Strange Like Me

This, my first regular column for JWeekly, was first published under the headline “Jewish storyline on ‘Downton Abbey’? Stay tuned.”

Lady Cora Crawley (neé Levinson) played by Elizabeth McGovern

Like so many other Edwardian soap opera lovers, I am obsessed these days with Masterpiece Classic’s “Downton Abbey.” But it wasn’t long ago that I was smitten by another television series. It, too, was from a Common-wealth country. However, it wasn’t set in England, nor did it tell the story of aristocrats and their servants at the beginning of the 20th century. Rather, this other show took place much closer to home — in more ways than one.

The show I was hooked on from January 2009 to December 2011 was “Being Erica,” which aired for four seasons on Canada’s CBC network (and on Soapnet in the U.S.). It had no great houses, world wars or Gilded Age costumes. However, it did have Toronto landmarks, family conflicts and some cute contemporary fashions. It also featured time-travel psychotherapy. (Yes, you read right — patients get to go back in time and revisit their greatest regrets to learn lessons they can apply in the present.) But most important, “Being Erica” depicted a young Jewish woman and Jewish life in the most realistic way I had ever seen on television.

Erica Strange (played by Erin Karpluk)

Erica Strange was exactly like me … if I were 15 years younger and a petite redhead. Nonetheless, she and her Jewish family resembled my own in my native Toronto. “Being Erica” had no broad shtick about being Jewish, no silly Borscht Belt humor (save for the T-shirts Erica’s kippah-wearing Reform rabbi father wore, printed with sayings like “I’m with Moses” or “I’m on Shabbat-ical”). I loved Erica so much that I decided to write an article about her for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Click here to read more.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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