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Jewish mums battle it out

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2012-10-31

Jewish Mum of the Year

Jewish Mum of the Year

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After four weeks of bickering, beach outings and Barmitzvahs, Jewish Mum Of The year finally came to an end on Tuesday with the two remaining hopefuls, Sandi Firth and Jacqueline Curzon left to battle it out for the coveted crown.

With a post as agony aunt for weekly freesheet The Jewish News at stake, competition was fiercer than ever - and those viewers who had made it this far into the series without wanting to hurl objects at the screen were treated to one final task in which the remaining mothers had to prepare and host a lavish Friday night dinner at London's kosher Pillar Hotel. Which, as with previous episodes, was not without its pitfalls.

Quite a lot of pitfalls in fact, as challah baking went wrong, the hotel's kitchen was left in a disorganised heap, and guests who showed up waiting to be fed were left waiting on the doorstep looking a bit lost, puzzled and hungry as the two mums ran late. A number of familiar faces from earlier in the series - including Emma, who we really hoped we had seen the back of when she was given the boot last weekend - showed up, Apprentice-style, to lend a hand, and ended up being more hindrance, as you might expect, before the formalities finally kicked off.

It all culminated in a pair of dinners attended by judges Dovid Katz and Tracy-Ann Oberman - as well as previous contestants Maxine and Tracy and rent-a-Jew celebrity guests David Baddiel and David Schneider - which weren't without their weird moments (Sandi's main course, for example, was a confusing mix of schnitzel and meatballs), and looked as though they had been filmed on a Wednesday afternoon with broad daylight streaming through the windows and the use of 'Hashem' in the brachas. But everybody seemed happy in the end, as a delighted Sandi was crowned winner and presented with a far from imaginative trophy in the shape of a Star of David, whose 2012 inscription worrying set up the prospect of a Jewish Mum Of The Year 2013.

There's been a lot of talk in the press about whether or not Jewish Mum Of The Year portrays the Jewish community in a bad light or is in some way 'harmful' to the community - with actress Maureen Lipman being among the most vocal critics - but to be honest this seems a bit harsh.

For one thing it hardly seems fair for Lipman to judge such things, given she is responsible for one of the most wearily stereotyped Jewish mother characters in TV history (remember those BT ads, folks?) but saying it is harmful to the community seems about as accurate as suggesting the candidates on The Apprentice give all young entrepreneurs a bad name.

Granted, most of the contestants in Jewish Mum were somewhat irritating (with the possible exception of Irish Lesley, whose early exit in the first week meant we never got to see her full potential), but to suggest such a thing seems a tad patronising to its audience, most of whom will be very familiar with such reality shows and will know that it's the people who will make the best television, rather than those who are most representative of their community, who will have been chosen to take part in this kind of small screen experiment.

And of course it's always worth noting that the ones who shout the loudest about this kind of thing are always the ones who would shy away from actually taking part themselves in order to try and offer what they would consider to be a more positive portrayal of the community.

While it's unfortunate that after racking their brains over original and incisive Jewish programming that this is really the best Channel 4 could have come up with, but the fact that most people will have seen it for what it is - yet another cringe-worthy but oddly compelling reality show that ultimately wasn't any crueller to its chosen community than Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - should offer some small comfort.

Let's just hope, however, that next time they try to inject some Jewishness into the schedule that they think of a more original way to do it.