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Friday, November 14, 2003 | return to: arts


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by nate bloom

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'Coupling' unhitched

Actress Rena Sofer is a spectacularly beautiful woman. She is also intelligent and has good comedic timing. Why can't a network, therefore, find a prime-time show that she can be in for more than a season? NBC just pulled the plug on her series, "Coupling," despite heavy pre-season promotion. Sofer, who has joked that she is "a wandering Jew," after being in several other short-lived series, is wandering again.

"Coupling" turned out to be

an unfunny, smarmy show about young adult relationships. The

back-story on the show is interesting. It was based on a British show that was a clear rip-off of "Friends." The Brit version of "Coupling," English critics wrote, isn't nearly as good as "Friends," but it has some British references that charmed British audiences. NBC bought the "Coupling" scripts and hardly changed them — except for taking out the British inside jokes.

Many British critics were surprised that NBC picked up "Coupling," pointing out that American situation and musical comedies are, on average, much better than their Brit counterparts. (Maybe because we have a lot larger Jewish population than Britain. Musical and situation comedy just happen to be among the most heavily Jewish areas in American show business.)

So why import this chazerai? Well, NBC was desperate to find a replacement for "Friends" and it was looking for racy material to compete with the hit shows on HBO that attract young adults. Unlike HBO, however, it wasn't going to take a chance on an original comedic mind like that of Larry David.

On paper, "Coupling" seemed like a safe bet — it was a "Friends" clone and was a British hit. I guess they figured that a large enough audience would giggle at any sex joke and just stare at Sofer's shanah punim. Wrong.

Mazel tov

NBC is showing what it calls "supersized" versions of its hit Thursday night shows ("Friends," "Scrubs" and "Will and Grace") until it can find a replacement series for "Coupling." About to be physically supersized is "Will and Grace" star Debra Messing, 35, who is a couple of months pregnant.

Widely published reports say that Messing's health was seriously sub-par during the first month of her pregnancy, but she appears to be doing better. However, her role on the show will be reduced during the course of her pregnancy. This is the first child for Messing and her Jewish husband, actor/writer Daniel Zelman, 36.

A star of Tamara?

A number of Jewish actresses have appeared in the mega-soap opera "General Hospital" since it began in 1961. They include Sofer, who won a daytime Emmy in the show; Jackie Zeman, 50, who has played Nurse Bobbie Spencer since 1977; and Sarah Brown, 28, a Jew-by-choice, who won three daytime Emmys playing the conniving and beautiful Carly Corinthos before leaving the show

in 2001.

Brown was replaced by Tamara Braun, who took over the role of Carly. (Since braun means "brown" in German, and both actresses are blonde and Jewish, the coincidences are striking.)

Braun, 32, is a pretty actress who grew up in Chicago. She studied acting in London and quickly landed work in commercials after returning to the States. Braun moved to Los Angeles in 1995, and made guest appearances on a number of TV shows before being cast in her co-starring role on "General Hospital."

Braun's cousin, Holocaust educator and playwright Susan Prinz Shear, was recently profiled by dailycamera.com, which covers the city of Boulder, Colo. Shear's play "No Way Out," starring Braun, was performed in Boulder late last month. Previously, it was presented in workshops and at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. It is based on a trove of 500 letters between Shear's aunt Gerda, who lived in Nazi Germany, and her American relatives. They detail Gerda's desperate attempts to get her family out.

Such a large collection of letters is unusual, and they provide a very rare window into an entire extended family's emotions. Braun's 87-year-old grandfather, who is a character in the play, attended the Boulder performance.

Shear hopes that the play will eventually be made into a TV mini-series or film.

Nate Bloom is the Oakland-based editor of http://www.Jewhoo.com.


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