Life & Culture

The JC Awards 2022: Television - Oscar loses his award for a bad Essex accent

Who could possibly beat David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count for Jewish show of the year?


The social satire is set at an exclusive Sicilian resort and follows the exploits of various guests and employees over the span of a week.

Forget your Emmys and Baftas, this is the second JC TV awards, the most prestigious recognition anyone involved in making television could ever hope to achieve, the awards that truly fill their elderly relatives with naches.

As 2022 rushed by in a blur, it was less the weather than the TV seasons that helped punctuate it, that kept us going through the tough announcements of war, royal bereavement and a Liz Truss premiership; so let us celebrate them now, the good and the bad, here’s to the shows about Jews that made us feel glad, sad, or mad.

Toughness takes many forms, but I prefer that form to be encased in an actual Jew, taking Jakub the boxer’s attempt to become The King of Warsaw, Tom Hardy’s growling frummer in Peaky Blinders, and Moon Knight out of the running. Strength of will is also not enough, I’m afraid, gleaming muscles are also required, so ditto for Niv Sultan’s spy in twisty twist spy drama Tehran, Natasha Lyonne’s fearless Russian Doll, and me for making it to the end of Catherine Cohen’s comedy special without throwing my laptop across the room.

As Alan Sugar unfortunately kept his top on during this season of The Apprentice there was really only one possibility left.

Winner: Discovering Jon Bernthal is Jewish has been a game changer: he’s the Kirk Douglas of our generation, proof positive that a people more known for their brain can chuck up brawn from time to time. Sadly, neither character portrayed in the two very good shows he recently starred in, American Gigolo and We Own This City, was actually Jewish, but with those guns, who cares?

I’m not sure if that should be worst rather than best, as hopefully this category will in time become less necessary: Jared Leto wearing a prosthetic nose in WeCrashed wasn’t a good look.

It’s not such a problem when the character’s ethnicity isn’t integral to the story like John C. Reilly’s Dr Buss in Winning Time, but The Marvelous Mrs Maisel sets my teeth on edge, no matter how many Jews Rachel Brosnahan grew up with. As long as she wasn’t allowed to write any jokes, the show would be so much better with the aforementioned Ms Cohen in the role.

Loser: I’m taking back last year’s award from Oscar Isaac. Yes he’s a brilliant actor, yes he can embody Jewishness without resorting to stereotype, but the travesty of Moon Knight will not be easily forgiven. His terrible “Essex Jew” impression was kind of brilliant as a figment of the character’s psyche of what a British Jew might sound like, but apart from a few minuscule nods, this was such a wasted opportunity to proudly showcase a Jewish superhero that I’m banning Isaac from going near a Jewish character again.

I’m kind of tempted to give this award to Moon Knight for the reason mentioned above, but alas there’s some stiff competition. In pole position is Al Jazeera’s (((expose))) *cough hatchet cough job* The Labour Files.

As it desperately sought to undermine the hate Jews faced during the Corbyn years, the reason this wasn’t a shoo-in was because it was so terribly, terribly boring and unsuccessful, you can tell even the most hardened crank is somewhat embarrassed trying to get people to watch the thing.

Winner: Pipping it to the post is Dave Chappelle’s Saturday Night Live monologue. A runner-up last year, this year Dave garners the big prize for his assiduously nasty slice of well-disguised funny antisemitism.

Slim pickings in what you’d think would be a crowded category. Natasha Lyonne dropped some pearlers in the new season of Russian Doll, and Volodymyr Zelensky showed that if this whole war leader hero thing doesn’t work out he’s always got a home as a wide-eyed everyman in sitcom Leader of the People.

Winner: Looks as if the crown’s been handed from Woody Allen to Larry David to the latest evolution of the kvetching archetype, Dave Burd in DAVE. Returning for a second season, Dave is still the same selfish, driven egotistical monster, and still as hilarious with it.

Usually when things get tough I can at least dig up an actor or writer with a Jewish dad, but occasionally I’ve got to get creative. So this award is really for me, as I desperately flailed to find something, anything, that can tie a show to our people.

Sometimes I fail, which is why I never got around to some great TV shows such as The Bear.

Sometimes I fail in a different way, and was too late to note Ben Stiller’s involvement and review Severance, for many the best TV show of the year — see also The Traitors, a study in groupthink and witch hunts enhanced by Claudia Winkleman camping around in tweeds. Notable runner-ups, then, are an excellent parallel made between Native Americans and Jews for The English, even better than our connection to dwarfs for Lord of the Rings, and I’m particularly proud of Andor being the midrash to Star Wars’ torah.

Winner: I had to review my favourite series of the year, The White Lotus, but no amount of Googling family histories down to the technical crew members could identify any tribal connection. Turning a disadvantage on its head though, I framed the show as a non-Jewish comedy, and thus anthropologically necessary to examine in order that we might better understand ourselves. I think I just got about got away with it.

A show featuring Jews, about Jews, with actual Jews in it, that get to be Jewish. The second season of Russian Doll fitted this remit better than the first, with a plot steeped in our history, but overall not quite as satisfying.

Jews Don’t Count even has our name in the title, and while not perfect it did get people talking about the massive hypocrisy in progressive politics when it comes to our people, but was more a lecture than a piece of entertainment. By all rights Tokyo Vice should be the winner here: it’s a slick, classy slice of story about a Jew out of water, however…

Winner: I really didn’t want The Tinder Swindler to win. Simon Leviev’s incredulous antics crossed over to the mainstream and entered the zeitgeist though, and while I feel uncomfortable when Jews are showcased doing bad things, this documentary grabs you from the off and like his victims doesn’t let go until you’re fully spent. This is one winner where I hope there isn’t a sequel!

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