Mel Brooks, Pamela Adlon and Evan Shafran

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.

History of the World (2), Perry Mason Redux, Last of Us

On March 6, the highly anticipated series “History of the World, Part 2”, premieres on Hulu. Every MEL BROOKS’ fan knows that the “Part 1” was a hilarious 1981 film, directed and written by Brooks. Scenes included MOSES (played by Brooks) bringing down the 10 Commandments from Mt. Sinai.

The 1981 film hinted that there would be a Part 2. But Brooks always said that was a joke. Well, the 95-year-old Brooks was coaxed to co-write a sequel with David Stassen (not Jewish).

The Hulu sequel will be in the form of 8 half-hour episodes. On Mar. 6, two episodes will be released. Two more episodes will be released each following day (Mar. 7-9). It is unclear if a hilarious scene in the trailer—“Jews in Space”, will be a series full skit.

As I write this, the cast list is a bit incomplete. The ‘definite’ Jewish members of the large cast are PAMELA ADLON, 56, EVAN SHAFRAN, 40, RICHARD KIND, 66,  IKE BARINHOLTZ, 45, NICK KROLL, 44, JACK BLACK, 53, SARAH SILVERMAN,52, SETH ROGEN, 40 (as the biblical Noah), DAVID DUCHOVNY, 62, DAVID WAIN, 53, JOSH GAD,41, EMILY RATAJKOWSKI 31, and JAKE JOHNSON, 40. 

All the persons above have/had two Jewish parents, except those noted here: Johnson and Ducovny are the secular sons of Jewish fathers and Ratajkowski, also secular, has a Jewish mother. (Famous director/actor Taiki Waititi is a cast member. He had one Jewish grandparent and identifies as “Jewish/Polynesian”.)

In 2020, HBO released “Perry Mason”, a re-boot of the famous TV series. But, unlike the original, which was set in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the new series was set during the Great Depression.  

'The 1930s Mason', that we first see, is a broke private investigator. His life changes when a major case prompts him to become a defense attorney.  

As in the TV series, Hamilton Burger, an asst. district attorney, is a major character. JUSTIN KIRK, 53, played Burger in the first season and he will be even more prominent as Burger in the 2nd season (which begins on March 6 on HBO).

Kirk is the secular son of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. He’s best-known playing Andy Botwin, a (star) Jewish character on the long-running Showtime series “Weeds”.

MICHAEL BEGLER and JACK AMIEL, both 54, took over as the main producers of the show in the 2nd season. They also wrote most of the 2nd season scripts.

I was reluctant to watch “The Last of Us”, a “dystopian” HBO series that premiered in January. I like a relatively quick conclusion and I’m tired of movies and series that are set in a “screwed-up” fictional world AND go on and on (sequels or new seasons). For example, “The Walking Dead”, about a zombie apocalypse, ran 11 (!) seasons. It concluded when viewers would no longer watch repetitive storylines.

“The Last of Us” may “go the way” of  “Walking Dead”. But, right now, it is an exciting, very well-written program. I tuned-in when I saw great reviews and articles that said that HBO had its biggest ratings hit since “Games of Thrones”.

Here’s the essential set-up: in 2003, a mutant fungus infects people all over the world. There is no vaccine or treatment. The infection turns victims into zombies whose only aim is to infect other people (via a bite). The storyline focuses on Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal), a small-time construction contractor who deftly stays uninfected. In flash backs, and jumps forward, we follow him from 2003 to 2023. (To date, no Jewish actor has appeared in a main, or important guest role).

“Last” is based on series of very popular and literate(!) video games of the same name. For the most part, the plot of the first HBO season, and the characters, were created for the video game first.

The original video game and its sequels were co-created by and co-written (scripts) by NEIL DRUCKMANN, 44. He was born in Israel, and lived there until 1989, when his family moved to the States.  He has the technical ability to create video games (programming, etc.) and the talent to write very good stories.

Drucksmann and CRAIG MAZIN, 51, co-created the HBO series and Mazin has adapted the video scripts for the HBO series. He is best known for writing and directing the HBO series “Chernobyl”.

Do watch an excellent CBS Morning Show (Feb. 17) interview with Mazin (“How Great Storytelling is the Secret Behind the Last of Us’ Success…”). Its free on-line/CBS News app.

 How storytelling is the secret behind "The Last of Us" success and newfound audience - CBS News


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