Easy to pass over flavorless TV Passover Celebration

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Every child looks forward to Passover, because it’s an opportunity to score a little bit of wine.

Yet for any family planning to sit down and watch “A Passover Celebration,” may I suggest investing in a pony keg of Manischewitz Concord Grape to get you through the one-hour show.

The Jewish Television Network-produced special, which will play locally on public television, resembles nothing so much as a Jewish infomercial, down to the clunky videotape, quick segments and frequent scrolling banners advertising the www.passovercelebration.com Web site.

Host Jeffrey Tambor, a wickedly funny man, is shackled to a monstrously dull script and delivers his lines in a monotone baritone that’s a dead ringer for George “Sulu” Takei of “Star Trek” fame. He also flashes a smile so insincere that one might expect him to launch into a pitch for term life insurance or, perhaps, a used Lincoln Continental.

Much of the spiritual meaning behind the holiday is delivered in a series of monologues by Rabbi Irwin Kula. The rabbi’s speeches are thought-provoking, but audience members may be too sidetracked by his inability to stand still (he delivers peripatetic lectures while ambling through locales such as a public park, where pigeons flutter beguilingly in the background).

Later, TV host (and former Jewish Bulletin writer) Teresa Strasser demonstrates how one can convert leftover matzah into a planter. This is nice, but I can only imagine that showing up at my parents’ seder with a decoration constructed of uneaten food and rubber cement would lead to a high-decibel, tag-team psychoanalysis of what kind of life I’m leading.

The whole show is interspersed with Jewish choral songs, which is great … if you like Jewish choral songs. Finally, in a kid’s portion, the scarily “Children of the Corn”-like puppets of “Alef, Bet … Blast Off!” — including Mitzvah the Magical Mouse — travel back to biblical Egypt and teach a lesson to Pharaoh. (Dom DeLuise, in a G-rated reprisal of his turn as Julius Caesar in “History of the World, Part I,” tells several jokes that predate the pyramids.)

This puppet show features a musical number that had me reaching unapologetically for the fast-forward button. By this point in the show, parents may seriously consider a fifth or sixth glass of wine.

And that’s the big problem with “A Passover Celebration.” It’s too unstimulating in parts to satisfy kids, and then way too syrupy in the kiddie segments for adults to handle.

On the other hand, you do learn how to make a hell of a planter. Just think twice before giving it to Mom and Dad.

A Passover Celebration” shows 1 p.m. Thursday, April 1, on KQED-TV, Channel 9, and 6:30 p.m. on KTEH, and 8 p.m. Monday, April 5 on KRCB.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.