The PBS series, "Pioneers of Television," concludes its 3rd season on Tuesday, Feb. 5 (8PM) with an episode about groundbreaking TV mini-series. Interviewees include ED ASNER, 83, who played a morally conflicted slave ship captain in the 1977 blockbuster, "Roots," and PETER STRAUSS, 65. Strauss co-starred in the enormously popular "Rich Man, Poor Man" series (and its sequel), which aired in 1975, 1976, and 1977. He also co-starred as the Jewish commander of the Masada fortress, who battled the Romans, in the 1981 mini-series, "Masada."
Sometimes Funny Gangsters
Opening on Friday, Feb. 1, is "Stand-Up Guys," a comedy/drama film directed by FISHER STEVENS, 49. Al Pacino plays Val, a "stand-up guy" who spent 28 years in prison without "ratting out" his crime partners, including his crime boss (played by MARK MARGOLIS, 73). The boss isn't grateful, and plans to have Val killed shortly after his release, because Val accidentally shot and killed the boss's son during the same caper that landed Val in jail. Val is met at the prison gate by his buddy, Doc (Christopher Walken) and they begin carousing. Too much viagra lands Val in the hospital. His nurse (JULIANNE MARGULIES, 46) turns out to be the daughter of Doc and Val's old getaway driver, Hirsch (ALAN ARKIN, 78). The daughter tells them that Hirsch is in a nursing home. They quickly get him out of his pajamas, out of the nursing home, and behind a car wheel, again. However, things get sticky when Val begins to sense that Doc has taken the boss's contract to kill him.
Now He Can Speak Freely
Frank Langella, 75, is a highly respected actor best known for his stage work. I recently came across his 2012 memoir, "Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them." About 60 quite famous people are the subject of short profiles. All are deceased, so Langella can be completely candid and I found many of his entries really fresh and interesting. Famous Jewish subjects include TONY CURTIS, LEE STRASBERG, DINAH SHORE, ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ARTHUR MILLER, and PAUL NEWMAN. About Newman, Langella writes: "He was a deeply feeling, decent man...[but he was] a pretty dull companion. Never rude or unkind, just dull... But he was so beautiful, people thought it must be their fault if he went silent or just emptily gazed at them."
Chuck Lorre Speaks
CHUCK LORRE, 60, the creator of "Big Bang Theory" and many other big TV hits, is famous for his personal essay, "vanity cards," which flash on the screen for an instant at the end of an episode of his shows. For many years, you could read the cards on-line and now, with a DVR, you can easily hit "pause" and read them. A card (labeled #396) that ran last week after a Big Bang episode seems very timely and "very Jewish". Here's part of the text: "It appears as if roughly half the people in this country think that they're in mortal danger from their own government. That's a lot of people sensing a lot of malice and threat. I worry that I don't see it. Sure, I see inefficiency and incompetence, but I've always seen that - regardless of which party's in office. And frankly, I've always welcomed it...A cursory glance through history would indicate that well-organized governments tend to enjoy well-organized parades, followed by well-organized ethnic cleansing. Which is why I celebrate the magnificent, muddle-headed ineptitude of our democracy. As far as I'm concerned, a little confusion and waste may keep the trains from running on time, but it also keeps people like me from getting a one-way ticket in a cattle car. [Yes, there's a lot of waste] But keep in mind that bureaucrats who can't find their tush with a flashlight are not likely to find you either."
Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Most of the items in Bloom’s weekly newspaper column differ from the items in his bi-weekly column on interfaith celebrities for InterfaithFamily.com. If you wish to contact Nate Bloom, e-mail him at email@example.com . The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know.