Oct 23, 2012

Lanigan's Rabbi

 I didn't meet anyone who was Jewish until my junior year in high school, when a rabbi's son named Aaron was in my English class.  He was lean and wiry, with thick black hair and expressive hands, with a preference for lumberjack shirts and a sky-blue yarmulke. He was always surrounded by a crowd of girls who knitted him sweaters and baked him cookies and sighed a lot, but occasionally I managed to push through the crowd to ask him a few questions about kosher laws or Hebrew School or his bar mitzvah, anything I could think of to keep his attention.

At the same time, our English teacher assigned Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev and I read on my own his gay Jewish Romeo and Juliet story, The Chosen.

So I must have been very receptive during the spring of 1977, when two tv series with homoerotic Jewish subtexts appeared, Busting Loose and Lanigan's Rabbi.

On Sunday nights, NBC had a recurring series, The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie, with an alternating series of detectives.  My friends and I weren't impressed.  We called McCloud McClod, and Colombo Clod-Dumb-Bo.  But Lanigan's Rabbi became must-see tv, "good beyond hope."

Lanigan (Art Carney, right) was police chief in a small town in California. When he investigated a murder in a synagogue, he had to collaborate with Rabbi Small (Bruce Solomon, left), whose keen mind, trained in Talmudic scholarship, figured out whodunit.  They continued to be thrown into mysteries for three more episodes, with corpses including guest of honor at a Man of the Year celebration, a miserly millionaire, and the guy who accused Lanigan of malpractice.

The stories were by-the-books stuff, not very interesting.
Bruce Solomon, who also played a cop on Mary Hartman, was very attractive, but his shirt never came off.
Art Carney was 58, too old to be of interest.
 And they both had wives.

What was the gay angle?

It was about two men from different worlds finding common ground, mutual admiration, and finally a deeply intimate bond.  Why did the Rabbi keep tagging along on Lanigan's investigations?  Was it the joy of sleuthing?  Or were they in love?

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