Facing Increasingly Low Ratings, NBC Cancels The Mohel -Reality TV and Circumcision Don’t Mix

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March 1, 2001
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Sam Apple

After airing only two episodes, NBC executives acknowledged yesterday that the network has canceled its highly touted reality TV series, The Mohel. “The ratings just weren’t what we expected,” said NBC spokeswoman Rose Jacobs. “Americans apparently think reality means running around like lunatics on an island. They don’t want reality when it comes to cutting off the tip of a penis.”

NBC producers conceived The Mohel in an attempt to ride the coattails of ABC’s widely successful reality series, The Mole. In The Mole, 10 contestants compete with one another in a worldwide search for prizes. One of the 10 contestants is the “mole,” and it’s up to the other contestants to uncover the mole’s identity before they are eliminated from the show.

The Mohel follows a similar structure. But in the case of the NBC series, one of the 10 contestants is a mohel who attempts to circumcise the others when they least expect it. The job of the contestants is to determine who among them is the mohel and to avoid his sharp knife. The last contestant with his foreskin fully intact wins a million dollars.

The problem with The Mohel, according to viewers who spoke with Sh’ma, stemmed from the transparency of the mohel’s identity. Said Erica Phillips, a disgruntled viewer from Philadelphia, “You’ve got these nine tan, muscle-bound men running around, and one guy in a black suit with a beard and those curls on his ears. I think it was pretty obvious who the mohel was.”

With the show now cancelled, an NBC producer, who asked not to be named, admitted that the man in question, Rabbi Zalman Rabinowitz of Borough Park, Brooklyn, was indeed the mohel. “In retrospect,” he said, “we probably should have done a better job of camouflaging the mohel. None of the other contestants would go anywhere near Rabbi Rabinowitz.”

“I knew Rabbi Rabinowitz was the mohel from the second I saw him blessing his food in some sort of gibberish,” said Rick Smith, one of the other contestants on the show, adding, “I wouldn’t even take down my pants to go to the bathroom if he was anywhere in sight.”

Rabbi Rabinowitz refused to talk to reporters, but in a statement through his publicist he said that if they had given him one more week, he “would have definitely gotten his knife on at least one of those goyishe momzers.”

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Sam Apple if the former editor of New Voices, the national magazine for Jewish college students. He now works as a freelance writer in New York City.

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