Jews in the News: Howie Mandel, Ben Stiller and Bob Dylan

TV/Streaming Catch-Up, Look Ahead, and a Viewing Tip

 “Passage”, a sci-fi drama, started on Fox on Jan. 14. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who had a Jewish grandfather, stars as Brad Wolgast, a Federal agent tasked with bringing Amy, a young girl, to a super-secret medical base where she will be a test subject for a virus that has the potential to end all disease. The downside is that the virus could all end all life on Earth. Wolgast bonds with Amy, becoming her surrogate father. While trying to protect her, he becomes aware of a lot of other dangerous things going on at the base. He turns to his ex-wife, Dr. Lilia Kyle, for help. Kyle is played by EMMANUELLE CHRIQUI, 43 (“Entourage”).  (Pilot can be viewed, free, on-line or on-demand). Chriqui, as I have noted before, was born in Canada to Sephardic Jewish parents originally from Morocco.

 A friend recently referenced two Jewish actresses I had not mentioned in this column before. They are the sisters ARIELLA BARER, 20, and LIBE BARER, 27. Libe is best known for playing Carly Bowan in the Amazon Original series “Sneaky Pete.” The premise is that Marius, a con-man, is released from jail with nowhere to go. He assumes the identity of Pete, a deceased cellmate, and because he knows a lot about Pete’s life, he convinces Pete’s large extended family that he is the “long-lost” Pete. Ariella plays a very inquisitive cousin of Pete’s. It’s an important supporting part. The series was renewed last fall for a 3rd season which will be streamed later this year. Libe’s sister, Ariella, is best known for playing Gertrude “Gert” Yorkes in the Hulu series “Marvel’s Runaways.” The premise is that six teenagers (including Gert) from different backgrounds team-up to “fight for good” after discovering their respective parents are super-villains. The show is a streaming hit and the second season of the series was released last December.

The sisters were born in Los Angeles to a Jewish couple who were born-in and grew-up in Mexico. Arielle, quite reasonably, has described herself as “Jewish” and as a “Latina.” It appears that their ethnicity is a mixture of “mostly” Ashkenazi Jews and some “native Mexicans” who my friend believes probably “converted in.”

 “Howie Mandel Presents Howie Mandel at the Howie Mandel Comedy Club” premieres on Showtime on Friday, Jan. 18, at 9PM. MANDEL, 63, takes the stage of an Atlantic City comedy club that bears his name. It’s his first stand-up special in 20 years.

 Expect to see BEN STILLER, 53, on “SNL” next month. He’s been playing lawyer MICHAEL COHEN, 52, in a number of “SNL” sketches. On Feb. 7, Cohen will testify before Congress and it will be a media circus that SNL can’t ignore. By the way, Ben’s father, JERRY, 91, had a health scare last week and was rushed to the hospital. Last reports were that he’s doing well.

Last week, I tried something new. I put “Jewish” into the respective Netflix and Amazon on-site search engines. On Netflix, I got about 90 results. Many of the films are about the Holocaust. But at least half are about other aspects of Jewish/Israeli life. On Amazon, I got an astonishing 864 results. The vast majority of these films/TV series are free with Prime membership. It’s really an amazing collection of just about every aspect of Jewish life I could think of, and some that never occurred to me.

 Projects to Look Forward To

Netflix has announced that Martin Scorsese will direct a documentary about BOB DYLAN’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour. The Scorsese film will feature new on-camera interviews with Dylan. In 1966, Dylan was in a serious motorcycle accident and that began a six-year hiatus in which he did not tour (the accident probably saved his life by bringing him “up short”. He was burning the candle at both ends). In 1974, he toured with "The Band", his old backing group. In 1975, he went all-out with the Rolling Thunder Revue—many notables joined him on the tour, including Joan Baez, Bob’s old flame. Dylan, now 78, turned footage of the tour, as well as staged scenes and interviews, into a dramatic movie (“Reynaldo and Clara”, 1978). “Reynaldo” really didn’t work. However, the “real life” “Reynaldo” footage provides Scorsese with great material for his film. Meanwhile, Luca Guadagnino, the director of the hit film, “Call Me by Your Name,” says he is directing a film based on Dylan’s 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks.” The screenplay is being written by Richard LaGravense, the writer of acclaimed films including “The Fisher King” and “The Bridges of Madison County.”


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