I’ve spent a long time in Jewish journalism, and almost as long wondering when someone is going to make a movie or TV show about someone like me.
My wait is over: “The Jewish Enquirer,” available now on Amazon Prime Video, is a six-part British comedy about “a journalist for the U.K.’s fourth biggest Jewish newspaper.” It features Tim Downie as Paul Green, a single reporter in his late 30s with a penchant for getting into Larry David-ish scraps with his dad, sister, best friend, and just about every person he meets.
Okay, Paul is nothing like me; I am closer to his (unseen) editor, who demands the “Jangle” (Jewish angle) to every story and wants him on the lookout for even the “slightest whiff of anti-Semitism.” (Paul is happy to oblige when a vegan points out that Torah scrolls are made from animal hide.)
The creator is Gary Sinyor, who co-wrote and co-directed the 1992 cult film “Leon the Pig Farmer,” about a nice Jewish boy who discovers his biological parents are in the bacon business. Like “Leon,” the new series is a broadly accessible slice of British Jewish life with some great insidery jokes. (Headlines on The Jewish Enquirer’s website include “Tel Aviv flight arrives on time — Exclusive!” and “Chopped herring: Can it ruin your sex life?”)
Sinyor told me this week that he wanted to treat Jewishness the way an American show might — that is, with a very un-British sort of self-confidence. “That’s where British Jews have almost always ended up: afraid to say ‘I am Jewish.’ I find that problematic,” he said.
He originally conceived his hero as a reporter for a general-interest newspaper, but making it Jewish freed him up to draw Paul’s world with comic precision. The show is shot in and around Sinyor’s very Jewish neighborhood of Finchley in North London: “The café they go to is the café I go to, the barber is the barber that I go to.”
Sinyor finds that Jewish audiences, often thin-skinned and nitpicky, can be more critical of “Jewish” programs than the general public. He is bullish on Great Britain, which he says is less inclined toward the kinds of anti-Semitism facing Jews in France, Italy or Spain. As for the Labour Party’s flirtation with anti-Semitism (which gets a few brief, hilarious mentions in the show), he thinks it was a case of political opportunism, and he wasn’t surprised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s rout in the last election. “Of course there are variants of anti-Semitism: anti-Israel, anti-capitalist,” said Sinyor, whose wife works for Community Security Trust, the U.K.’s equivalent of the Anti-Defamation League. “But the country as a whole, and I can’t stress this enough, is not dangerous; we don’t wander around in fear. People will never allow [anti-Semites] to do anything.”
Sinyor spoke with me from his backyard, which is featured in the show and where, like millions of people around the world, he is stuck at home (writing a second season of “Enquirer”) because of the coronavirus. Later he sent me an email: “I’m sorry if I went on a bender about the serious stuff behind the series. Inevitable in today’s world. Really it’s about the series being fresh and funny. I do hope it appeals to American Jewry. They probably need a laugh as much as anyone at the moment.”