‘Big Bang’ Writer Talks About Show’s Jewish Bent — On And Off The Set
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‘Big Bang’ Writer Talks About Show’s Jewish Bent — On And Off The Set

You've got Friday morning Torah sessions, Chanukah candles in a dressing room and a script sprinkled with Yidish.

Only one of the characters in “The Big Bang Theory” is Jewish, so why does the show — like “Seinfeld” a decade earlier — feel so Jewish?

“Big Bang” writer and co-producer Eric Kaplan said that the Jewy feeling of the show is the result of both the Jewish sensibilities of its producers, who are both of the tribe, and of one of its actors, who, while not Jewish on the show, brings her Orthodox identity to the set each day.

In an interview with JWeekly, Kaplan, a 44-year-old comedy writer working toward a doctorate in philosophy at U.C. Berkeley, spoke about his and cast members’ commitment to Judaism both on, and off, the show.

Howard Wolowitz, the resident Jew of the foursome of Caltech scientists, enables Kaplan to inject “Big Bang” with such Yiddish terms such as “tuchus” and “shiksa,” and milk the Jewish-mother stereotype with a plotline in which Wolowitz continues to live with his loud, nagging mother even after getting married.

Howard, right, plays the resident Jew on the show. CBS

Behind the scenes, Judaism has played an even greater role. For a time, there were Friday-morning Torah study sessions, which both Kaplan and Mayim Bialik, the Jewish actress who plays Sheldon’s girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler, attended. Kaplan even lit Shabbat candles at Comic-Con, while Bialik has lit Chanukah candles in her dressing room, Kaplan said.

Speaking of dress, many a Jewish viewer has noticed that Bialik’s character’s wardrobe, with her long skirts and high-cut shirts, is pretty much frum. For those who are wondering, the look was chosen to be frumpy, not frummy — that is, the look was chosen by the costume designer, not because Bialik asked for her character to wear modest dress.

“[T]he decision for them to dress Amy frumpy has nothing to do, you know, with any levels of Jewish or religious modesty,” Bialik told Ira Flatow during an interview on NPR’s “Science Friday.”

“But I think it's been really nice that we've had a consistent look for Amy that absolutely, you know, is in some ways consistent with how I tend to dress. … there's nothing about, you know, any dress codes that say that you have to be frumpy. But yes, Amy happens to be a frumpy version of me, I guess,” she added.

jeremy@jewishweek.org

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