Jews in the News: Fran Drescher, Sarah Jessica Parker and Joaquin Phoenix

Broadcast and Streaming Choices (Look Ahead and Catch-Up)

The NBC series, “Indebted”, has its first season finale on Thursday, Apr. 16 at 9:30PM. Basic series plot: Deb (FRAN DRESCHER, 62) and Stew  (STEVEN WEBER, 59) make some bad financial decisions and have to move-in with their son, Dave (ADAM PALLY, 38), and his wife, Rebecca (Abby Elliott). I was really rooting for this series: all four lead characters are supposed to be Jewish and three of the four are played by Jewish actors. Also in the main cast: JESSY HODGES, 33, as Joanna, Dave’s lesbian sister (Hodges’ mother is Jewish). RICHARD KIND, 63, has a recurring role as Artie, Deb’s older brother.

The problem is that the show usually isn’t funny. The laugh track “roars”, but the jokes rarely earn a real chuckle. Most critics agree with me and ratings have been anemic. The season finale may have an unintended dual meaning: it’s called “Shiva”. The plot: Deb’s great aunt dies and it falls on Deb and Stew to arrange sitting shiva for her. Deb tries to introduce some new twists on how the family sits shiva. Also, Joanna worries if she will die alone.

This all sounds intriguing and “very Jewish.” I hope that this episode is much better than the series premiere. Otherwise, I suspect “Shiva” will mark the end of “Indebted”, the series.

“Run” is an original HBO series that began on April 12. The main characters are Ruby and Billy, a couple who enter into a pact while in college: if either couldn’t stand their life anymore, they would text the other person the word “run” and the other person would drop everything and travel to New York to meet the “texter”.  Well, 17 years after graduation, Ruby texts “run” to Billy. The recurring cast includes TAMARA PODEMSKI, 43, as Babe Cloud, a police detective. A Toronto native, Tamara is the daughter of an Israeli father and an Aboriginal (“Indian”) Canadian mother. The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, Podemski studied Hebrew literature in college and has appeared at forums in which she has discussed the similarities and differences in the Jewish and “First Nation” experiences.

The Baker and the Beauty” premiered on ABC (10PM) on April 13. It is a romantic-comedy-musical series based on a hit Israeli series of the same name. It follows Daniel Garcia, who works in his family's Miami bakery and does everything that his loving Cuban parents expect him to do. But on a wild Miami night after breaking up with his girlfriend, he meets a superstar model and fashion mogul, and his life moves into the spotlight as the pair fall in love. The supporting cast includes DAN BUCATINSKY, 54. You almost certainly know him from scores of TV guest roles. His parents were born and raised in Argentina, so Dan probably speaks Spanish. Not known yet whether that is true of his character, too.

 Quarantine Fun Stuff

In my April 2 column, I said that there are several popular Youtube videos about actors who could sing. Maybe, like me, the gloom of quarantine will lift as you discover the following Jewish actors surprising singing ability. Just put the person’s name and “singing” in the Youtube search box and you’ll find at least 2 videos of them singing. (1) BRENT SPINER, 71, “Data” on “Star Trek: Next Generation” (2) JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT, 39, co-star of “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “500 Days of Summer”; (3) JASON ALEXANDER, 60, “George” on “Seinfeld”; (4) Oscar-winner GWYNETH PALTROW, 47; (5) KATE HUDSON, 40; (6) SARAH JESSICA PARKER, 55 (there’s even a clip of her singing in “Annie” on Broadway as a child/Also her husband, MATTHEW BRODERICK,57; (7); (8) SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 35; (9) JOAQUIN PHOENIX, 45 (incredible as Johnny Cash in “I Walk the Line”—many clips. He was Cash’s personal pick for the role); 10) ROBERT DOWNEY, JR., 55—surprisingly just plain good; 11) TIM BLAKE NELSON, 55, co-star of “O, Brother Where Art Thou---only one of film’s 3 stars to really sing. Also, sings the “Ballad of Surly Joe” as he plays the title character in the “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (Netflix film); and JAKE GYLLENHAAL, 39. He has a really fine voice that he showed off in a hit 2017 Broadway revival of “Sunday in the Park with George.” Best Jake G. video, because of high quality, is “Music of the Night.” Also: search for Gyllenhaal and “T-Shirt” Challenge—it’s gone mega-viral. Jake and, separately, his actress sister, MAGGIE G., 42, show what great shape they are in. Fun. 


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