Based on a novel of the same name by the Jewish journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Fleishman Is in Trouble is a story about the titular Toby Fleishman’s recent divorce from his wife, set in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The title character and his wife are evidently Jewish, and Jewish actors—including Jesse Eisenberg as Fleishman—play major roles. To Akiva Schick, the series fails as a whole despite what he sees as the merit of the source material. It also fails more specifically as television about Jews:
As in the novel, Toby isn’t so much stressed out by the moment, but rather perpetually wound tight. (Eisenberg delivers his lines in a clipped, highly caffeinated rhythm reminiscent of Woody Allen.) Toby’s character is certainly a stereotype—neurotic Jewish doctor—and Eisenberg plays it well. It’s an excellent performance, but also a disappointing one. Surely all the Jewish talent in the show could have come together to create a fresher take on the Jewish masculinity that it’s parodying—or a fresher take on the Jewish anything, really. In a show that has been praised for its Jewishness, the cultural and religious Jewish content is actually scant.
And although Schick thinks of the well of the novel, he suggests that reviewers’ characterizations of Brodesser-Akner as “a kind of female Philip Roth” stem as much from the skill and wit of her narration as from “well-named secular Jewish characters, and all the sex.”