There are no Jewish heroes on television's detective shows. We have Italians - Columbo, Baretta and Delvecchio. We have a Greek with the unlikely Hellenic name of Kojak. And we have WASPs - McMillan and Barnaby Jones.
The closest television comes to having a Jewish hero in a detective show is Sgt. Fish on "Barney Miller." But Fish is not the hero of the series, and, more importantly, the show is perceived as comedy rather than drama.
That is seen as a very important difference by "Barney Miller's" executive producer, Danny Arnold. Sitting in his Vine Street office in Hollywood, Arnold was quick to answer when asked why there was Jewish comedians on television but no detective-heroes who are Jewish.
"It's because," he said, "nobody takes comedy seriously, even though it is terribly serious, But if you look at the history of the movie business, you will find that very few of the comedies ever won an Academy Award.
"Comedy, you know, seems to be that frivolous area from which you can expect almost anything. You could accept the Jewish comics, the Dutch comics, the black comics. But whey you get into drama, people seem to attribute something substantial to it. They believe that drama is a real reflection of their lives, or of what they want their lives to be.
"Comedy is somthing to look at, and laugh at and not get involved in. So you can do anyhing you want in comedy. They'll accept a Jewish comic; they accepted enthnic humor because there was something fundamentally demeaning about it.
"But drama is another story. You identify more closely with it; becomes more a part of your life. You resent dramatic situations more than you do comic situations. So that there is always that element of not wanting to identify with a Jewish cop."
Arnold noted that a large number of Jewish have important positions in the entertainment business. He said: "A great deal of all this (the lack of Jewish heroes in detective dramas) comes from the men in power themselves. I think Jews are inclined to be more anti-Semitic than anybody else.
"I think their own guilt and their own antipathy towards themselves makes them take a defensive position. A head of studio in the old days, like Harry Cohn, would be the first one to prevent you from having an actor with a Jewish name.
"Actors changed their names. No one wanted to be tagged with being Jewish. Jewish has never been popular. It's as simple as that."
In his time, Arnold has produced the much acclaimed "My World and Welcome To It," based on the writings of James Thurber, and "That Girl" with Marlo Thomas. He cited a specific example of a problem he once had when he wanted to produce a cop show with a Jewish hero, to be played by Lou Jacobi.
Arnold wanted to cast Richard Dreyfuss - who later went on to movie fame in "American Graffiti," "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" and "Jaws" - in the role of Lou Jacobi's son. "I wanted Richard Dreyfuss for the son and they (NBC) wouldn't cast him. I put the project aside.
"I was warned: 'Don't make this an ethnic comedy. Don't make it a Jewish comedy.' I said to them: 'The Goldbergs is one of the most popular shows ever done in this country. What are you afraid of?'
"Well, obviously they're afraid of the Middle East, and the problems in Israel. Being Jewish, I suppose, has its popular moments. Very brief popular moments. When Israel became a state, suddenly it was fine; when they beat up on Idi Amin, they were popular. But generally speaking, I think Jewishness produces a sense of guilt in the world in general, and nobody wants to be reminded of it."
Arnold, who is Jewish, said that "Barney Miller" was not intended to be percieved on television as a Jew, and it doesn't bother him one way or the other. "The people who want to think he's Jewish, let them think he's Jewish. The people who don't want to think he's a Jewish, let them think he's not a Jewish."
And then, with a smile that seemed a flashed blinking lights that read ARNOLD'S REVENGE, he said: "I think that way and I suppose every character I write comes out Jewish, even Nick Yemana, the Japanese detective." Arnold laughed at his own joke and lit another cigar. He is obviously a man who understands his medium.