Jews in the News: Lizzy Caplan, Tiffany Haddish and Craig Gerber

Streaming and TV Choices: Catch-Up and Look Ahead

Last month, the new Disney Plus cable channel premiered the first season of “High School Musical: the Musical.” New episodes air on Friday. The premise is that a high school teacher decides to put on a stage version of the TV show. A very handsome actor (Joshua Bassett) plays Ricky, one of the male leads. Ricky’s best friend, “Big Red”, is played by Long Island native LARRY SAPERSTEIN, 21. This is Saperstein’s first big TV role. He has been involved with musical theater since he was about 10. He is red-haired and pale, but he looks “much more Jewish” than any Viking.

The new Apple (Plus) TV app started premiering original shows in November. “The Truth Be Told” starts on Friday, Dec. 6. Octavia Spencer stars as Poppy, a popular true crime podcaster who helped convict Warren Case (Aaron Paul) of the murder of the father of identical twins. Years later, she’s moved to research whether he was framed, as he claims. LIZZY CAPLAN, 37, co-stars, playing both of the identical twins.

The entire third season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, a “very Jewish” series, will be released by Amazon Video on Dec. 6.

Early last month, I reported that African-American stand-up comedian and actress TIFFANY HADDISH, who turned 40 on Dec. 3, had decided to embrace her Jewish heritage. Her late father was an Eritrean Jew who was deported when she was a toddler. She found out he was Jewish when she was a teen and finally re-connected with him when she was 27.

Haddish told “USA Today” that she was studying Hebrew and planned to have a bat mitzvah in which she would read from the Torah. She added that she planned to have the bat mitzvah somehow coincide with an upcoming Netflix special called “My Black Bat Mitzvah”. The Netflix special date was not made public when she spoke to “USA Today” late in October about her spiritual journey. Last week, it was announced that she planned to have her bat mitzvah on her 40th birthday. The bat mitzvah hasn’t happened yet as I write this—but the reported guests include SARAH SILVERMAN, 49, BILLY CRYSTAL, 71, and Sinbad.

Also, last week it was reported that her Netflix special will begin streaming on Dec. 3. It was filmed in advance of her 40th birthday and her bat mitzvah ceremony---so clips of the actual bat mitzvah ceremony will not be on the special. However, the special is “quite Jewish”—it opens with her being carried in a chair as “Hava Nagila” plays in the background. Mazel Tov!

A special episode of the hit TV series “Elena of Avalor", entitled “Festival of Lights", will first air on the Disney Channel and DisneyNow on Dec. 6 at 12:30PM. “Elena”, which began in 2016, is an animated series about the crown princess of a mythical Latino kingdom. Elena is the first Latin character to be a “Disney princess.” The episode’s premise is that Elena welcomes the shipwrecked Princess Rebeca and her grandmother, Miriam. The two have come from Galonia, a Jewish Latino-inspired kingdom. In their encounters, Elena will learn about the Chanukah celebration and its importance to the Jewish community.

Rebeca (who is Disney’s first Jewish princess) is voiced by JAMIE LYNN SIGLER, 38 (Meadow Soprano on “The Sopranos”). Sigler has Latino heritage. Her mother was born in Cuba and converted to Judaism before marrying her American Jewish father. Veteran actress TOVAH FELDSHUH, 67, voices Miriam. The episode will feature the lighting of a Chaunkah menorah.

The series creator, CRAIG GERBER, 40ish, first made his mark when he created the hit Disney animated series “Sofia the First” in 2012. It’s about a feisty princess (Sofia) who lives in mythical kingdom. In 2013, Gerber was profiled by “Ha’aretz” an Israeli paper. “Ha’aretz” reported that Gerber is a practicing Jew with a child (then) in a Jewish day school.

When Ha’aretz asked Gerber about Sofia’s determination to do the right thing, he responded: “It is something that I can only explain coming from my Jewish upbringing; in our faith there is so much importance placed on the mitzvoth and doing good deeds." Regarding the Chanukah episode on “Elena”, Gerber recently said that it would help showcase the diversity of Latin and Hispanic cultures (in other words, there are Latino Jews). He added, “As we were coming up with ideas for the new holiday episode, we decided to focus on Chanukah and a part of the culture that we hadn't yet represented on the show.”


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