We’ve seen Tel Aviv stand in for Beirut in screenwriter Gideon Raff’s smash Showtime hit “Homeland” (based on his Israeli series “Hatufim”). Now, in his new series, “Dig,” we’re going to see Jerusalem stand in for… well, Jerusalem.
Raff has scored a six-episode deal with USA Network, a subsidiary of NBC Universal. The action-adventure-event series will be produced completely in Israel’s capital city by Keshet Media Group. Co-written by “Heroes” writer Tim Kring, it will be about an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem.
While investigating the murder of a woman archeologist, he uncovers “a conspiracy 2000 years in the making that threatens to change the course of history,” according to Deadline.com. The protagonist “finds himself falling down an archaeological rabbit hole,” as The Times of Israel puts it more dramatically.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat hopes “Dig” is the harbinger of whole slew of American TV series shot in his city. “When we combine Hollywood’s creative potential with Jerusalem’s historic backdrop, it will result in the ability to connect hundreds of millions of viewers around the world to this unique and beautiful city,” he said in a press release distributed by Keshet.
Raff, who was born in Jerusalem, is drawn repeatedly to subjects related to his homeland. “Being Israeli is who I am, it’s part of my DNA,” he told The Times of Israel. “I write what I know, which happens to be Israel and the Middle East. It’s a raw nerve in a tricky part of the world, and it is fascinating to people.”
If Dan Fogelman were any hotter, he’d have planets revolving around him. Fogelman is the screenwriter behind such hits as “Cars” and “Tangled” and “Crazy Stupid Love.” He’s also creator and producer of ABC’s “The Neighbors,” the subversively intelligent and subversively Jewish comedy.
He’s also in post-production of his first directing effort, “Imagine,” a film starring Al Pacino as Danny Collins, a successful but aging musician.
Fogelman does aging well. November 1 marks the release of his latest effort, “Last Vegas.” It’s about childhood friends — they call themselves the Flatbush Four — now all of Medicare age, who decide to throw a party in Vegas when the bachelor in their group announces he’s getting married — to a woman in her 30s.
It stars Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline. And while on the surface it might appear that the film targets seniors, at a recent screening filled with mostly young people, it has the entire audience laughing throughout. It will almost certainly be the comedy hit of the year.
Fogelman recently spoke to The Arty Semite about how his parents influenced his films, being the Hebrew School class clown and how his bar mitzvah screenplay started his career.
Curt Schleier: How did “Last Vegas” come about?
Keshet International, the distribution and production arm of Israel’s Keshet Media Group, and DC Productions, which owns Dick Clark Productions, have formed Keshet DCP, which makes it likely that more Israeli shows make it across the Atlantic to a TV set near you.
Keshet, which owns a television network in Israel, is where the Showtime hit “Homeland” originated. That alone has made the company’s head honcho, Avi Nir, a Master of the International Television Universe. This deal only enhances his image.
The new company will focus on “unscripted programming,” according to the Hollywood Reporter — game shows, reality programs and the like. Keshet DCP gets the rights to all of KI’s current and future unscripted formats for both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S.
The first program that will probably make the trip is” Rising Star,” a live talent show that uses real time voting by audience members using an app integrated into the show. It was watched most recently by almost half the households in Israel.
Shades of “Chrismukuh.”
That’s the blended holiday celebrated by the blended Cohen family on the TV show, “The O.C.”
It’s the holiday that will be celebrated on the October 18 episode of “The Neighbors,” a show about blended peoples.
When the Weaver family moved into the gated Hidden Hills development last season, they discovered their new neighbors were aliens from the planet Zabvron. And the two cultures had a lot to learn about each other.
The Zabvronian leader, Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) — all the aliens have taken the names of famous athletes — falls in love with the holiday of Hanukkah as soon as he hears about it. He decides he wants to combine it with his other favorite earth holiday, Halloween. When no one show’s up for the first seven nights, Larry decides to publicize the celebration by giving out candy to kids at the local playground.
This is not the first time Larry became obsessed with earthly holidays. Earlier this season he discovered April Fools Day, which he quickly and accurately describes as “a lot more fun that Yom Kippur.”
How long does it take for Israelis to form opinions about a TV show that hasn’t aired yet? The answer, in the case of “Hayehudim Ba’im” (“The Jews Are Coming”) – a new satire slated for fall air on Israel’s Channel 1 – is 19 seconds.
Last weekend, Channel 1 premiered a 19-second promo that was met with immediate outrage. The clip, styled like a song from a children’s show, featured three actors portraying murderers Baruch Goldstein (who killed 29 and wounded 125 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron, in 1994), Yigal Amir (who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995); and Yona Avrushmi (who killed one person and wounded nine, in1983). The trio, smiling and dancing, sang, “sometimes I assassinate and sometimes I butcher, but I am a right-wing murderer.”
The backlash was immediate, with comments on YouTube and Facebook denouncing Channel 1 and “The Jews Are Coming” creators Natalie Marcus and Asaf Beiser, calling them “Nazis,” and accusing them of painting all religious settlers as murderers. The response caused Channel 1, which is Israel’s public broadcasting network and is supported by taxes, to pull the promo, and — according to some reports — cut the song from the yet-unaired episode of the comedy. (To view the clip click here.)
(JTA) — Some were psyched for the nostalgia of “The Goldbergs,” a new ABC sitcom about a boisterous, outspoken American family set in the 1980s.
But the September 24 premiere was a little too loaded with references to that neon-colored, big-haired decade — think REO Speedwagon, Sam Goody, hair crimping and rabbit tail key chains.
Such period gags aside, early on it looks in many ways to be just another formulaic sitcom. There’s Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the clan’s overbearing mom; Murray (Jeff Garlin), her brash on the outside/soft on the inside husband; and their three kids. Erica (Hayley Orrantia) is pretty and she knows it, Barry (Troy Gentile) is high-strung and Adam (Sean Giambrone) is a precocious cutie pie who records the family’s histrionics on his clunky old-school video camera.
In typical family comedy fashion, they find one another incredibly frustrating, but underneath it all there’s lots and lots of love.
Folks have been comparing “The Goldbergs” to “The Wonder Years,” and with good reason. Both are time capsules containing family stories told from the innocent-yet-knowing perspective of their clans’ youngest members.
But even deeper in the archives is another comparison: The first incarnation of “The Goldbergs,” which premiered on the radio in 1929 and moved to television in 1949 for an eight-year run.
The Siegels are back.
David and Jackie Siegel, last seen in the Documentary “The Queen of Versailles,” are the first guests in a new CNBC program, “Secret Lives of the Super Rich,” premiering September 25 at 9 p.m.
Even in a show dedicated to conspicuous consumption, the Siegels are special. When last seen, the Siegel empire was in disarray and their Orlando-area mansion — designed to resemble Versailles — was in foreclosure.
But at least the Siegel economy has rebounded. David Siegel’s Westgate Resorts time share company is recording record profits, he says. Now he’s repurchased the manse from the bank and has resumed construction.
How big is the place? It has 13 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms, 11 kitchens and a 20-car garage. It is so big that at one point in the tour, Jackie Siegel gets lost and doesn’t know what room she’s in.
“Nobody needs a house like that,” David says. He is right, of course.
While business is good, the family is cutting back. It is chartering out the two jets it owns and flying commercial some of the time.
To help support the family, Jackie wants to go back to work. Sort of. She hopes to land her own reality show — though there’s nothing real about her life.
ABC’s newest comedy is called “The Goldbergs.” At least, now it is.
Created by Adam F. Goldberg and loosely based on his life growing up in a Jewish family in the 1980s, the show was originally called “How the F*** Am I Normal?” Its new name is likely more acceptable to newspaper TV listing editors, but the original was certainly more descriptive.
Yes, when it first begins there is too much yelling and, of course, the requisite smothering Jewish mother. Ultimately, though, comedy and love win out. While it is difficult to tell from the pilot, airing September 24, where establishing characters is more important than plot line, “The Goldbergs” shows long-term potential.
The show stars George Segal, the veteran actor (and raconteur), who has spent the last 50 years showing long term potential. He plays Pops Solomon, the kindly grandfather always available to show young Adam how to pick up older women, meaning 14-year-olds.
Segal is used to appearing in films with unusual family situations. He played Nick in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (Oscar nominee), a philandering husband in “A Touch of Class” (Golden Globe winner) and as suburbanite/bank robber in “Fun With Dick and Jane.”
For many he is best known as magazine publisher Jack Gallo in the long-running sitcom, “Just Shoot Me.” But for others he remains the always-smiling, banjo-playing frequent guest of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.
Segal spoke to The Arty Semite about his own family growing up, anti-Semitism on Long Island, and a Jewish show with a lead actor named Troy — wait for it — Gentile.
Curt Schleier: Are the Goldbergs anything like your family growing up?
Producers of “Homeland” have cancelled plans to film third season scenes in Israel because of concerns about the situation in Syria. Deadline Hollywood reports that the show will use Morocco as a stand-in.
An unnamed Israel-based producer was quoted as calling the switch “frustrating.” The season three series debut is September 29. At a news conference in July, studio executives announced plans to shoot some scenes in Israel as in the previous two years The move is not entirely surprising, since Homeland creators Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff are currently filming another series, FX’s “Tyrant,” in Morocco.
New Yorker Josh Pais shines in Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” as creepy rich guy Stu Feldman. He is also starring in Lynn Shelton’s 2013 Sundance Official Selection indie, “Touchy Feely,” opening in theaters September 6.
In the movie, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a massage therapist, has a commitment-phobia that gushes out sideways. She can’t touch other people’s skin, which is awkward in her line of work. Abby’s brother Paul (Pais) is a sad, uptight, socially inept dentist with a floundering practice. Ellen Page plays his encouraging and emotionally-stunted daughter. The talented cast includes DeWitt’s real-life hubby Ron Livingston, and Allison Janney as the healer who loosens Paul up. “Touchy Feely” is about living in one’s skin, both figuratively and literally.
The Arty Semite caught up with Pais at Manhattan’s Magnolia Pictures office.
Dorri Olds: What is it like to work with the cast of Touchy Feely’?
Josh Pais: Outstanding. Everyone feels a sense of ownership in creating a Lynn Shelton movie. Lynn chooses amazing people — including the crew. Every person there is committed to making the film the best it can be. Ellen and Rosemarie and Scoot [McNairy] and Allison — everybody was just delicious.
How did you craft your character?
New York Public Television wants to celebrate the Holidays with you. Or, more accurately, it wants you to celebrate the Holidays with them
The station is preparing a documentary, “Sacred,” it hopes will be a portrait of a year in the spiritual and religious life on earth. To accomplish that mission, it is crowdsourcing — that is getting anyone and everyone to provide resource material by providing video answers to the question: “What is sacred to you?”
Submissions may be included in the finished film. Or not. Currently, the producers are looking for video of families celebrating Sukkot — “as observance of Jewish law will allow.” High Holiday footage is also welcome.
It’s hard to tell sometimes whether Larry David is experimental or just lazy.
Consider all of those characters playing themselves, or some version of themselves, on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”: Richard Lewis, Wanda Sykes, Larry David himself. Is that a bold blending of reality and fiction or is it all he’s got to work with?
David’s latest outing, the HBO movie “Clear History” (which aired August 10 and will be out on DVD this fall), begs the question again. The story and setting are far from the comfortable Hollywood environment of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but the character is the same “Larry David” — only this time masquerading under a different name. Is this some kind of conceptual feat, or just the inability to come up with anything new?
At the start of “Clear History” we see David, playing a character named Nathan Flomm, cruising down the California highway in a convertible, long hair and beard flowing in the wind. He’s a Silicon Valley marketing guru, working for an about-to-take-off electric car company. But thanks to a typically stubborn, “Larry David”-esque argument over the car’s name — his boss, played by Jon Hamm, wants to call it the “Howard” after both his son and the hero of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” — he quits and cashes in his stock, which turns out to be a gigantic, billion-dollar mistake.
Mandy Patinkin isn’t just having a moment — he’s having a moment, still. That mostly has to do with his role as CIA director Saul Berenson on the hit Showtime series “Homeland,” based on the Israeli show “Hatufim” (“Prisoners of War”). In 2012 the series won a Golden Globe for Best Television Show, and Patinkin was recently nominated for an Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy for his role.
Now there’s a great, long profile of Patinkin in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, online today. The writer, Alex Witchel, distinguishes between a “Do Less” Mandy, as exemplified by his iconic role in “The Princess Bride,” and a “Too Much” Mandy, who “doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve, he slices it up and serves it on Triscuits.” Witchel goes on:
During a Broadway concert, to highlight the troubles in the Middle East, he ended the show by propping Israeli and Palestinian flags on a table and singing the Israeli national anthem in Hebrew, followed by an angry version of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from “South Pacific.” Then the flags were knocked on their sides while the pianist slammed the keys to sound like an explosion. Patinkin followed that with “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods.” (Post-9/11, he scrapped the flag bit and sang both songs softly, as a lullaby.) On a lighter note, he toured “Mamaloshen,” a concert all in Yiddish in which he led the audience in the hokeypokey, also in Yiddish. If you’ve ever pondered the ultimate meaning of “oy,” this is it.
A song he composed 17 years ago has come back to bite a Toronto jeweler — but in a good way.
Sam Rosenbaum made pop history this weekend when his ditty “Why Did You Leave Me Now” made the soundtrack rotation on Sunday night’s episode of True Blood.
Rosenbaum, 61, told the Toronto Star that lyrics for “Why Did You Leave Me Now” came to him after a dream about his father, who had died seven years earlier. “The words came, the melody came, I couldn’t even explain it,” he claimed. “It was a song that expressed a loss.” The tune played this weekend over the closing credits of season six, episode nine, called “Life Matters.”
A onetime music manager, Rosenbaum recorded the song with Liz Rodrigues, one of his artists, on vocals. The song was promptly forgotten; when his entertainment business faltered, Rosenbaum made a career switch, becoming a jewelry salesman.
But last month, “out of nowhere,” “True Blood” musical director Gary Calamar called to request rights to the song. “At first, I didn’t believe it,” Rosenbaum told the Star. “But I Googled him and found out he was the Real McCoy. He was a Grammy nominee.” Rosenbaum called it “a gift from my father… Divine intervention. How else can something like this happen?”
But Calamar’s explanation was a bit more down to earth. “The title, “Why Did You Leave Me Now?” got the attention of the producers, as each episode title of “True Blood” is named after a song that appears in the episode,” he told the Star. “We came across it on an iTunes search, and we thought it worked perfectly in the scene.”
This is the way the story goes in the alternate timeline: “Paper Heart” (2009), the arch and quirky romantic comedy written by and starring Charlene Yi, became the next “Juno” (2007) and earned all the money at the box office. Audiences burst in anticipation for “Youth in Revolt” (2009) and swooned over its male lead’s newly revealed depth and maturity. Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010) was a smash hit. It launched a series of sequels while, paradoxically, also inspiring Hollywood to abandon sequels and superhero adaptations. In came a new era where Hollywood took risks on unknown properties and produced scripts that barely even whispered “blockbuster.”
No matter how much I admire the frenetic, original and actually clever “Scott Pilgrim,” the alternate timeline is not better, and it may even prove much worse than the status quo. There was something troubling about “Scott Pilgrim” star Michael Cera, circa 2009. He wasn’t growing as an actor — but he also wasn’t not-growing in the way that most actors not-grow. The weight of past performances makes it harder and harder to get cast in anything that isn’t a repetition of those performances. Audiences love to see their favorite actors play their favorite roles again and again. Everyone eventually becomes a character actor, even movie stars. Sandra Bullock in “The Heat” is Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality.” It’s why the movie is so popular.
Michael Cera, however, was not-growing as an actor in the worst possible way: He was trying and failing. Cera probably had another year to play the lost puppy/stunted youth. I would have happily followed Nick from “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” to Berklee College of Music. But he decided to change and to be more ambitious. Unfortunately, he was only somewhat ambitious: He took on characters that were his logical next steps and natural evolutions. He smirked 20% less. He added more angst. It was neither the radical change he needed nor the stasis we wanted. It was a disappointment, that’s all.
Now Cera’s done what he needed to do before. He’s taking on challenging roles, like the lead in “Crystal Fairy,” and he’s savaging his best-loved ones. Season 4 of “Arrested Development” contorts George Michael Bluth and “This Is the End” aggressively mocks his nice guy image. He’s getting a lot of media attention for this growth and development.
Jeff Garlin gets jokes.
Garlin is probably best known for his work with Larry David on the HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But he’s also done stand up and will have his own TV show, “The Goldbergs,” this fall on ABC.
The sitcom is about a mid-‘80s, loving Jewish family — a family like any other, just with a lot more yelling. It also stars George Segal as Garlin’s father-in-law, Al (Pops) Solomon.
That would be reason enough for an interview, but Garlin is really promoting “Dealin’ With Idiots,” his second film as writer, director and star. “DWI” is a funny portrayal of parents at their children’s Little League games. It is also at times moving, as Garlin tries to help his son navigate a world where winning is everything and not everyone has the skills to win.
Garlin spoke to The Arty Semite about his movie, his recent arrest, and his Jewish upbringing.
Curt Schleier: You’ve got this film. You have your own TV show in the fall. Are you planning on telling Larry David that you’re sick of his misanthropic attitude and you want nothing more to do with him?
Gary David Goldberg died June 23 after a long battle with brain cancer. Now the world is short a talented television writer, and also a mensch.
I met Goldberg in the fall of 1996, at a rehearsal for his new TV show, “Spin City.” I was a reporter and he was a legend. The deal with the ABC PR person was that I could watch the rehearsal from the studio seats, and I might be able to meet Goldberg — briefly — if there was a break. The interview was scheduled to take place on the phone the following day.
There was a break in the rehearsal, and a nervous publicist took me to meet him. She clearly wanted to get me away and back into my seat as quickly as possible. But Goldberg had a different idea. We chatted for 10 or 15 minutes. He took me over to meet the show’s star, Michael J. Fox, who, as I recall, was having a cigarette under a No Smoking sign.
Fox joined the conversation, spending most of that time praising his boss. In fact, he said, he wouldn’t have returned to the grind of series television for anyone else.
When they had to get back to work, Goldberg said “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
See me? We were supposed to do a telephone interview. They told me in-person was impossible.
They’re just being overprotective, Goldberg said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I had the idea to compare Bravo’s “Princesses: Long Island,” the Jewish-tinged reality show about aspiring Real Housewives, to Amy Schumer, the Long Island-born stand-up comic and star of Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer.” The idea was to talk about how misguided these Princesses were, and about how depressing it is that their goal in life is to marry a banker, lawyer, or doctor — it doesn’t really matter which, so long as he can afford to pay for days and days of shopping at the Americana.
The idea was to cast Amy Schumer as their foil: She was the one who got away. Amy was the one who escaped status anxiety and the need to measure her self-worth by how many men she dated and the shiney presents they give her. I would cast her as somewhere between a refugee and a role model. Look past the surface, young Jewesses and Forward readers! Look past the shock value of her humor. Look past the initial parlor trick of hearing a beautiful, polite-seeming blonde woman tell crude jokes about the most unglamorous parts of sex. Realize that Amy is actually a brilliant, hard-working career woman determined to blaze her own path.
But there are two problems with that review. First, “Princesses: Long Island” is a much sadder, darker show than I thought it ever would be. And second, “Inside Amy Schumer” is the most inventive sketch show on television. It throws all formulas out the window. It keeps sketches going. It allows them to twist and turn into something far richer and deeper. It challenges our impressions of women in comedy and then challenges the challenges to those impressions. It’s also an insightful commentary on dating, technology, and the breakdown of etiquette. (No, really.) “Inside Amy Schumer” is not always funny; sometimes it’s painful. But the effect is always exhilarating.
School’s out for Jon Stewart’s summer.
The Daily show host is off until Labor Day to work on his movie, “Rosewater.” He said farewell Thursday night and handed over the desk to Daily Show correspondent John Oliver, who will be filling in. Watch Stewart’s “heartfelt goodbye” below:
Calling something “talmudic” is a bad habit among Jewish critics. It’s a way of saying that a work has complexity and Jewish relevance, but it’s not usually clear what resemblance, specifically, a given text has to the Talmud. “Arrested Development,” on the other hand — the cult sitcom that returns on Netflix May 26 after a seven-year hiatus — really does bear the comparison, however unlikely that may seem.
This idea occurred to me last week, when NPR released an app cataloguing every repeated joke and reference within the world of the show. These repetitions (155 of them, according to NPR’s count) were planned with what seems like tremendous foresight, and they are a major part of the show’s appeal. Every time the stair car is used for an escape, a lesson is taught through trauma, or Gob plays “The Final Countdown,” there’s pleasure to be had in recognizing those tropes from previous episodes.
The Talmud works in much the same way. Because it’s a collection of laws, arguments, stories and teachings collected over a period of several hundred years, there is no linear or chronological order to it. Material is organized according to subject, but the Talmud is famously discursive, and discussions wander into areas that are only tangentially related. Thus it often deals with the same questions more than once, necessitating reference to several volumes simultaneously. (That’s one reason why Daf Yomi, the practice of learning the Talmud straight through at the pace of a page a day, is not the best way to do it.)