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Jewish Mums is a sweet treat

JEWISH Mum of the Year is basically The Apprentice with Jewish mothers instead of strutting, cocksure business buffoons. And no Alan Sugar. Obviously.

Despite being a Sugar-free zone, the programme slavishly copies The Apprentice to the point of borderline copyright infringement, except with 10 times the bitchiness, pettiness and backstabbing, and 50 times the entertainment value.

Ostensibly organised by The Jewish News but with Channel 4 clearly pulling the creative strings, the series pits eight Jewish mothers of various ages, backgrounds and degrees of religious devotion against one another in a set of tasks drawing on Jewish culture and tradition.

The women are split into teams of two and expected to work together. At the end of each week two of them -- though not necessarily from the same team -- are dumped. The ultimate winner gets to become The Jewish News's first-ever agony aunt.

The judges observing the contestants' efforts are actress Tracy-Ann Oberman and Professor Dovid Katz. Professor Katz is a distinguished Yiddish scholar and fighter against Holocaust denial in Eastern Europe.

He's also the most hirsute man I've ever seen, with a mound of hair that begins at the crown of his head and continues uninterrupted to his shoulders. He's 70pc hair and 30pc face, which makes him look like the victim of an early make-up test for the original, 1967 version of Planet of the Apes.

First up was the task of organising the Bar Mitzvah of 13-year-old Ben and 169 of his closest relatives and friends.

Oberman and Katz kept stressing how this was all for the sake of the boy and his parents. Guff, of course.

Jewish Mum of the Year is less about letting the women loose on the job than letting them loose on one another and then standing back and watching the sparks, skin and hair fly.

Thanks to selective editing, programmes like this always throw up a few immediate stars.

The only Irish mum in the group, Lesley, was paired with the feisty Tracy and tasked with making a huge, football-themed sponge cake.

A Jewish mother is expected to have baking in her DNA, in the same way the old-fashioned Irish mammy is born with the innate ability to boil cabbage for hours on end, until every last trace of nutrition has been obliterated. Lesley and Tracy had never baked in their lives, so resorted to using a just-add-water sponge mix. They got on like a house on fire, but the cake looked like a house that had been bulldozed.

Lesley was sent home -- for being too nice, I suspect -- along with Louisa, a preening Desperate Housewives fan whose gazpacho (that's cold tomato soup, in case you've never tried it) didn't go down well.

Actually, it didn't go down at all.

But the most volatile (and most entertaining) pairing of the night was Ruth, a dowdy, downbeat divorcee who sets great store by her observance of religious tradition, and Emma, a stinking rich, condescending, mahogany-coloured stick insect draped in bling who pronounces "challenging" as "challenge-ang" and "property" as "proper-tay".

They detested one another from the start and argued over absolutely everything, but in particular a jungle-themed photo-booth adorned with life-sized model animals. Emma, who can afford to employ a servant to do her donkey work, thought it was tacky.

"How about a smaller monkey?" suggested Ruth, prompting Emma to roll her eyes and flash a rictus of nuclear-white teeth.

"She seems nice," ventured Emma's teenage daughter after Ruth had visited their home. "She IS nice," said Emma, adding, after a long, lingering pause: "Ish."

You could argue that Jewish Mum of the Year indulges in stereotypes, yet the stereotyping -- especially in Emma's case -- is entirely self-inflected.

I'd be surprised if any Jewish viewers, who are possessed of the most self-aware sense of humour, are offended rather than amused.

jewish mum of the year HHHHI