Summer TV: A host of Jewish stars shine in new and returning shows


PREMIERING THIS SUMMER

David Schwimmer follows “The People v. O.J. Simpson” with “Feed the Beast,” about two friends’ struggle to open a Greek restaurant in the Bronx (AMC June 5 at 10 p.m.; Sundays). Ellen Barkin plays the matriarch of a dysfunctional crime family in the drama “Animal Kingdom” (TNT, June 14 at 9 p.m.; Tuesdays). Winona Ryder portrays the single mother of a young boy who has disappeared in the supernatural mystery “Stranger Things” (Netflix, July 15). Sketch comedy veteran Maya Rudolph joins forces with Martin Short in the variety show “Maya & Marty” (NBC, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.).

Winona Ryder in “Stranger Things”

RETURNING SERIES

Shiri Appleby  in “UnREAL”

Mark Feuerstein stars in the eighth and final season of the concierge medicine series “Royal Pains” (USA, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.), with Ben Shenkman and Henry Winkler in supporting roles. Howie Mandel is back at the judges’ table for the 11th season of “America’s Got Talent” (NBC, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.). Scott Wolf deals with thorny personal issues as chief surgeon at a Texas hospital in Season 3 of “The Night Shift” (NBC, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.). Shiri Appleby faces more moral dilemmas as the producer of a “Bachelor”-like reality show in Lifetime’s “UnREAL” (June 6 at 10 p.m.; Mondays). And Rashida Jones reassumes the title role in the spoofy TBS  cop show “Angie Tribeca,” (June 6 at 9 p.m.; Mondays). 

James Wolk in “Zoo”

Michaela Watkins returns in Jason Reitman’s brother-sister comedy “Casual” (Hulu, Season 2’s two-episode premiere on June 7; Tuesdays) and Eric Dane gets a promotion to Chief of Naval Operations in the pandemic drama “The Last Ship” (TNT, June 12 at 9 p.m., Sundays). David Duchovny reprises his role as an LAPD detective investigating Charles Manson in “Aquarius” (NBC, June 16 at 9 p.m., Thursdays). Jill Kargman juggles career and motherhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in season 2 of “Odd Mom Out” (Bravo, June 20 at 10  p.m.; Mondays). James Wolk is still dealing with an outbreak of mysterious animal behavior in “Zoo” (CBS, June 28 at 9 p.m.; Tuesdays). 

Michael Rosenbaum in “Impastor”

Moran Atias in “Tyrant”

Power plays and family intrigue continue for Moran Atias in Season 3 of “Tyrant” (FX, July 6 at 10 p.m.; Wednesdays), set in a fictional Middle East nation. Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner are BFF New Yorkers navigating life, love and showbiz in the second season of “Difficult People” (Hulu, July 12). Still on the run from loan sharks, Michael Rosenbaum continues posing as a gay priest in TV Land’s comedy “Impastor” (June 26 at 10 p.m.; Sundays) and Carly Chaikin is back in USA’s cyber-hacking drama “Mr. Robot,” (July 13 at 10 p.m.; Wednesdays). Corey Stoll fights a vampire epidemic in the third season of “The Strain” (FX, Aug. 28 at 10 p.m.; Sundays.).

MOVIES, SPECIALS AND EPISODES

Seeking to escape their ho-hum lives, Adam Sandler and his buddy (David Spade) fake their deaths and assume new identities in the comedy “The Do-Over,” now streaming on Netflix. Comedian Ben Gleib’s stand-up special “Neurotic Gangster” premieres June 3 on Showtime. Paul Rudd plays a writer-turned-caregiver on a road trip with his teenage charge in “The Fundamentals of Caring” (Netflix, June 24).

Michaela Watkins: A supporting player takes the lead


If you’re one of those people who pays attention to supporting characters and comedy, you probably already know who Michaela Watkins is. She has been in the cast of “Saturday Night Live” (2008-09), as well as TV’s “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “Enlightened” and “Trophy Wife”— and in memorable supporting roles in the films “In a World” and “Afternoon Delight.” She also wrote and directed the USA Network show “Benched.” And this fall, she’s starring in “Casual,” director Jason Reitman’s upcoming show for Hulu.

“This is the first time I’m entrusted with the lead of a show,” Watkins said over tea and a chewy sesame roll at Bricks & Scones in Larchmont Village. “It’s a beautiful experience to get to know your character, as the membrane that connects all the scenes together.” When you’re a supporting actor, Watkins explained, “unless you’re adding info to the scene, you’re not featured in it. When it’s your narrative, you get to see the minutiae of a person’s life. I’ve never felt more connected to and protective of a show.” 

The show opens with Valerie (Watkins) living in her brother Alex’s (Tommy Dewey) house with her teenage daughter, Laura (Tara Lynne Barr), and trying to get through a difficult divorce with her ex (Zak Orth). In the process, she tries to date and picks up Leon (Nyasha Hatendi) for a one-night stand, but he’s as awkward and clueless about the world of casual dating as she is. 

“Casual” feels more like an independent film, Watkins said, in that it has “that kind of pace and exploration of character. It’s a beautiful little show, and I hope people find it.” She called the casting “perfect,” Reitman “extraordinary” and the writing “so good,” calling out the ninth script as particularly impactful. “I had to put it down and cool off with a walk in the neighborhood because it just shattered me,” Watkins said. 

Although the show is a comedy, “I don’t remember a funny thing happening to my character,” she said. “She’s not a happy person. She is in the mourning process of a divorce and coming to terms with an effed-up childhood. She starts out at a low point and is learning how to walk again.” 

With this interview scheduled for the week before the release of the “Wet Hot American Summer” prequel episodes, in which Watkins plays Rhonda, a visiting choreographer, Watkins shared some camp memories of her own. “I went to music camp and played flute and piano. I saw myself as a bit of a chanteuse … I had a concerto in the morning, making out in the evening, and sailing, swimming and archery in the middle. In my real life, I was a bit of an oddball, but at music camp I was considered cute.” 

Her parents separated when she was 8; as the youngest, she saw her role as being “the one to keep everyone laughing, keep it light, bring some levity,” she said. “It was my way to be seen by my family and then the opposite sex. My way of flirting was, ‘Watch me shove a whole hamburger in my mouth.’ ”

Now connected to some of the most creative names in comedy — she recently booked a role working with Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell in “The House,” currently filming — Watkins has an explanation for her luck in terms of the projects she’s been offered. 

“I made a pact with myself when I was 12 that I would only work with people who make me happy. I choose happy. At one point, I felt I needed to choose pain and depth, because that is the reality of being an adult person. And while that is true, it doesn’t mean that you have to forgo happiness. You’re going to have moments of utter devastation, but for me, I keep striving to do what I want, and I’m a people person. I say yes to everything if I like the overall thing that’s being put out there. I’ll do anything with David Wain,” she said of the actor-writer-director with whom she has worked on “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” “Children’s Hospital,” “They Came Together” and “Wanderlust.” 

Watkins is also excited by the opportunities available to women in Hollywood today, noting special admiration for actor-writer-director Lake Bell (“In a World”), writer-director Jill Soloway (“Afternoon Delight”  and “Transparent”) and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” executive producer Kari Lizer. “I feel like it’s a new time, a renaissance. The way they comport themselves is kind, respectful, loving, decent, and they get the job done their way. How Jill talks to background actors is more respectful than I’ve seen anyone do it.”

Watkins and Soloway have developed a close friendship and a working partnership as well. Watkins remembers their first meeting in 2007, and that Soloway made an immediate impression. 

“She said, ‘Here’s what I want’ — she made her demands,” Watkins said. “This woman came from a place of power and not of need and begging; she just completely owned her worth and value in this conversation.

“I was blown away. [Soloway] looked at me and said, ‘Are you Jewish?’ I replied, ‘-ish.’ ‘Are you funny?’ ‘Who knows?’ I said. ‘You’re funny, I can tell,’ Jill said. ‘I think you’re my muse.’ She was not wrong,” Watkins said. 

Over the course of a few years, the two became consistent collaborators, working together on a short film, “Una Hora Por Favora,” followed by “Afternoon Delight” and “Transparent,” all of which brought Soloway critical acclaim, a powerful reputation in the industry and — with “Transparent,” particularly — wild popularity. “We are going to keep that party going, I hope,” Watkins said, noting enigmatically that she would return for the second season of “Transparent,” “but not in the way you think.”

Meeting Soloway also had an impact on Watkins’ Jewish identity. In 2008, Soloway nominated Watkins for the Reboot Summit, an annual three-day conference of sorts, in which participants — many of them power players from various industries, including Hollywood, who were not particularly connected to Jewish life or practice — exchange personal experiences about Jewish identity. 

“Reboot was the biggest turning point for me,” Watkins said. Beforehand, “I barely identified as Jewish,” she said. “ ‘You’re the perfect candidate,’ Jill said. I looked around at the people who were brought up similar to me, realizing who we are, starting to feel connections to other Jews. They never make you feel that there’s any kind of agenda. It’s you realizing that this is not so bad.”

Two years later, Watkins was introduced to actor Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”), on what she calls a “friend-date” — a brunch at Radnor’s place. There, she met entrepreneur Fred Kramer. “He had sweet eyes,” she said, noting that in an unfamiliar place, as a self-identified “extroverted shut-in, you look to the nicest person in the room to direct your conversation to. I didn’t want to date him; I just wanted to talk at his sweet face.” 

Once she and Kramer started dating, Watkins realized that he presented a challenge. “He was really the first Jew I ever dated seriously. When he told me he went to temple with some regularity, I had to figure out how to date him.” When Kramer —  the former board chairmam of IKAR who was very involved with the L.A. spiritual community — asked her to go to services with him, Watkins said that she regressed to the 8-year-old version of herself. “‘Ugggh, do we have to go?’ I got bitchy like a teenager. But when I heard [Rabbi] Sharon Brous speak — and I don’t even remember what she was talking about  — I was totally crying in temple. Kids were running around happy. You never saw that in temple. People were playing percussive instruments, and it was such a happy, connected, spiritual experience that I was forever changed.” 

Brous presided at the marriage of Kramer and Watkins in July 2013. Watkins admitted she still doesn’t attend synagogue with any regularity, but she said she has a real appreciation for IKAR.

“In the places I grew up with, people didn’t have the vocabulary about making it resonate, making it relevant on a spiritual level. I had completely separated from it, because there wasn’t anything connecting me in the first place. But here, the kids are so empowered with feeling … they’re connected to the community and the world at large, making the world a better place. That certainly wasn’t the way it was for us.” 

“Casual” premieres on Hulu Oct. 7.

VideoJew’s VideoGuide to L.A. #1 — How to look like an Angeleno


Singles – Notes to Self


Note to Self: Do not date a man who says that he can’t be in a relationship. Do not go out with him after he tells you he wants to go out with you — but only casually. Even if everything he says or does proves to the contrary — like for example, he calls you every day and wants to snuggle all the time and bring you flowers and treats you well. Just take him at his word.

Note to Self: Do not psychoanalyze this person’s motivations. Do not reason to yourself that he has issues with his mother/father/pet gerbil. Yes, he might — OK, he does — but are you his analyst or his date? (If you lie on the couch together, chances are you’re not his shrink.) A man will always reveal himself in the first few dates. A woman will wave away his concerns with her “I need a relationship” magic wand. She can also cover her ears and say, “Nyah-nyah-nyah kishkes.” But neither tactic will change his words: “I’m not interested in a serious relationship right now.”

Note to Self: Do not stick with him hoping that he will change his mind, hoping that as he gets to know you things will change and you will convince him how fabulous you are. You are very fabulous, but it is not up to you to be a PR firm for yourself. The Constitution said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” (Or maybe it was the Declaration of Independence — even better.) The point is you can’t wait around just one more date hoping he will get the memo.

Note to Self: Do not think you can save him. You will not save him; he will drown you first. You entered this arrangement with high self-esteem, so you think you can handle his “casual.” But by the second month of this thing — not a relationship, definitely not a friendship — you will be too weak to assert yourself. Think of the frog boiled to death in the gradually heated water. A gross, but apt, metaphor. Not that you are a frog.

Note To Self: Do not focus on the short-term in the relationship, like how good you guys have it together, how he makes you laugh, how you enjoy his company, how you are just taking it one day at a time. This is what he says, unoriginally — as in: “I’m just taking it one day a time.” Is there anyone who can live two days at a time? All of his “one days” turns into three, four, five months. Five months of limbo.

Note to Self: After you’ve been with this man half a year, you won’t want to let him go, and you start believing that having someone is better than having no one. Listen: Having no one is better than having half a person. Let him go so you will get your full self back.

Note to Self: Breakups aren’t easy, even if you knew the whole time it wasn’t going to work out. Even if you knew from the start. Especially if you knew from the start. Although why would you go out with someone whom you knew a priori wouldn’t work out? Maybe you should write a note to yourself not to do this anymore.

Note to Him: Dear John, I had such a nice time hanging out with you. But if it’s true that you don’t want to be in a relationship, I guess we’re going to have to stop seeing each other. I’m sad because it’s rare to meet someone you connect with, and it’s hard to pass up. But I can’t start a relationship with preconditions. I can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t want a relationship. I’d love to have that chance with you, so if you change your mind about your state, about me, about us, give me a call.

From,

Self.

 

The Guy Clock


Ryan and I did the L.A. supercasual thing for six or seven months. When I tried to rev up our relationship from supercasual to just plain casual, he freaked. I’m talking full-on, take-it-to-Dr. Phil meltdown:

"I haven’t dated enough women."

"I haven’t seen enough of the world."

"I haven’t seen enough of the world’s women."

"I’m too busy with work."

"I don’t have time for anything serious."

"I’m not ready for a commitment."

Ry got engaged to the next girl he dated. Just the word commitment scared the tzitzit off this boy, and now he’s registering for sage bath towels. When he called to spring the good news, I asked him why I got the brush-off and she got the rock.

"What was wrong with me?"

"Carin, you weren’t wrong. You were early."

I should have overslept.

"Seriously, Car, it had nothing to do with you. It’s timing. I was so not ready then. Now, I’m ready. And this chick Lisa’s pretty cool, so I just figured…."

So he "just figured?" Funny thing is I never would have headed to the chuppah with Ryan. He wasn’t the fireworks in my head, stars in my eyes, stop, drop and roll one for me. But for Ryan, it wasn’t about chemistry, it was about timing. In addition to getting engaged, Ry recently got promoted, bought a house and turned 30. And while girls wait to settle down until they meet Mr. Right, guys wait to settle down until it’s the right time.

So when is the right time? When does a Jewish boy become a man? Technically — his bar mitzvah. Realistically? It takes more than a Torah portion, a Men’s Wearhouse suit and an $18 check from Aunt Pearl to make a guy feel like a man. It takes success, stability and accomplishment. So take a guy’s bar mitzvah date, add 20 years, then subtract six months for every year he’s been out of grad school, owned a house or felt good about his job; add three months for every year he spent in debt, worked in a cubicle or slept on a futon; subtract two months for completing a marathon; add one year for every major career change; add three years if he still does laundry at his mom’s; and add 20 minutes for Jewish Standard Time. So, he’ll be ready about a year and half after you’ve given up on him.

Your biological clock ticks faster than his sociological clock. And there’s no speeding up his second hand. You can’t convince him to commit. You can’t persuade him to propose. If Peter Pan feels he sacrificed his career, his fun or his freedom for you, it will haunt your relationship for anniversaries to come.

"Well, Carin, I was going to take out the garbage last night like you asked me to, but I didn’t date enough women before we met."

"What? That doesn’t make any sense."

"Exactly, settling down with you too soon didn’t make any sense either."

And so we women wait. And wait. And like Cubs fans, we’re still waiting.

But for how long? At what point does a guy stop getting his life in order and start making his life happen? Carpe diem, guys. Seize the day! Seize the moment! Or just seize the chick! To be in a successful relationship, you don’t have to have all of your ducks in a row. You just have to know that you’re striving for a row or that you’re looking for some ducks or that you’ve found a good egg. It’s OK if you haven’t reached all of your goals; you just need to have goals. And be passionate about them. And, of course, be passionate about the girl.

C’mon boys, it’s time to make the donuts. Don’t put off dating that girl until you’ve earned a corner office, trekked through Nepal and won a triathlon. Celebrate the promotion with your girlfriend, climb the Himalayas with your fiancée or get sweaty with your wife. Forget about the right time, it’s go time!

We all have times in our lives when we want to focus on ourselves, our careers and our ambitions. I know because I’m a type-A overachiever who has her eyes on the prize. I’m also a one-of-a-kind babe who doesn’t understand why the right woman can’t inspire a man to settle down, even if it’s the wrong time. Or why a man would marry the good-enough girl he happens to be dating at the right time. Maybe "pretty cool" Lisa is good enough for Ryan, but when it comes to marriage, "I just figured" isn’t good enough for me. I’m not settling when I settle down.

I believe there’s a Mr. Right. I believe I’ll find him. And when I do, he’ll have me at "shalom." Now, life isn’t perfect and love doesn’t check my schedule. So I might not meet my man in the right place or at the right time, but if he’s the right guy, I’ll figure it out. Which most likely means — hold on — 13 plus 20, minus 12 months, plus nine months, plus two years, plus three years, plus 20 minutes — it means he’ll keep me waiting for years. And men think women take a long time getting ready….


Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

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