Life & Culture

Kid Sister, review: How not to write a comedy about Jews

I lost hours of my life this predictable, badly acted, and really very annoying series


Drivel: Simone Nathan and Roxie Mohebbi in Kid Sister

Kid Sister

ITVX | ✩✩✩✩✩

Can I let you into a secret (admittedly not a very closely guarded one)?

This job really isn’t very difficult. Essentially it amounts to this: watch TV and then write whatever comes into your head. And it has some fantastic side benefits. This morning, for example, my son wanted me to take him to Brent Cross to buy some trainers. Reader, I couldn’t be assed. But imagine what a rubbish dad I would be if I just said, “I can’t be assed. I want to watch TV.” But I had the perfect riposte: “Sorry, I have to watch TV. I have to. It’s for work.”

But there is, of course, no such thing as the perfect job. Even one where you get paid to watch TV. Because sometimes – have you noticed? –  TV is really quite bad. Normally if something is bad it’s either so bad it’s good, in which case it’s fun to watch – or it’s just bad bad, in which case you can turn it off.

Well, not if you have to write this column on it. Which brings us to Kid Sister, on ITVX.

Kid Sister is described as “a semi-autobiographical New Zealand television comedy drama show”. There are elements of that description I can accept. It’s plainly made in New Zealand, is for television and is a show. And I will take at face value the claim by its writer and lead actor Simone Nathan that it’s semi-autobiographical.

But comedy? It’s about as funny as stubbing your toe on a table leg, and there is more drama in the ads in between the episodes’ two parts. Reader, I lost hours of my life to Kid Sister, a predictable, badly acted, and really very annoying  series. I’ll never get those hours back – and it’s the fault of this job.

Kid Sister is about lead character Lulu Emanuel (played by Simone Nathan) and her oh-so-quirky-because-heh-Jews-are-really-funny-don’t-you-know family. Lulu, who is unable to cope with life, is in her late 20s and still lives at home with her overbearing South African Jewish mother Keren (think every Jewish mother caricature you have ever come across and multiply by ten) and henpecked father Siggy. Her brother Leo is married to humourless, earnest American Bec, and the patriarch of the family is Lulu’s grandfather Hershey, who, in a hilarious (not) recurring story, has chlamydia and is spreading it among his conquests at his nursing home.

Lulu has a non-Jewish boyfriend who is not so much a drip as entirely without any defining characteristics, and I have forgotten his name. Anyway, the supposed drama that pushes along the two series (dear God yes, two whole series of this witless tedium) is that Lulu gets pregnant by the boyfriend, while her sister-in-law can’t – oh, the hilarious irony – so Lulu hands the baby to her and her brother to raise it/him/her/who even cares? And the boyfriend converts to Judaism.

I’ve watched a lot of attempts at Jewish humour before but rarely one in which all the characters are so utterly loathsome – every one is self-centred and charmless. One episode involves Hershey having an apparent heart attack and the entire family, as is de rigueur in rubbish TV, gathering in the waiting room praying for him to survive, while I – and I imagine anyone else forced to watch this drivel – was hoping he wouldn’t make it. But in another example of Kid Sister’s unhilarity, it turned out it wasn’t a heart attack after all but a UTI brought on by his untreated chlamydia. (And to think you didn’t believe me that Kid Sister really is that bad.)

The only useful purpose I can think of for Kid Sister is that it serves as a warning to anyone trying to write a comedy about Jews (as opposed, of course, to Jewish humour, which is not the same thing). The problem is it is very difficult not to fall into making the caricatures the only source of intended humour. It takes a special talent (such as Robert Popper with Friday Night Dinner) to come up with something in which the characters are identifiably Jewish, in which their Judaism is core to the humour, but which is funny on so many other levels. And is not something that is so based on Jewish stereotypes that it seems as if it could have been written as antisemitic propaganda.

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