Don’t pass over these memorable on-screen Seders

Check out the top ten classic Seder portrayals on the small screen.

Jews have kept the story of Passover alive through the traditions of the Seder dinner. The Passover story has drama enough to inspire two big screen epics ( The Ten Commandments and Exodus: Gods and Kings ) but apparently not enough for the makers of some of your favorite TV shows and movies, which have injected family dysfunction into the proceedings. We've ranked some Seder depictions on a scale of "plague" to "afikomen" (All are available on streaming services or On Demand).

10. Gossip Girl : "Seder Anything"

If you're like me, then you are similarly clueless as to who Blair, Serena, Nate, Rufus, or any of the other privileged, pretty teens are in this once-popular series. But for those of us whose own Seders were largely uneventful, there may be amusement in watching a family Seder brimming with unexposed secrets, lies, and conspiracies.

9. The O.C.: "The Nana"

From the series that gave us the holiday mash-up Chrismukkah comes this Passover episode that ends at the fraught Cohen family's self-referential Seder celebration "of freedom to join together to take responsibility for ourselves…."

8. Crimes and Misdemeanors

Martin Landau's morally compromised ophthalmologist visits his childhood home and recalls a particularly contentious Seder dinner in which his schoolteacher aunt disrupts the ceremony by challenging "the whole moral structure of everything." From Woody Allen you were expecting maybe a happy occasion?

7. Saturday Night Live : "Elijah the Prophet at a Seder"

In this classic SNL sketch, a family feud is interrupted by the arrival of Jerry Seinfeld's Elijah the Prophet, who heckles the proceedings. "You know how long I've been standing out there? Pick up the pace, people," he complains. (See also: "Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy Explains Passover with His Dad," featuring Billy Crystal).

6. Curb Your Enthusiasm : "The Seder"

Have yourself a Larry little Seder. In this season five episode, the unwanted guests around Larry David's Seder table include a neighbor Larry suspects is stealing his newspapers, a kid who may have cheated to find the afikomen, and a recent arrival to the neighborhood who Larry befriends and invites to the Seder before learning he is a sex offender. 

5. 700 Sundays

Not for nothing does Billy Crystal end his Tony-winning one-man show (also adapted into a book and HBO special) with a picture of his family around the Seder table, because it's as much about family as it is about the limited time he got to spend with his father before he died of a heart attack. Seders don't play a large role here, but I include it because it's such a welcome break from the angst and disrespect found in most Seder dramatizations. One memorable bit: Billy's grandmother asks guest Louis Armstrong(!), "Louie, have you ever tried just coughing it up?"

4. Sports Night : "April is the Cruelest Month"

In this episode of Aaron Sorkin's "canceled too soon" dramedy, the on- and off-air staff of a network sports-highlights show find reconciliation and repair fractured relationships around the Seder table. 

3. Shalom Sesame: "It's Passover, Grover"

This episode of Israel's version of Sesame Street is a clever and creative Passover primer for preschoolers. There is a Les Miserables parody song, "Matzah in the House." Now if only Jake Gyllenhaal can remember where he hid the afikomen.

2. Rugrats : "Passover"

The Jewish family equivalent to A Charlie Brown Christmas , this animated special has become a holiday perennial. As Grandpa Boris regales his toddler audience with the story of Passover, the babies imagine themselves as Biblical figures in the story, with their tormentor Angelica in the role of Pharaoh.

1."A Taste of Passover"

This is what Passover is all about. Theodore Bikel presides over this stirring and joyous concert observance of Passover history and traditions. Bikel sings, performs dramatic readings, and reminisces about the "taste of the overly sweet red wine that my father poured for me." The only dysfunction centers around his debate with Yiddishist Harriet Chasia Segal over what constitutes the perfect matzoh ball.

Donald Liebenson is a Chicago writer who writes for  VanityFair.com  ,  LA Times  ,  Chicago Tribune  , and other outlets.



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