Peter Greenberg has what may be the world’s best job. He is travel editor of CBS News, a post he’s held for the last 13 years. Before that he spent a combined 21 years in the same job at the Today Show and Good Morning America. He also has a syndicated radio show on travel and, for PBS, hosts “Royal Tour” specials, where Greenberg visits a nation with an unusual tour guide — the nation’s leader.
On previous Royal Tours Greenberg, 64, visited Jordan, Mexico, Peru, Jamaica and New Zealand. His latest special, which premiered March 6, was to Israel, where his escort was Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister proves a gracious host and takes Greenberg and his large crew to a host of traditional tourist sites — the Dead Sea, Masada, Caesarea — as well as providing personal insights about his experiences in the military.
Greenberg spoke to the Forward about his job, the show, and the secrets of a frequent flyer.
Curt Schleier: How much traveling do you do?
Peter Greenberg: I travel almost 400,000 miles a year. Today is the only day this week I’m not an airplane.
Writer and showrunner Jason Katims is best known for his rich and realistic characters, and for a long list of television credits including “My So-Called Life,” “Boston Public,” and “Friday Night Lights,” which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award. On February 22 he premieres a new TV series on NBC called “About a Boy” and on February 27 his long running hit show “Parenthood” returns for a new season. And Katims also just finished a stint as keynote speaker at the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans. The Arty Semite caught up with the assiduous Katims for an exclusive interview.
Dorri Olds: What is your new show about?
Jason Katims: “About a Boy” is based on the book and the movie. It’s about this guy Will [David Walton] who’s in his early thirties but hasn’t grown up. He’s a womanizer, plays video games, and loves his single life. Then Will meets this quirky kid, Marcus, a 12-year-old boy who looks up to Will like a father, like a god, like an everything.
What is Minnie Driver’s role?
Max’s single mom Fiona, who is kind of a hippie but also overprotective and controlling. We’re almost halfway done shooting the first season. It’s been fun already because during the pilot episode, where the three first meet, the adults are both loggerheads. As Marcus [Benjamin Stockham] works his way into Will’s life, the adults develop a sort of mutual respect. It’s incredibly charming.
What is the key to creating so many shows that have a cult-like following?
The cable television universe isn’t necessarily being taken over by female comics, but it seems that way: Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham and now Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, stars of the new Comedy Central series, “Broad City,” an outgrowth of their popular YouTube series.
The two ladies share at least two characteristics with their comedic antecedents. They are Jewish and they push the comedic envelope very much towards the very edge. Push? They kick it over the goal line. In the opening minutes of the first episode, Ilana Skypes Abbi while having sex.
The two slackers’ main ambition seems to be to get money for pot and Li’l Wayne concert tickets. To help raise funds, Ilana places a Craigslist ad that reads: “We’re just 2 Jewesses tryin’ to make a buck.” They’re hired by a gentleman who wants them to clean his home while they are in their underwear — and he’s in diapers.
Abbi (straight hair) and Ilana (curly) spoke to the Forward about summer camp, being a “double Jew,” and having sex on Skype.
Curt Schleier: Can you tell me a little about your Jewish backgrounds?
“Shtisel,” the Israeli television drama about a Haredi family in Jerusalem, is a breakout hit not only in Israel, but now also internationally.
It was announced this week that foreign broadcast and distribution rights for the series have been acquired by Pretty Pictures in France and Axess TV in Sweden. The deal was carried out on behalf of the Israeli production by Dori Media and Go2Films.
“Shtisel” — which won 10 awards at the 2013 Israeli Television Academy Awards — is being shown this week as part of the 27th annual FIPA International Festival of Audiovisual Programs in Biarritz, France. In March, it will begin a tour of Jewish film festivals, beginning with the Washington Jewish Film Festival in early March.
The series, which portrays Haredi life in great detail, has struck a chord with viewers of all types of religious backgrounds. One secular Jewish viewer told the Forward last year that he was drawn to “Shtisel” because of the universal sensibilities it highlights despite its extremely particular setting. “The Haredim are portrayed as people with all the emotional struggles and difficulties as their secular counterparts,” he said.
PBS this spring will air “The Story of the Jews” with Simon Schama, a five-part documentary that examines the impact Jewish culture has made on the world.
Schama, an historian and award-winning writer, visits Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Israel and Spain for the series, which was broadcast last year on the BBC to rave reviews.
Along the way, he meets with scholars and refugees and discusses everything from newly discovered archeological findings of the biblical period to the music of Felix Mendelssohn.
“If you were to remove from our collective history the contributions Jews have made to human culture, our world would be almost unrecognizable,” Schama said. “There would be no monotheism, no written bible, and our sense of modernity would be completely different. So the history of the Jews is everyone’s history, too, and what I hope people will take away from the series is that sense of connection: a weave of cultural strands over the millennia, some brilliant, some dark, but resolving into a fabric of thrilling, sometimes tragic, often exalted creativity.”
The first two hours airs Tuesday, March 25, with the final three episodes on April 1.
Alex Borstein interrupts her stint as a horticultural voyeur to take a phone call. “I’m standing on something to see my neighbour’s deck and her new flower pots,” she explains. “They’re really fancy and kind of put my deck to shame.”
It’s hard to believe that Borstein has time to smell or look at the flowers. She is a veteran of the sketch comedy show MADtv, on which she appeared for five seasons (1997-2002). She voices Lois Griffin (and has written and produced episodes) on “Family Guy,” written for and appears in the Showtime series, “Shameless,” and currently stars in the new HBO series “Getting On.”
The last is a very — make that extremely — dark comedy set in an extended care facility. Borstein plays Nurse Dawn, an insecure RN whose obsession with finding a boyfriend sometimes undermines her job performance.
Landscaping — or, more accurately, deckscaping — envy aside, Borstein spoke to the Forward about her still popular MADtv character, Miss Swan, why she took a role so different from anything she’d done in the past, and how she decided whether or not her son should attend Hebrew school.
Curt Schleier: I assume you are aware that thanks to You Tube, your character, Miss Swan, lives on. My grandchildren delight in showing me a new video of you every time I see them. I moved up a notch on the cool scale when I told them I was going to interview you.
Alex Borstein: I’m aware that it’s still out there, and I’m glad I could make your life better.
Israel’s most famous contemporary Muslim Arab literary figure is set to join the production team of “Shtisel,” Israeli television’s hit drama series about a Haredi family in Jerusalem. It has been announced that Sayed Kashua, a journalist, author and screenwriter, will edit the second season of the show that chronicles the everyday trials and tribulations of the fictional Shtisels, who live in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim.
The announcement of Kashua’s joining the series’ crew comes shortly after the YES cable network green-lighted a second season of “Shtisel.” Filming is already underway, according to a Facebook post by Neta Riskin, a member of the show’s ensemble cast.
The series, expertly written by Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon, deals with the relationship between young Akiva Shtisel (played by Michael Aloni), an artistic heder teacher, and Elisheva Rothstein (Ayelet Zurer), the twice-widowed mother of one of his students. Audiences of all backgrounds relate to the characters because of the universal themes that the show presents despite its extremely particular setting.
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.