Jews in the News: Mayim Bialik Jemima Kirke and Jason Isaacs

Jeopardy Jew?; Jews of Sex-Ed (the U.K. Series), Sci-Fi Scribes

As I write this (9/16), “Jeopardy” contestant MATT AMODIO is still winning games. He has the third-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy” history and has won over $750K. Amodio, about 30, is a Yale Computer Science grad student. The news: I was just reliably informed that his mother is Jewish. I have no “hard” info on his father or how he was raised.

Other news: starting Sept. 20, three weeks of already filmed “Jeopardy” games, hosted by MAYIM BIALIK, 45, will begin airing. After that, Bialik and former “Jeopardy” champ Ken Jennings will alternate hosting until Nov. 20. Then a new, yet unchosen “day-to-day” host will take over. Bialik, as previously announced, will host special events, like the show’s college tournament.

The original Netflix series “Sex Education” began its third season on Sept. 17. This British series has been one of the most popular and most-viewed of Netflix series. Reviews have been quite good. I am just starting to “binge-watch” it because there are now three Jewish actors in the series. Two just joined the series.

The main character of the series is Otis, an older teen whose mother is a sex-therapist. Most of the other characters fall into two groups: other students at Moordale, the school that Otis attends (equivalent to an American high school), or the Moordale faculty/administrative staff.

You will definitely remember JEMIMA KIRKE, 36, if you watched the hit HBO series ‘Girls”, starring LENA DUNHAM. She appeared in all six seasons as Dunham’s great friend, Jessa Johnson (who spoke with an English accent). Kirke co-stars as Hope, the new headmistress of Moordale. Hope, a former Moordale student, plans to crack down on the school’s reputation as a “sex school”.

Kirke’s parents are both English and she was raised in England. Her father, who isn’t Jewish, was a drummer for the ‘80s band Bad Company. Her Jewish mother comes from a prominent and wealthy Jewish family. Kirke's ex-husband, MICHAEL MOSBERG, an American lawyer, is the father of her two children.

Appearing in a (new) recurring role is Brit actor JASON ISAACS, 58.  He has been steadily appearing (sometimes starring) in films and TV shows for decades. But he’s still probably best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. Issacs plays Peter Groff, the brother of (star character) Michael Groff, the headmaster of Moordale. Peter is described as Michael’s cockier and more successful brother and he’s come to visit his brother to comfort him following Michael’s separation from his wife, Maureen.

Maureen is a recurring character who is played by SAMANTHA SPIRO, 53.  Spiro is another British Jewish thespian. Her film and TV credits are limited. However, she is a really acclaimed stage actress, winning many awards, including two Olivier awards, the equivalent of a Tony. She has played several Jewish parts on the British stage, including FANNY BRICE in "Funny Girl" (yes, Spiro can sing too). I was surprised to learn that she was in "Game of Thrones". She made one memorable appearance as the beleaguered mother of star character Samwell Tarly.

“Foundation”, an original Apple+ 10-episode series, premieres on Friday, Sept. 24. The series is based upon science fiction books written by ISSAC ASIMOV (1920-1992).  Three “Foundation” books were published in the ‘50s and that trilogy has often been called the best sci-fi series of all-time. Asimov was prevailed upon to write three more Foundation novels in the ‘80s. Asimov was a professor of bio-chemistry as well as being a novelist.

Back in the ‘80s, Asimov was almost a household name, frequently appearing on major talk shows. He often talked about science and the history of science and he wrote many books about science for a popular audience. Asimov’s daughter, ROBYN ASIMOV, 66, is a producer of the Apple series.

The premise of the novels is complex---in short, the hero character (correctly) predicts a looming dark age. This dark age cannot be avoided, he says, but it can be shortened from 30,000 years to 1,000 years. The Foundation trilogy largely takes place during this thousand-year dark age.

The series was created by DAVID S. GOYER, 55, and JOSH FRIEDMAN, 53. Goyer's mother was Jewish and he was raised Jewish. He has directed and/or written dozens of TV shows and films since 1990, including the “Blade” trilogy and the “Dark Knight” Batman films. (It’s unclear if Goyer and Friedman co-wrote the whole series. Available credits say they co-wrote the first two episodes.)


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