Next week, one of television’s most acclaimed series returns for its final season. In its success, “The Sopranos” has joined a family of contemporary American icons, all presented by one channel: Home Box Office. In fact, when veteran journalist Michael Kinsley went looking for America’s Jane Austen —“Where in America is the essence of our society,” he asked in an article in the online magazine Slate, “and is anybody creating the mocking but affectionate portrait of it that will still seduce people in the 23rd century?”— he found it on HBO.
Toward the end of his piece, Kinsley noted offhand that “the presentation of Jews and Judaism on these shows deserves a long, ambivalent essay of its own.” Indeed, as readers of these pages know, we have often found ourselves tickled by the channel’s Jewish references — from the Jewish pioneer who tiptoes among the foul mouths in Deadwood and Hasidim on “The Sopranos,” to challah baking with Carrie & Co. on “Sex and the City” — though closer inspections also reveal a rash of stereotypes, both old and new. Rather than one long, ambivalent essay then, we’ve decided, in advance of the March 12 season premiere of “The Sopranos,” to offer seven, one on each of the following: “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “Entourage,” “Da Ali G Show,” “Deadwood,” “The Wire” and, of course, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Like the series themselves, each essay reaches an unpredictable conclusion. Enjoy the show.