Reality TV show ‘Russian Dolls’ stirs controversy

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NEW YORK (AP) - A mother is lecturing her 23-year-old daughter about her love life, flailing a kitchen knife above her head for emphasis.

Mom’s point: She’d like her immigrant daughter, from the former Soviet republic of Moldova, to marry a man with similar roots, keeping the family’s East European Jewish tradition.

Alas, the daughter informs mom that she’s already dating a Hispanic man.

But she soon dumps him, on-camera, during a restaurant date.

The scene is captured in a new TV reality show called “Russian Dolls,” which premiered on the Lifetime cable network in August and airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. EST.

It’s been called the Russian “Jersey Shore” or “Real Housewives,” featuring six women and two men, plus colorful extras like Anna Kosov, the mother. They’re all from the former Soviet Union and either live or have lived in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighborhood. But only two actually hail from Russia.

The show has drawn the wrath of neighbors and community leaders who say it creates a caricature of their immigrant world, turning cast members into “Russians in tacky clothes who do little more than eat, drink and party,” says John Lisyanskiy, founder of the new nonprofit Russian-Speaking American Leadership Caucus and a budget analyst for the New York City Council.

The show’s characters do represent “a small portion of our community,” acknowledges Yelena Makhnin, executive director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District. But she says her neighborhood by the Brooklyn boardwalk is mostly “a very intelligent, very well educated, hardworking community.”

Kosov, a hairdresser, had to mend relations with her Mexican-born boss over remarks she’d made on the show about her daughter, Diana Kosov, dating the Hispanic man.

“I told her, `I’m not racist,’” she says. “I love any kind of people.”As for the scene with the knife, “I am not killer!” says Anna Kosov, smiling with amusement.

Still, she’s serious about correcting any misunderstanding. She took time on a sunny summer afternoon to join the cast for interviews at the Rasputin nightclub and set things straight.

“At that moment, I make borscht!” she explains. “Who is make borscht without knife? I cut vegetables.”

The truth is, there’s reality TV _ and then there’s reality.

“Is that what it says?” asks Albert Binman, roaring with laughter as he reads a promo describing him as a spiffy 26-year-old, a “wheeler-dealer” who “parties every night” and “wants to marry a nice Russian girl.”

“I do not party every night,” he says. “And I want to marry a nice Jewish girl, not necessarily Russian. Or else, why did my parents send me to yeshiva?” A yeshiva is an Orthodox Jewish school.

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