Promise critics: Stop moaning, you have Friday Night Dinner

By Marcus Dysch, April 7, 2011
Tamsin Greig in Friday Night Dinner

Tamsin Greig in Friday Night Dinner

The chief executive of Channel 4 has dismissed Jewish and Israeli concerns over The Promise and claimed that comedy series Friday Night Dinner was an example of "balance" in the station's programming.

David Abraham said British Jewish life was portrayed "very positively" in the sitcom about a family meeting for a Shabbat-style meal.

Friday Night Dinner has included scenes in which the family's grandmother is locked outside while wearing a bikini, and the father eats out of a bin.

The Promise provoked an unprecedented number of complaints made to the Israeli Embassy by viewers who believed the programme "pushed an anti-Israel agenda," and demonised Jews.

Mr Abraham, who is Jewish, made his comments in response to Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman, who wrote to Channel 4 last month following the broadcast of Peter Kosminsky's drama set in British Mandate Palestine.

Mr Wineman conveyed the Board's "grave concerns," adding: "I would request that Channel 4 does some serious soul-searching, as a responsible and respected broadcaster, and considers the serious ramifications of The Promise". Mr Abraham responded: "I am very proud of this drama which has met considerable critical acclaim, as well as attracting the highest levels of spontaneous appreciative comments from viewers."

He said a "range of views and voices" were shown across Channel 4's output, citing shows such as Undercover Mosque and a documentary about the Bible, hosted by Rageh Omaar, as examples.

Mr Abraham added: "On a less serious note, the recently launched comedy Friday Night Dinner is a very positive portrayal of British Jewish life."

Camilla Campbell, head of drama at Channel 4, also wrote to the Board. She said the channel was "aware that The Promise contained some uncomfortable ideas and assertions which would be likely to challenge views and preconceptions on all sides".

She added: "However, the large number of positive reviews, together with the vigorous discussion it has generated, suggests it is a welcome addition to British's television's coverage of this enduring, intractable conflict."

Last week Mr Kosminsky criticised the Board for publishing its letter to Mr Abraham on its website before it had been received by Channel 4.

He said that some reactions to The Promise had been "hysterical" and accused those who labelled it antisemitic of "crying wolf".

Last updated: 11:07am, April 27 2011