddy Pat Buchanan, you are definitely the lucky one).
    I could be wrong onthe count, because my collection is not complete, but I was only able to find five episodes (out of a two-year total of 78).
    And here's who they got to play the rabbis:
    Vincent Price (he was a Rabbi from colonial times who battled the Redcoats).
    Arthur Franz (in a different episode, he played a Catholic priest).
    Richard Carlson (this was a contemporary story about juvenile delinquency).
    Luther Adler (how'd he get in here? Another contemporary story, this one about labor problems).
    And last but not least ...
    J.Carrol Naish (as Rabbi Abraham Fischel, who went to Washington DC in Civil War times to request that Lincoln appoint Jewish chaplains for the Union Army).
    (And this was just before Naish started playing Charlie Chan on TV.)

    As I said above, I might be wrong on the count; corrections welcomed.
    As a cradle Catholic myself, the portrayal of priests over time has always intrigued me, especially when actors I knew not to Catholic themselves got the parts.
    I'll hold myself to one example here:
    In 1962, ABC put on a TV version of GOING MY WAY, which starred Gene Kelly in Bing Crosby's role, and Leo G. Carroll in for Barry Fitzgerald.
    This was an hour show, an early example of what came to be called "dramedy".
    As such, it wasn't bad at all (the whole series was recently released on DVD so you may check it out for yourselves).
    But I do recall that at the time it was shown, there was a mild kerfuffle over the casting of the veddy British Leo G. Carroll as an Irish priest.
    I mean, post-TOPPER and pre-UNCLE, and with all those Hitchcock pictures ...
    What soon came out in the PR was that, though born in England, Carroll was as Irish and Catholic as could be. Born in 1892, he was named for the incumbent Pope Leo, and for an MP named Grattan who favored home rule for the Irish.
    Of course, it wasn't until years later that I learned that Barry Fitzgerald (formerly William Shields) was a Protestant.
    Some of my relatives have never recovered from that one.
    The priests in our parish liked GOING MY WAY, especially Father John Plankis (we all just called him Father John), who was from Lithuania - he looked and sounded more like Oscar Homolka than Barry Fitzgerald.
    Father John would say of Father Fitzgibbon, "He is old cranky priest, just like me!"

    One other side note:
    TCM ran THE LAST HURRAH the other day, and once again I was brought up short by the appearance of Ken Curtis as the handsome young monsignor. Curtis was John Ford's son-in-law at the time, but still...
    Monsignor Festus.
    How would O.Z. Whitehead have handled that?
    Oh well...
    Have a nice 4th.

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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."