Hebburn: a British sitcom that avoids Jewish cliches

By Simon Round, October 19, 2012
Kimberley Nixon (third right) is the Jewish daughter-in-law in Hebburn, which also stars Gina McKee

Kimberley Nixon (third right) is the Jewish daughter-in-law in Hebburn, which also stars Gina McKee

Everyone has been attempting to get Jews into light entertainment and reality programmes recently, What with Grandma’s House, Strictly Kosher, Jewish Mum of the Year and Friday Night Dinner, the stereotypes have been flowing freely.

The same could be said for BBC2 comedy Hebburn, the first episode of which was screened last night, except that those being singled out for mockery are the inhabitants of the eponymous town near Newcastle.

In fact, the one Jewish character in last night’s show was the only one who seemed to display no stereotypical traits.

Hebburn’s writer, stand-up comedian Jason Cook, set the comedy in his home-town and the family he writes about is “very loosely” based on his own.

Which is the reason why Sarah, the main character’s wife, is Jewish, just as Cook’s own wife, Claire, is Jewish.

In the first episode, Jack (Chris Ramsey) takes Sarah (Kimberley Nixon) home to meet his parents, played by Jim Moir and Gina McKee. Cook says the meeting is based on the real-life encounter.

“When my mum and dad found out Claire was Jewish they tried very hard to accommodate that element of her life, because that is what you do. Your girlfriend wants to impress your parents but your parents also want to impress your girlfriend.

"And the more they bent over backwards to check that everything was all right, the more they seemed to put their foot in it.”

For Cook, it was a useful comic device.

“I thought she was a nice element to bring in to that world. The reaction to her from the people in Hebburn was not based so much in ignorance but rather in the fact that you don’t come across Jews in everyday life up there very often.”

Cook says he has been careful to avoid Jewish stereotypes.

“You don’t want to wander into that territory in which you would mock someone for being Jewish. The real comedy comes with how people cope with her.

"Anyway, seeing as I have a Jewish family, it would make family dinners very awkward.”

‘Hebburn’ is on Thursdays on BBC2

Last updated: 2:54pm, August 28 2014