Jews in the News: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Neil Simon and Lorne Michaels

New on TV---Or On Your TV Access Media Outlet

Starting on Thursday, Feb. 12, on NBC (8PM) is the eight-part mini-series, “The Slap.” It’s based on a hit Australian novel and TV series of the same name. NBC is clearly trying to compete with HBO with this ‘prestige’ series: LISA CHOLODENKO, 50 (“The Kids are Alright”), who got a Golden Globe nomination for HBO’s “Olive Kitteridge,” is the principal director and JON ROBIN BAITZ, 53, a respected playwright and the creator of TV’s “Brothers and Sisters,” wrote the pilot. The title refers to what develops when a man slaps a child he isn’t related to at a suburban barbeque. Co-stars include Peter Saarsgard (MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL’s husband) and Uma Thurman (whose non-Jewish maternal grandfather fled Nazi Germany rather than betray his Jewish business partner).

Comedian BRETT GELMAN, 38, who co-stars in the FX series, “Married,” co-wrote and co-stars in a new special for the “Adult Swim” corner of the Cartoon Network. Entitled, “Dinner with Brett Gelman’s Family,” it will premiere on Friday, Feb. 13, at 12:30am (DVR it!). This live action special, which will probably have a lot of Jewish content, co-stars Patti Lupone as his mother and TONY ROBERTS, 75, as his dad. Roberts had big roles in several WOODY ALLEN films.

Premiering on Thursday, Feb. 19 on CBS is a new version of “The Odd Couple,” the famous 1965 stage show authored by NEIL SIMON, now 87.  The show stars Matthew Perry (“Friends”) as Oscar, a slovenly sports writer, and Thomas Lennon as Felix, a neat-freak photographer. As you probably know, they are old friends and when Felix’s wife leaves him, he moves into the apartment of Oscar, who is long-divorced.  LINDSAY SLOANE, 37, plays Emily, a resident of Oscar’s building who attracts the romantic attention of the guys. Sloane has been a TV guest star or series regular since she was a teen. She was a star of “Grosse Pointe”, a short-lived, but critically praised series that was a parody of “Beverly Hills, 90210”.

Because it is such a great joke, I have little doubt that a segment from the original play will make the new series. Felix starts leaving Oscar notes reminding him to do chores and such. Finally, Oscar blows-up at Felix and says, "You leave me little notes on my pillow. I told you a hundred-and-sixty-eight times I can't .. stand .. little notes on my pillow! 'We are all out of Corn Flakes. [signed] F.U.' It took me three hours to figure out that 'F.U.' was Felix Unger!"

Neil Simon says that many people have speculated that he gave Felix Unger the name he gave him simply to set-up this joke. Simon denies that and says that the joke came to him way after he created a character whose initials are “F.U.”

SNL Turns 40

“Saturday Night Live,” which was created in 1975 by LORNE MICHAELS (born Lorne Lipowitz), will celebrate its 40th birthday with an anniversary special which will air on NBC on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 8PM, with a red carpet special starting on NBC at 7PM. Michaels has been the producer of the show for most of its long-run (he wasn’t producer from fall, 1980-spring, 1985) and he is very much a hands-on executive. He has the ultimate say as to cast hiring, firing, or promotion.  SNL/NBC has been very quiet about what the special will contain (new stuff or mostly clips?). However, the guest list has been mostly leaked. The following tribe members will be on the special: Two—JERRY SEINFELD and PAUL SIMON-- were not cast members—the other three were—ADAM SANDLER, ANDY SAMBERG, and MAYA RUDOLPH.


Besides those listed above—here are the past 40 years of Jewish cast members (main cast or “featured player”): LORRAINE NEWMAN, GILDA RADNER, AL FRANKEN, HARRY SHEARER, SARAH SILVERMAN, BILLY CRYSTAL, CHRISTOPHER GUEST, VANESSA BAYER, RACHEL DRATCH, JON LOVITZ, CHRIS KATTAN, ROB SCHNEIDER, PAUL SHAFFER, BEN STILLER, ROBERT SMIGEL, GILBERT GOTTFRIED, and ALAN ZWEIBEL. FYI: Kattan is the son of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother and has always been secular. Likewise, the secular Christopher Guest has a non-Jewish first name, but his mother is an American Jew and his father is a British Jew. He actually holds the title of 5th Baron of Haden-Guest. It’s a complex story—but suffice it to say it is not an old title—it was created in 1950 so Guest’s grandfather, a big Labour Party supporter, could sit in the House of Lords and help balance out other parties’ members.



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