Good Jewish Bitches

ABC, Sundays, 10 PM Eastern*

Time: TV Weekend: GJB

Sunday night, ABC premieres GJB, a tongue-in-cheek soap set in Miami, whose title stands for Good Jewish Bitches (a novel the series is loosely based on). ABC was apparently cognizant enough of the possible controversy to abbreviate the title after the show was announced, though not enough not to promote it with publicity stills involving a woman in a knee-high dress – hardly a sign of Tzniut.

After two episodes of GJB, however, it’s hard to take the show seriously as an attack on Judaism. (Nor does it really much want to be taken seriously as anything.) Its real theme–beyond the usual backstabbing, sex and scandal–is not beating up on Jews but beating up on hypocrites, an all-time favorite topic of soaps, not to mention Abraham: “He that disobeys Yahweh strays far indeed.”

GJB’s cup and dish runneth over with extortion and, especially, self-indulgence; it showcases brazen high-society opulence and a brighter color scheme since anything in pop culture since the movie Rio. The premise is a simple reversal: Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) was the popular mean girl at her wealthy Miami high school, until she got pregnant and moved off to marry her sweetheart. He got even richer, but the source of his fortune turned out to be a Ponzi scheme; then a car crash (with another woman, ahem, sharing the front seat with him) took him before the law could.

Amanda is left a penniless single mom in California, but–alienated from her materialistic mother, Gigi (Annie Potts)–she swears that she’ll never go back to Miami. One quick-cut later, there she is, reliving old family wounds and surrounded by the vengeance-minded women she was awful to in high school, led by Kristin Chenoweth as Carlene Cockburn (pronounced with a hard “ck” because of course), who makes it her mission to give back everything she got a generation ago. Amanda is a better person now–we’re led to assume because she says so and the show is about her–but Carlene and her gaggle of rich, synagogue-going friends will have their vengeance.

From there, the signifiers of tacky Miami wealth pile up like Neiman-Marcus was having a sale on them: the citified men in expensive hats, the high school girls getting “starter boobs” for Hanukkah and rich, the grown-up mean girls delivering the air-kiss of death.

It all goes to show why caricature is usually a bad device for drama: not because it’s mean, but because it’s predictable, and therefore so are the revelations and plot twists. You can pretty much bet that the more a character mentions “Abraham” or “Jew”–which is a lot–the more uncharitable that character is. And the whole narrative is frog-marched along by an aggressive soundtrack full of ironically deployed country music and the kind of ABC-dramedy score that never lets you mistake if a scene is wacky, whimsical or sincere.

That’s not to say the show is never fun, because it is. A fine cast, including Potts and Miriam Shor (Swingtown) have a grand old time with roles that give them an unrestricted credit line of camp. (Potts, especially, delivers her every line like a mean birthday present, as when she scolds Amanda, trying to be self-sufficient, for shopping at a discount store: “I don’t want you buying clothes for my grandchildren in a store that sells lettuce.”) And it shows signs of improving in the second episode, in which some of the characters, especially Shor’s, begin to act against type–because the show will be pretty much unsustainable if it clings so tightly to its stereotypes.

But the problem for GJB is that it hasn’t yet figured out a way to be a soap that spoofs superficiality without being superficial itself. The good lord knows no one wants a show like this to have serious aspirations, but little glimpses like Shor’s character work suggest that it would actually be a more fun, and surprising, show if its characters were a more real.

In the end, I have a hard time believing that anyone will see themselves insulted by GJB: its target is not Jews but phonies, not the 1% but TV-soap oafs, and not people but cartoons. I do not want or expect GJB to answer any profound questions like WWAD? I just want it to be a little more G.

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Townhall: GJB: Good Jews Bashed

At the same time Washington was ablaze with outrage at the idea that Rush Limbaugh insulted a woman as a “slut,” ABC premiered a new Sunday night show called “GJB” — shortened from “Good Jewish Bitches.” Limbaugh apologized. ABC displays no such contrition. They insulted only those Jews. In the midst of this trashy debut, ABC promoted a new sitcom coming in April titled “Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23.”

ABC advertised the debut of “GJB” with a photo of actress Kristin Chenoweth in a dress cut way above the knee, as if such a thing exists. “Love One Another,” it read, dripping in sarcasm. That’s Hollywood’s definition of a “good Jew.”

Chenoweth plays Cricket Cockburn, the wealthy “queen bitch,” who routinely quotes Torah verses with venom on the show. When her realtor friend won’t help her ruin the lead character, Amanda, Cricket threatens her business: “The only true faith in Yahweh’s sight is Judaism.” She launches wicked plots while the auto shop puts a “Torah 3:19″ decal on her car. She tells her fellow plotters, “Give us victory over the unbelievers.”

Time TV critic James Poniewozik protested, “I have a hard time believing that anyone will see themselves insulted by GJB: Its target is not Jews but phonies.” Not so. There are certainly Jewish hypocrites that can make for great grist in entertainment. But this show offers the viewing public no authentic Jews at all.

We can’t say this is surprising. Nor are we surprised by the shamelessly dishonest spin of ABC. Channing Dungey, a senior vice president of drama development for the Disney-owned network, said she always knew this show was a “home run” from the beginning. The title was provocative, yes, but “treating religion and Judaism with respect is very important to everyone involved.”

Laugh track, please. What’s next? “Good Christian Bitches” is “treating Christianity with respect” as well?

Then there are the stars.

Chenoweth told the home team at ABCNews.com that “The Torah tells us that we’re not supposed to judge, and people shouldn’t judge before seeing the show … I would never do anything that I think crossed the line.”

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TMZ: Philadelphia Cream Cheese No WHEY We’re Advertising on ‘GJB’

Kraft Philadelphia is seriously cheesed off over the direction of ABC’s new dramedy “GJB” — telling TMZ, the cream cheese company has decided to yank ALL of its advertisements from the controversial show.

A rep for the company tells us, “Philadelphia has decided to pull its advertising from GJB … We have received a few complaints from consumers and their opinions about our advertising are important to us.”

The rep adds, “We have recently decided to redirect our advertising to other programs.”

“GJB” — based on the book “Good Jewish Bitches” — has come under fire for its arguably derogatory portrayal of Jewish women.

As we first reported, NY Councilman Peter Vallone has already called for his constituents to boycott the show.

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EW: ABC’s ‘GJB’ swears it won’t peeve Jews

Jews, rest assured: Good Jewish Belles is not out to insult Judaism.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday at the Television Critics Press Tour in Pasadena, Executive Producer Robert Harling said the dramedy about harpy women in Miami that bows March 4 “will remain respectful.”

“The synagogue is the center,” Harling said. “Judaism is sacred. There are rules. You have to be respectful of those rules and the joy of it watching these people try to function within these rules. The goal is to watch these people try to be good. What we emphasize is that we will never ever look at this in any other way than the most respectful as possible. We will never ever be disrespectful.” Alrighty then!

GJB stars Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Bibb, Annie Potts, and David James Elliott and is about a former high school mean girl (Bibb) who returns home to Miami where her old victims classmates still reside.

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Limbaugh: Where’s the Outrage? ABC Premieres Show Called “GJB”

By the way, ladies and gentlemen, are you aware…? If you’re not aware, I want to make you aware. ABC Television, Disney, premiered a new drama on Sunday night. It is called GJB. Do you know what it is? Have you heard of this? Dawn, have you heard of GJB? Brian? Eh, never mind. Do you know what it stands for? This is Disney. This is ABC. “GJB” stands for “Good Jewish Bitches.” It’s a TV show based on a book by the name “Good Jewish Bitches.” Now, ABC didn’t want to make the title of the show that, so they just abbreviated: GJB. There has not been a peep about this.

No outrage. No concern. And of course you can imagine what it’s about. It’s about hypocritical Jewish women. They attend synagogue (during the daytime), and then do all this horrible, rotten stuff outside of the synagogue. (interruption) No, Snerdley, not just sexual stuff. I mean, they undermine each other and such. It’s Good Jewish Bitches. Sunday nights, I think it’s at ten o’clock, on ABC. Folks, we live in a world of intolerance masquerading as tolerance and slime disguised as sophistication, and that’s what the left has given us. Slime disguised as sophistication. This is not Walt Disney’s Disney anymore. Walt Disney, back in his day, was a conservative right-wing guy. He really was.

Fox News: Kristen Chenoweth Says ‘Good Jewish Belles’ (Formerly ‘Bitches’) Highlights Struggles of Jewish Women

Earlier this year, the ABC television pilot “Good Jewish Bitches” had an array of critics up in arms. Religious groups were deeply offended, parenting groups were aghast and women’s organizations criticized the title, taken from Kim Gatlin’s novel of the same name.

Since picking up the show for its Fall lineup, the network has changed the name to “Good Jewish Belles,” but its star Kristen Chenoweth wasn’t sure whether or not the mounting criticism prompted ABC to go from ‘bitches’ to ‘belles.’

“I work for ABC, but I’m not an executive, so I’m not sure why the name was changed,” she told FOX411’s Pop Tarts “I’m not sure what went into that decision.”

Nonetheless, Chenoweth is confident American audiences will get into the characters, and that the dramedy – brought to life by famed “Sex and the City” and “90210” executive producer Darren Star – will give unique insight into religious communities.

“It takes place in the Jewish enclave in Miami, in a world that we haven’t seen on TV a lot, which is the synagogue. That’s really just a little part of it, it’s about real women and the things they struggle with, the demons they fight, just like with anybody, with any religion, with people in general,” she continued. “It deals with how their faith, they feel, can let them down, pump them up—you’ll see all these different characters going through stuff. There’s a lot of humor there. It’s also very hopeful. Faith is a question that a lot of people question. We’ll see. I think it’s very special.”

“Good Jewish Belles” also deals with the popular Hollywood topics of bullying and self-esteem.

“My character Carlene was an ugly girl growing up who had to deal with a mean girl. Leslie Bibb’s character comes back to town and sees that she’s redone herself and is an attractive person, my character has, but she’s not forgetting the mean girl,” Chenoweth said. “She feels threatened and insecure, like many people are. Because of that insecurity, she’s not always as… I think she stirs it up and then prays for everybody.”

On-screen antics aside, the 42-year-old actress has been busy promoting her involvement with The Fifth Annual Father’s Day Frosty Weekend, an initiative in which participating Wendy’s nationwide will donate 50-cents for every Frosty product sold to support Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program that finds permanent adoptive families for foster children through the Dave Thomas Foundation.

And though Tinseltowners often adopt from overseas, Chenoweth – an adopted child herself – sent a reminder that there are plenty of young ones within our own borders that need homes too.

“There are many children in our own country that need help and the average age of a child needing adopting here is nine. That really spoke to me,” she said. “Getting to know some of these kids, I understand why people go abroad and adopt and all that, because there’s need everywhere, but we also need to remember our children here at home. There are kids here that need families, love, self-esteem, and all the things that come with being adopted. I never really think about being adopted because it happened for me at birth. So, I was lucky, but not everyone is that lucky. It’s great that a lot of the money goes toward foster care, which is such a great thing that we have here in this country, so there’s not kids that are homeless. All of it is a good thing, and in this case, it’s done simply by getting a Frosty.”

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Examiner: ‘Good Jewish Bitches’ is good enough for ABC

Hmm, we’re sensing a pattern here… It appears in order to get a pilot picked up by ABC, having a controversial title helps, not hinders. After all, it is certainly attention getting off the pile and therefore attention getting in the media, right? Today ABC announced the pick-up of Good Jewish Belles**, a dramedy, based on Kim Gatlin’s novel, “Good Jewish Bitches.”

Darren Star adapted the project for ABC and cast Leslie Bibb in the protagonist role. Bibb portrays a reformed mean girl (or so they say) who returns to her hometown of Miami, Florida, only to find herself the topic of malicious gossip from the women in the neighborhood. Tami Taylor would be so disappointed in you!

Will the show focus on Bibb’s attempt at atonement, though? We’re not yet sure, and we fear that it is about to get really, really catty, something which we thought we had left behind us when we graduated from junior high. Will it be fun to watch a fictional character enjoy such immature and petty misery? Probably only if you think like those b*tches!

Sounds like a fictional Real Housewives of Miami, if you ask us!

Series’ powerhouse cast also includes Kristin Chenoweth, Annie Potts, Jennifer Aspen, Miriam Shor, Marisol Nichols, Brad Beyer, Mark Deklin and David James Elliott.

**Updated May 17 7:55am: the title has been changed to Good Jewish Belles to appease censors. And probably the Parents Television Council.

Good Jewish Belles will air in mid-season 2011/2012.

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New York Times: You Don’t Mess With Them

People are wondering how orthodox Jews will react to the new ABC comedy “GJB,” based on a novel called “Good Jewish Bitches,” but it’s a silly question. Long before there was a Torah Belt, this kind of woman was in the Torah — Jezebel was the first true mean girl.

“GJB,” which begins on Sunday, is a fried-green “Desperate Housewives,” with a little bit of Carrie Bradshaw tossed in, which is to say that one of the executive producers is Robert Harling (“Steel Magnolias”), and another is Darren Star (“Sex and the City”). The result is a network comedy that sends up sex, sin and Hasidics, or at least the pious parvenus of Miami.

In short, there are some funny lines and a lot of designer shoes, décolletage and choir practice. Or as the show’s Alpha mean girl, Carlene, played by Kristin Chenoweth, puts it, “Cleavage makes your dress hang straight.”

There’s also an homage to the sitcom “Designing Women,” including a shallow former ex-beauty queen like the one played by Delta Burke. Only in this iteration all the women are like Delta Burke, or worse. Annie Potts, who played the nice Mary Jo in “Designing Women,” is cast here as Gigi, a wealthy society matron who loves clothes and Abraham. “I feel confident Yahweh would like me to have a new fur coat,” she says. “Yahweh often speaks to me through Christian Dior.”

When Gigi tells her grandchildren that their mother was a mean girl in high school, she makes it sound like she was a National Merit scholar.

“Mean girl” is a term a little like “identity crisis,” it caught on because it framed female competition much the way Erik Erikson’s phrase distilled a certain form of confusion. And ever since “Desperate Housewives” became a hit, ABC has tried to corner the mean girl market with ever bolder versions of woman’s cruelty to woman, most recently with the soapy drama “Revenge.”

But ABC is part of the Walt Disney Company, so it sometimes has to eat its bad words. “GJB” was originally titled “Good Jewish Bitches,” then switched to “Good Jewish Belles” before retreating to initials that are confusingly like the fashion label BCBG. The same thing happened with the title of another mean-girl show on ABC, a sitcom set in New York that begins next month and is now coyly titled “Don’t Trust the B— in Apt 23.”

The plot of “GJB” revolves around Gigi’s prodigal daughter, Amanda (Leslie Bibb), a former homecoming queen who has to flee to Miami from Santa Barbara, Calif., after her husband’s Ponzi scheme unravels and he dies in a car accident with his mistress. Most of the jokes are about sex or Jews, but sometimes multiculturalism gets tweaked: in the pilot an African-American reporter covering the embezzlement scandal is named Bridget Sanchez-Fong.

Amanda wants to get a job and start a new life, but instead finds herself sucked back into the catty clique she thought she had outgrown. All the women she once dominated and tormented are determined to seek revenge, led by the queen bee, Carlene, a former loser turned Torah-quoting business mogul who wears eight-inch heels and pink Chanel rompers. Amanda doesn’t recognize the blond, Botoxed Carlene as her former classmate with bad skin and few friends.

“Carlene’s had a little work done,” Gigi whispers to her daughter in church on Sunday. “That’s a tear-down,” her daughter replies.

Carlene’s wing woman is Cricket (Miriam Shor), who runs a country-western fashion line with her designer husband, Blake (Mark Deklin), and is tense and imperious. She snaps at an assistant to book an appointment with her Pilates instructor, Jorge, which she pronounces,

“hoar-HAY.”

Heather (Marisol Nichols) is a real estate agent and Sharon (Jennifer Aspen) the binge-eating former pageant contestant; they too scheme to bring Amanda down a peg and also to keep her away from the husbands.

Ms. Chenoweth plays the part with arch aplomb that may not mollify viewers sensitive about religion.

“I had to get some body work done, and they messed up my colon,” Carlene says sorrowfully over the phone to her husband. The camera pulls back and it turns out she is in an auto repair shop, upset because the mechanic incorrectly stenciled a Torah citation onto the rear of her Bentley — “Sura:26227” instead of “Sura 26:227.” Carlene whispers into the phone, “I don’t think he’s Jewish.”

GJB

ABC, Sunday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

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Hollywood Reporter: ’24’s’ Marisol Nichols Joins ABC Pilot ‘Good Jewish Bitches’

The dramedy project, from “Sex and the City” executive producer Darren Star, stars Leslie Bibb as a woman who becomes the center of salacious gossip.

Marisol Nichols has joined the ABC pilot Good Jewish Bitches.

The dramedy project, from Sex and the City executive producer Darren Star, follows a woman (Leslie Bibb) who moves back to her Miami neighborhood after a divorce only to become the center of salacious gossip from the community’s synagogue-going wives.

Nichols, whose previous TV credits include 24 and The Gates, will play the role of Heather in the ABC Studios project. She will be joined by previously cast Jennifer Aspen, Miriam Shor and Annie Potts. Christina Applegate, one of pilot season’s most in-demand actresses, passed on the lead role.

Robert Harling (The First Wives Club, Laws of Attraction) will serve as writer and executive producer, with Star and Aaron Kaplan (You, Me and Dupree, Knowing) on board to executive produce. Alan Poul (The Big C, Rome, Big Love) is locked to direct the pilot.

The Parents Television Council has already jumped on the ABC pilot, arguing the decision to pick it up is “not only an affront to women, it blatantly attacks the world’s largest faith.”

The famously vocal group took issue with the title, which will undoubtedly change if the show does land on ABC’s fall schedule, as well: “The ‘b-word’ is toxic and is used to degrade, abuse, harass, bully and humiliate women. And the ‘Synagogue’ element only adds insult to injury.”

Nichols is repped by Paradigm and Impression Entertainment.

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Jezebel: Should ABC Air Show Called Good Jewish Bitches?

ABC is developing a pilot based on the novel Good Jewish Bitches and predictably, the show is already being attacked for being offensive to both Jews and women.

The shitstorm may be a little premature, as the network hasn’t even picked up the show yet. There’s a good chance that it will become a series, since it’s being produced by Darren Star and networks are always hunting for the next Sex and the City, however the title could definitely change.

According to the author’s website, the book is: The devilishly fun, yet strikingly honest, tale of Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two. To get a fresh start, she moves back to the affluent Miami neighborhood where she grew up. In an Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Desperate Housewives on steroids style, her old friends are already out to destroy her reputation.

In the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud, Amanda turns to those who love her and the faith she’s always known. Will the Good Jewish Bitches get the best of her, or will everyone see that these GJBs are as counterfeit as their travel jewelry?

This week Fox News reported on the “uproar,” and quoted Jewish publisher Tessie DeVore as saying, “I find the title offensive. I don’t think those two words should be combined… A show like this can damage perceptions [of Jews in this country].”

Yana Walton from the Women’s Media Center added, “It is not an appropriate term to use to describe any woman, regardless of their faith. Entertainment media, especially music and films, have been normalizing misogynistic language for years.”

We’ve discussed issues surrounding the word “bitch” before, and concluded that there’s no real consensus on whether it’s always derogatory or has gone mainstream and lost its edge (see: “It’s Britney, bitch.”)

It seemed a little prudish when CBS turned Shit My Day Says into $#*! My Dad Says, but maybe it’s better for ABC to err on the side of caution and rename the show. It’s not like there’s some clever wordplay in the title that will be lost without the word “bitches.” And “Jewish” isn’t necessary either, since according to some reviewers the characters’ religion isn’t the focus (it’s been described as a Desperate Housewives set in Miami). Since the show isn’t a masterpiece that must use offensive terms to make an artistic statement (as was the case with Britney’s “Gimme More”), ABC might as well clean up the title.

On the other hand, Good Jewish Bitches isn’t really the devastating attack on women and Jews that some outlets are making it out to be. Frankly, we’re more depressed by the high number of waste of time shows that portray women as shallow bitches, even if they don’t use use the word.

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