Jews in the News: Maya Rudolph, Beanie Feldstein and Selma Blair

Bakin' w/Andy and Maya; Great Play: Many Jews; Blair Stuff, Rex's Miracle

“Bakin’ It” is a six-episode series that will begin streaming on the Peacock channel on Dec. 2. New episodes premiere each successive Thursday. It would have been “nice” if advance publicity told us if this series is a free offering on Peacock, or is “content” only available to “upgraded”, pay-a-fee subscribers.

But everything I’ve seen points to “Bakin It” being a free to anyone who just signs up for the Peacock app (on-line, Roku, Amazon Fire, etc.)-- and only opts to view the “free” stuff on Peacock.

The exciting news is that the first episode is a Chanukah baking competition. Here’s the show’s basic premise: eight teams, each consisting of two home bakers, are tasked with creating baked goods for the holidays (which basically means Christmas after the first episode). The teams are made-up of spouses, siblings, and good friends. They can win cash prizes if their creation is the favorite of the judges (unclear to me if any team, but the weekly winner, gets a “gelt” prize).

The judges are four elderly grandmothers with baking experience. Here are their names as related by “People” magazine: “Anne "Grandma" Leonhard, Norma "Bubbe" Zager, Sherri "Gigi" Williams, and Harriet "Nana" Robin. I believe that Zager is the same (Jewish) “Norma Zager” who has frequently contributed articles to the Jewish media on various subjects.  Leonhard and Robin co-own a prominent New Orleans cooking school that focuses on Louisiana cuisine and I doubt they are Jewish.

The hosts are MAYA RUDOLPH, 49, and ANDY SAMBERG, 43. The advance publicity says they will not just host, but will “provide comedic and musical commentary on the action.” 

“The Humans”, had a very limited theater opening last week and, at the same time, began streaming on Showtime. It is based on a one-act play by Stephen Karam that won (2016), the Tony for best play. The film was written and directed by Karam, a Scranton native of Lebanese Christian background. Reviews are very good. 

Very basic plot: Brigid Blake (BEANIE FELDSTEIN, 28), a musician, and her boyfriend, Richard (Steven Yuen), live-in a run-down Manhattan apartment. Brigid’s parents, Erik (Richard Jenkins) and Deidre (Jayne Houdyshell), drive-in from Scranton to celebrate Thanksgiving with Brigid. They are joined by Aimee, Brigid’s sister (AMY SCHUMER, 40), who is a lawyer in Philadelphia, and Momo (JUNE SQUIBB. 82), Erik’s mother. She is suffering from Alzheimers. Gradually, a lot of family secrets and problems are exposed. 

Actress SELMA BLAIR, 49, had built a strong film and TV acting career when she first got MS symptoms in 2011.  She went public with her diagnosis in 2018 and a Discovery+ documentary about her struggle with MS, “Introducing Selma Blair”, began streaming in October. Before the documentary, I knew (and reported) that actress ELIZABETH BERKLEY, 47, who now co-stars in a re-boot of the comedy series "Saved by the Bell", persuaded Blair (early 2018) to see her brother, a prominent L.A. neurolgist and he confirmed a MS diagnosis. (Berkley and Blair are friends. They grew-up in nearby, heavily Jewish Detroit suburbs). 

From the documentary I learned that actress JENNIFER "Dirty Dancing” GREY, 61, contacted Blair when she heard about her condition. Grey didn’t know Blair then, but convinced her to seriously look into a stem cell treatment Grey had heard of. The treatment has really helped Blair.

Meanwhile, on Amazon Prime, a “new” Selma Blair movie, "Far More", began streaming (free) late last month. Blair plays the caring wife of a great guy who is dying from cancer. Adrian Grenier ("Entourage") co-stars as her husband’s brother. Really strong acting by the two leads makes up for some script weaknesses. I dug-out that "Far More" had a very limited opening in 2014 (under another title) and never saw the light of day again until Amazon began showing it. It’s worth your time.

You probably don't remember SIMON REX, now 49. This very handsome fellow was a MTV VJ (1995-1997) and from 1999-2005 had a number of TV/movie gigs, including co-starring in the short-lived TV series "Jack and Jill" and "What I Like About You." After 2005, his acting career faded, and he scratched out a living in rap music. Here's the miracle: in 2020, director/writer Sean Baker called Rex, who he didn't know, and asked him to star in his indie film, "Red Rocket", as a washed-up porn star who returns to his Texas hometown. Well, the film has got astonishly GREAT advance reviews. There's real Oscar talk about the film and Rex's performance. It opens on Dec.10.



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