The Stillers and the Pulitzers
There have been a lot of tribute articles in the Jewish and general media about JERRY STILLER, who died last week, age 92. But I was most moved by a couple of sentences in BEN STILLER’s announcement of his father’s death. Ben wrote: “He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years.” I was drawn back to the many times I saw Jerry and ANNE do comic routines or just ad lib some funny banter. You could see that she really adored this not-so-handsome Jewish fellow, who was several inches shorter than her. Anne was a “very lapsed” Catholic when she married Jerry in 1954. Jerry never asked her to convert but, on her own, Anne converted to Judaism shortly before the birth of the Stillers’ first child, AMY, in 1961. Anne said she did so because: “I wanted my children to know who they were.” Jerry said that Anne drew him more into Judaism and Ben said shortly after her passing in 2015 that he credited her most for his Jewish upbringing. It took a great guy, like Jerry, to find such a really great woman (vice versa, of course).
By coincidence, BEN STILLER, 54, is the host of the first of two NBC Red Nose (for charity) specials airing (first) on Thursday, May 21. “Celebrity Escape Room” starts at 8PM. First, Ben Stiller explains what escape rooms are (in short, they are “themed rooms”. Within these rooms there are clues, like in a painting on the wall, that help you---and your partners---to figure out how to escape. There is a time-limit to figure out how to escape). After Ben finishes explaining the game, JACK BLACK, 50, takes over as the Game Master. The escape room contestants include Stiller, LISA KUDROW, 56, Adam Scott, and Courtney Cox. Also available on-demand/NBC website.
The 2020 Pulitzer Prizes were announced on May 4. Here are the Jewish winners: BRIAN M. ROSENTHAL of the NY Times for investigative reporting (exposed predatory lending that destroyed the lives of thousands of NYC cabdrivers). He grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana (near Chicago). His father is a retired Purdue Univ. health sciences professor and his mother is a nurse (who credits her Jewish background for her work as a social activist); BEN TAUB, 29, The New Yorker, for feature writing (about conditions at Guantanamo Bay detention facility). While still a Princeton student, he was a contestant (2011) on “The Voice” and he used his winnings to finance a trip to report on the “Arab Spring”. He then got his grad degree in journalism; BARRY BLITT, 62, The New Yorker, editorial cartooning; and BENJAMIN MOSER, 44, the Biography award for “Sontag: Her Life and Work” (about SUSAN SONTAG, the late social critic). Moser is fluent in many languages, including Hebrew.
New Streaming/Cable Offerings (A Little Catch-Up)
“Snowpiercer” is an American post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller drama series that premiered on TNT cable on May 17. The 10-episode first season follows the passengers of the Snowpiercer, a gigantic, perpetually moving train that circles the globe carrying the remnants of humanity seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland. Themes include class warfare, social injustice, and the politics of survival. The series stars DAVEED DIGGS, 38, and JENNIFER CONNELLY, 49. Diggs, who won a supporting actor Tony for “Hamilton”, is the son of an African-American father and a (white) Jewish mother. He was raised Jewish. Connelly, who won a supporting Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind,” is the always secular daughter of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father.
“Central Park,” a 13-episode animated musical sit-com, started on Apple TV on May 20. It tells the story of a family of caretakers who live and work in Central Park. Daveed Diggs and Florida native JOSH GAD, 39 (“Frozen” movies) have major voice roles.
“Space Force” is a 10-episode comedy series that will premiere on Netflix on May 29. It was created by Steve Carell and he co-stars as the General in charge of Space Force, a new branch of the armed forces. Co-stars include BEN SCHWARTZ, 38, as the Secretary of the Air Force, and DIANA SILVERS, 22, as Carell’s daughter. Also co-starring is John Malkovich as a scientist who is a clear parody of the wacko character Dr. Strangelove in the STANLEY KUBRICK 1963 movie of the same name (the late PETER SELLERS, whose mother was Jewish, was brilliant as Strangelove). NOAH EMMERICH, 55, and LISA KUDROW, 56, have recurring roles.