Last night's viewing - Jewish Mum of the Year, Channel 4; Fresh Meat, Channel 4
Hard on the heels of a rebuke from the Advertising Standards Agency for an "irresponsible" and "offensive" campaign that "reaffirmed negative stereotypes" of the Traveller community, Channel 4 continues its proud commitment to minority caricature with the barely credible Jewish Mum of the Year. Let's get the mitigating circumstances out of the way first, since it won't take long.
The competition originally appears to have been conceived by The Jewish News, so this could be framed as self-inflicted injury, and the narration is condescendingly at pains to present the programme as affirmation. Did you know, for example, that although British Jews make up only one per cent of the population, "they make a big contribution to all areas of modern British life"? Not convinced? Look, here's a picture of Vanessa Feltz and Uri Geller to prove it.
The idea is that eight Jewish mums, notionally the cream of the original entrants, will compete with one another in a variety of tasks, two of them being picked off each week. The judges are Tracy Ann-Oberman (who should have known better) and Professor Dovid Katz, who I assume has been hired not because of his academic studies of the Yiddish language or his stalwart work against Holocaust denial in Lithuania but because he looks like what you'd get if David Walliams ever decided to do a comedy rabbi character. And the first task for the contestants was to arrange a bar mitzvah, with the women being paired up in teams to sort out the cake, canapés and cocktails.
If these really were the best available contenders, the only conclusion is that 99.9 per cent of Jewish mothers were too sensible to take part or simply too busy with real Jewish mothering. Tracy and Lesley, given the job of creating a football-themed cake for 200 people, short-cut the problem by going off to buy some catering bags of sponge mix and a giant tub of long-life cream. Jacqueline and Louisa conducted their research into the best cocktails for the occasion with an enthusiasm that left them too giddy to speak. And Emma and Ruth came together to fill the goody bags and, inadvertently, exemplify how meaningless a collective noun "community" can be.
Emma was a suburban yummy mummy who outsourced the really hard graft to her Filipino maid. Ruth was a dour orthodox type who put piety above considerations of style. And they absolutely loathed each other, with a passion that a mere outsider would have found hard to match. Naturally, the judges kept them both in, despite the fact that they botched their task so badly that the distribution of goody bags turned into shrieking riot. "I wanted to prove to people out there that we are actually humans and can fit in with society," said Emma self-righteously during one of her bickering rows with her co-religionist. Don't worry, Emma, there are plenty of Jewish mothers "out there" who do that every day without even thinking about it. They easily outweigh the bad example you've set.
Fresh Meat is back and celebrated its return with a magnificent running joke about old meat. Howard started working at the local abattoir and is jubilant at the main perk of the job: "It's spare meat.. from the loose meat bin... It's all right. It's from animals." Kingsley has reappeared sporting a soul patch he gamely tries to pretend is no big deal, Josie is still hankering hopelessly after Kingsley and JP is worrying about his sexuality after the discovery that his friend Giles, with whom he shared masturbatory fumbles in the Stowe dormitories, is actually gay and not just "gay". There's also a promising new tenant in the form of Sabine, who insisted on vetting the water pressure and smoke alarms before taking the room. I'm so looking forward to the new term.
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