Lessons from a summer of sexual assault


I remember driving home from a high school party one night during junior year while my best friend vomited in the back seat. In so many ways, it was a quintessential portrait of youth: one lanky 17-year-old sprawled over the back seat, throwing up alcohol into a bucket, while another tried not to get pulled over by the police for driving after curfew. 

When we got back to my house, my mother was waiting up to help me with Caroline (not her real name), who was so sick we considered taking her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. She was totally out of it: eyes closed, mumbling incoherently, unable to walk on her own or dial a phone number. My mother, being the tireless caretaker that she was, insisted I get a good night’s sleep while she stayed up until 4 a.m. holding Caroline’s head over my bathtub.  

By late morning, Caroline was awake and had climbed into bed with me. She had a very distressed look on her face. “I need to talk to you,” she said. “I don’t remember what happened to me last night. Did I hook up with someone?”

The only clue Caroline had that some sort of sexual activity occurred was the fact that when she woke, her underwear was on inside-out. She remembered making out with someone early in the night, but not much else. When she called that person, he said, “Yes, we had sex.” But she knew it was rape. 

Before a single word of this was repeated to anyone, the guy enlisted a squadron of friends to intimidate her into silence. Besides, his friends said, he was a really bright student and “a good guy.” He “never meant any harm.” 

The drama of the episode died down pretty quickly and was never reported. But I imagine the trauma of having been violated while passed out never entirely faded for Caroline, whom I lost touch with after college. 

I thought about this episode countless times in recent months, because the summer of 2016 will be remembered, at least in part, as a time when the national conversation focused on sexual assault and may have even shifted in the direction of redemption for some of its victims.

For far too long, perpetrators of sexual assault have gotten all the attention, all the benefit of the doubt, and all the best lawyers, so to honor this summer’s awakening, I want to instead focus on four examples of women who have reclaimed their voices and helped redirect America’s culture of impunity toward a culture of accountability.

1. On June 3, a female reporter for BuzzFeed posted the wrenching letter to the court written by the 23-year-old woman sexually brutalized by Stanford University freshman Brock Turner. When her message went viral, a woman who had found herself beaten down and betrayed by the system was empowered to realize her strength as an engine of moral conscience. 

“Nobody wins,” she read aloud in the courtroom the day the judge sentenced her attacker to a measly six months in prison (in the end, he was released after serving only three). “We have all been devastated; we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering.” 

“Your damage was concrete,” she said to her attacker, “stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen. … You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”

Her voice, full of outrage and humanity, articulated a story so vivid it read like poetry, and so truthful it held all perpetrators of sexual assault and their enablers to account where the U.S. justice system had failed.

2. A month later, on July 6, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson announced she had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. This triggered a volcanic eruption at Rupert Murdoch’s media company, with scores of women coming forward to tell their stories of having been harassed, exploited, manipulated and belittled by Ailes, who had presided over the network with an iron first and silver spoon for two decades.

Laurie Luhn, Marsha Callahan, Kellie Boyle and Shelley Ross are just a handful of the women who took their stories to the press and refused to be cowed into silence any longer. After being pressured by Murdoch and sons, Ailes resigned in disgrace (but with a reported $40 million in severance) on July 21.

3. In August, as Hollywood multi-hyphenate Nate Parker stood to gain increased status and acclaim ahead of the October release of his film “The Birth of a Nation,” about the Nat Turner-led slave rebellion that took place in Virginia in 1831, the writer and activist Roxane Gay took to the pages of The New York Times with an op-ed on “The Limits of Empathy” — especially when it comes to Hollywood stars (think: Woody Allen and Bill Cosby).

In 1999, Parker and his roommate at Penn State University, Jean McGianni Celestin (who would become a writing partner on “The Birth of a Nation”), were accused of raping a young woman. The details are ugly and too complicated to list here, but it’s worth noting that the victim attempted suicide twice before finally ending her suffering in 2012. She left behind a son.

“I have my own history with sexual violence, so I cannot consider such stories with impartiality, though I do try,” Gay wrote in the Times. “It is my gut instinct to believe the victim because there is nothing at all to be gained by going public with a rape accusation except the humiliations of the justice system and public scorn.

“I want to have empathy for [Nate Parker], but everything he says and does troubles me,” she continued. “We’ve long had to face that bad men can create good art. Some people have no problem separating the creation from the creator. I am not one of those people, nor do I want to be. … I can no longer watch ‘The Cosby Show,’ for example, without thinking of the numerous sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby. Suddenly, his jokes are far less funny.”

4. This new openness hit closest to home, however, when a friend and leader in our community came out as a sexual assault survivor at a public gathering in May. The event was organized by California State Sen. Ben Allen, who chose to honor Oscar-winning filmmaker Amy Ziering with a “Woman of the Year” award for her change-making documentary films “The Invisible War” and “The Hunting Ground,” both of which focus on the scourge of sexual assault — in the military and on college campuses. Ziering had invited her friend, Samara Hutman, executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust at Pan Pacific Park, to introduce her, and for the first time, Hutman told her story publicly of having been molested by a neighbor as an 8-year-old girl. 

“For somebody who has had an experience of sexual assault, violence, abuse, I have a very thin sensitivity to people being wronged and it not being talked about,” Hutman told me when I called her afterward to talk.

She decided to speak out because she was inspired by the courage of all the women in Ziering’s films who shared their stories at great personal risk. 

“Her movies are literally doing the thing that we talk about with students in our [Righteous Conversations] workshops, which are about using media and film to shine a light on things that are hidden and broken,” Hutman said. “We teach them that if you can use your camera and your voice to shine a light, you can change the culture. And Amy was a pinnacle example of somebody who had done exactly that — she kind of shattered the silence.”

There is almost never an upside to a woman telling her story — whether to the world or to the police. As Gay points out in her op-ed, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “out of every 1,000 rapes, 344 will be reported to the police, 63 of those reports will lead to an arrest, 13 cases will be referred to a prosecutor, seven of those cases will lead to a felony conviction and six of those perpetrators will serve prison time.”

It is nothing less than an act of spiritual resistance and moral courage for a woman to come forward with her truth about sexual assault. And so I celebrate all the brave women of the summer of 2016 and beyond, who speak out in the face of great peril; I also celebrate the women who have been unfairly bullied into silence, including my high school best friend who suffered greatly and never saw justice.

“You’re never going to have a world in which there is not brutality,” Hutman said. “We’ve never seen a time in history where it is a utopian, cruel-free world. So if you take that as a given, that there’s going to be trouble between people, it seems like the best thing we can do is be vigilant against the possibility.”

And let us say, Amen.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

NFL viewing guide: How to watch without cable


The NFL season is arguably the best time of the year for football fans. It’s when football Sunday becomes a reality and you get to watch your favorite teams and players every week. It seems like every season is more and more exciting as the talent seems to get better and better. Also, the beauty of the NFL is teams can go from terrible one year to great the next year, which means your team always has a chance of having a breakout season no matter how last year went.

As many people cut cable, one of the main questions people have is how to still watch football. There are multiple options out there to watch and with the right setup you can watch just about every single NFL game. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Best Ways to Watch Football on Sunday

There are a few different ways to get live access to Sunday football. Here’s some information about each of them:

Antenna: This is one of the easiest and probably the cheapest way to watch football. You don’t need a cable package, but still get access to any games on ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX. This covers just about every single game that will be coming on during Sundays. The antenna connects to your TV and lets you watch football in incredibly clear high-definition picture. Plus, once you make the investment for an antenna, watching is absolutely free.

Sling TV: Another option is subscription streaming service Sling TV. In certain locations, Sling TV’s Sling Blue package offers live streaming access to FOX. This will be how you can watch some of the games on Sunday through the service. The starting package for these areas is $25 per month and includes over 40 cable channels to live stream including TBS, TNT, FX, FS1, NBCSN, AMC, and FOX Sports regional networks.

PlayStation Vue: A similar option to Sling TV, PlayStation Vue also lets you watch FOX games live in certain locations. But, it improves by also letting you live stream any games on NBC, CBS, or ABC in these same locations. There are also around 60 channels available to live stream, but the real difference is the price since it starts at $39.99 per month in the locations where these channels are offered.

Watch Monday Night Football Online as Well

The Monday Night Football games are broadcast on ESPN each week. All of the above services have ways for you to watch MNF games without cable. The antenna lets you watch the Monday night game if your local team is playing by broadcasting it on ABC. 

If you want to use Sling TV, you can choose the Sling Orange package, which doesn’t have FOX channels, but includes ESPN and ESPN2. The package only costs $20 per month and in total has around 30 channels.

PlayStation Vue has ESPN in all of its packages, but that means even if you don’t get access to FOX with your location you can still watch Monday Night Football. Plus, the locations without FOX have a price of only $29.99 per month for over 50 streaming channels.

You Can Even Get Thursday Night Football Streaming

Thursday Night Football games are actually quite easy to watch without cable using the other services. Sling TV recently announced it will include NFL Network in its package, which will be broadcasting every TNF game. PlayStation Vue should be adding the network soon as well, which means it may also be a viable way to watch.

Additionally, CBS and NBC simulcast most of the games on Thursdays. So, the antenna can be used to watch in HD. And, the easiest one is to utilize the deal the NFL just struck with Twitter. Ten of the Thursday night games will be live streamed on Twitter absolutely free. This is a phenomenal way to watch any games on Thursday nights for no cost at all!

As the trend of cable cutting has grown, so too have the options. Each night of NFL coverage has multiple ways to watch and other sports have just as many options. We are glad there are so many ways out there for you to watch without cable, but if you still have any questions, leave us a comment below.

Seven candidates qualify for Thursday’s main presidential debate


Seven Republican presidential candidates will participate in Fox Business Network's prime-time debate on Thursday, but Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and former business executive Carly Fiorina did not qualify for the main event, the network said on Monday.

The seven candidates chosen for the main debate by Fox Business, based on the network's polling criteria, were billionaire businessman Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Fiorina, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum will participate in the so-called undercard debate for low-polling candidates earlier in the evening, the network said. Paul told CNN he will not take part in the undercard debate.

Fred Savage: Child star-turned-director returns to acting in ‘The Grinder’


He looks almost as boyish as when he played Kevin Arnold on “The Wonder Years,” but Fred Savage is now 39, a married father of three, and three decades into a TV and movie career that has kept him steadily employed as an actor and director. Working mostly behind the scenes in the last 10 years, directing series such as “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Modern Family” and “2 Broke Girls” while doing animation voiceovers, Savage unexpectedly finds himself back in front of the camera this season in Fox’s comedy “The Grinder.” 

Sent the script by executive producer and friend Nick Stoller, Savage was surprised to learn he wasn’t wanted as a director. The job: playing attorney Stewart Sanderson, whose older brother, Dean (Rob Lowe), returns home to Idaho and thinks he can join the family law firm without passing the bar just because he’s played a legal eagle on TV. Dean’s faux expertise proves to be invaluable, much to Stewart’s bewildered exasperation.

“Stewart feels like he’s the only sane person in a world that’s gone mad,” Savage said of the character, who he describes as a good attorney, but who has always lived in his flashier brother’s shadow. “I don’t see the Dean-Stewart relationship as sibling rivalry. They want what’s best for one another. They’re not out to compete with each other at all. But they each see something that they envy in each other. They need to learn to appreciate the things that they have and value the things they see in each other.”

Savage wasn’t planning to go back to acting and didn’t think he missed it. “But once I started working with Rob and the cast on the pilot, I really enjoyed it. Once I found my sea legs, I realized there was a part of me that did miss it,” he said. 

Although he has put directing on hold and won’t direct any “Grinder” episodes, at least for a while, in order to “focus on and enjoy the experience” of being on camera, he does intend to return to it. “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a director. Achieving that meant the world to me, and I very much want to keep that going,” he said. 

Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, Savage attended the Brentwood School and went on to earn a B.A. from Stanford in 1999. His youth was drama-free, at least off screen. “I was in a normal school. I had regular friends who are still my close friends today. I was able to have a lot of normal childhood experiences, and on top of that I got to do this whole other [acting] thing that was so fantastic,” he said.

Savage grew up in a home where education, family, Jewish culture and tradition were “an incredibly important part of my upbringing and contributes to who I am today,” he said. “I was bar mitzvah and have wonderful memories from that. We observed all the major holidays. My mom always made a fantastic break-the-fast.” 

He and his wife, Jennifer, childhood sweethearts who married in 2004, are the parents of Oliver, 9, Lily, 7, and Auggie, nearly 3. They recently joined a Los Angeles-area synagogue to begin their children’s Jewish education. “It was important to us to raise our kids with a strong Jewish identity and send them to Hebrew school,” he said. 

Not surprisingly, the two older Savage children are regular set visitors and are showing an interest in show business. “My son loves comedy — he’s funny and loves to make people laugh. My daughter is a natural performer. She loves dancing and singing, and her personality is so gregarious,” he said. Having had positive experiences as a child actor and no regrets about starting so young, “I feel that if they were interested, I would absolutely support them. I would feel very comfortable. It’s something I know about.” 

Savage’s younger siblings, Ben and Kala, followed him into acting; Ben starred in “Boy Meets World” as a teenager and now plays the same character in the follow-up series, “Girl Meets World,” as an adult. According to Fred, who has directed his brother several times, they have never been competitive. “We have been good at carving our own paths and it’s worked out well. Ben does the things that he loves and appeal to him, and I do the same. We support each other and cheer each other on.”

Savage said he is still often recognized from “The Wonder Years,” which launched his career and earned him two Emmy nominations, and he remembers those days fondly. “I feel good that I’ve had a lot of exciting opportunities that have come along. I can look back and feel good about everything. Some projects maybe didn’t turn out so well or seem to be missteps, but they all led me to here, and I feel great about where I am,” he said. “I feel most proud that I’ve been able to sustain a career in this business for as long as I have.” 

The goals he sets for the future “are less for me and more for my family,” Savage said. “I want my kids to be happy and healthy and go to school and have friends and go to college, fall in love and have families of their own. It’s all about them — anything I do professionally will help me help them be happy.”

“The Grinder” airs at 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox.

Fox picks up another Israeli-developed TV show format


Fox has purchased the rights to Boom!, a new Israeli game show.

The program debuted earlier this month in Israel. Under the format, four contestants race against the clock to diffuse a bomb by cutting colored wires that hold the answers to trivia questions. Viewers can also play using a smartphone app. If the bomb explodes, the studio set shakes.

The show, from Keshet International, was first sold to a French network earlier this week at the MIPTV conference in Cannes.

Keshet is the creator of the “Rising Star” format picked up last year by a U.S. studio and elsewhere, as well as of the Emmy Award-winning show “Homeland” and “In Treatment.”

Brainy Breslow clutch on the hill in Red Sox title bid


When Craig Breslow entered Saturday night’s playoff game against the Detroit Tigers, FOX broadcaster Tim McCarver hailed the Boston Red Sox reliever — a Yale University graduate with a double major in molecular biophysics and biochemistry — as the smartest player in Major League Baseball.

But with Breslow’s stellar performance this postseason, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is looking like the genius for acquiring the lefty in a trade last year.

In Boston’s first two playoff series this season, Breslow has pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing three hits and five walks while striking out seven.

He’ll likely be counted upon again in the World Series when the Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals starting Wednesday.

While creating the impressive postseason resume, Breslow also has solidified Boston’s reputation as a hub for Jewish players. Back in 2006, in fact, Breslow was one of four Jewish players to play for the Red Sox, including Kevin Youkilis and Gabe Kapler.

This season, he’s not the only Jewish player and Yale alumnus on the team — there’s also catcher Ryan Lavarnway (now on the disabled list). Another Jewish player, outfielder Ryan Kalish, has been out all year with an injury.

Breslow, 33, has expressed his Jewish pride throughout his career, saying he has fasted on Yom Kippur even while playing.

He also has performed tikkun olam, the Hebrew term for “repair of the world,” with his charity efforts that include the Strike 3 Foundation he established in 2008 in the battle against cancer afflicting children (his younger sister is a survivor of thyroid cancer). For his charitable works, Breslow is this year’s Red Sox nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award handed out by Major League Baseball.

Like Youkilis and Kapler, Breslow took home a World Series ring when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007. But he actually spent nearly the entire season in the minor leagues and never threw a pitch in the playoffs, though he was on the roster of available players.

From 2007 to 2012, Breslow pitched for several teams before being traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Red Sox in the middle of last season. Along the way he often drew more attention for his intellectual prowess than his mound exploits.

McCarver wasn’t joking: Breslow’s Wikipedia page boasts several citations hailing him as the smartest big leaguer. The Sporting News went even further, declaring him the smartest athlete in all of sports.

Fueling such talk was the time during his first stint with the Red Sox that Breslow settled a bet over whether he could calculate how many times a baseball spins when it is thrown from the pitcher’s mound to home plate at 90 miles per hour.

“There’s a lot of variables,” he was quoted as saying, “but I put in some figures and came up with answers for a fastball, curve or slider. It’s rather simple once you do it.”

Breslow hasn’t lost the braniac reputation. Red Sox manager John Farrell recently quipped, “Breslow uses words in a normal conversation that I’m not used to.”

This time around with the Red Soz, however, the team is very much depending on Breslow to be a significant contributor to the playoff run. They acquired him for that most specialized of pitching assignments: a lefty retiring left-handed batters in crucial situations.

It’s an important role, enabling a team to stifle an opponent’s midgame rallies while saving its top reliever for the ninth inning to close out victories.

In the series-clinching win in Boston’s opening playoff series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Breslow came on in the sixth inning for starter Jake Peavy and proceeded to strike out four of the five batters he retired. Breslow was credited with the win when the Red Sox rallied for three runs.

In the American League Championship Series, Breslow again was a vital bullpen cog as Boston defeated Detroit in six games.

Breslow had a great vantage point for a key moment of that series. In Game 2, with the Tigers closing in on a commanding lead in the ALCS, David Ortiz blasted a grand slam into the Red Sox bullpen, just a few feet away from Breslow. The home run tied the score at 5, and the Red Sox went on to win in the ninth inning.

“It was pretty surreal and incredible,” Breslow told MLB-TV of the scene. “I couldn’t imagine a better guy to do it than David Ortiz.”

Breslow has been blogging about his playoff experiences for the website of the Boston-area sports radio station WEEI.

“It’s going to be a great series, I’m sure it’s going to be a dogfight, but we’re all looking forward to it,” he wrote Sunday about facing the Cardinals. “As much as we all got to enjoy what we accomplished on Saturday night, we know that there’s still a final goal to reach.

“We’ll do our homework, we’ll be prepared and be ready to get back at it on Wednesday.”

If there’s any homework to be done, Breslow would be the guy to do it.

Must-see TV: Sitcoms, sex top Fall lineup


It’s September at last, when summer reruns and C-level realty shows cede their timeslots to returning favorites and new contenders. This fall’s offerings include Jewish connections galore, on and off camera; prolific producers J.J. Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman are just a few of the series’ creators. Littman is behind “Hostages,” the CBS drama based on a concept producer Alon Aranya brought over from Israel about a female surgeon ordered to kill the president or her family will die. Fittingly, returning favorite “Homeland,” also based on an Israeli series, plans to shoot the last few episodes of its season in Israel. As for Jewish stars, these are some of the familiar faces you’ll see. 


JAMES CAAN

James Caan in “Back in the Game.” Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC

Those who know James Caan from gritty dramatic fare like “The Godfather,” “Misery” and more recent turns on TV’s “Las Vegas” and “Magic City” might be surprised that he’s starring in a sitcom. “Unless there are 12 people dead on page 20, I don’t usually get the job,” he quipped. But having occasionally waded into comic territory with lighter fare like “Elf,” Caan said he is “really excited about laughing a little bit” as a curmudgeonly ex-baseball player and coach whose daughter and grandson move in with him in ABC’s “Back in the Game.”

The sports milieu is a comfortable fit for Caan, who played football in college at Michigan State University and coached his son’s Little League team. He also was known as “The Jewish Cowboy” when he worked the rodeo circuit. “In many ways, my whole life has revolved around sports,” he said, and he’s got the scars to prove it. “I’ve had 15 operations, screws in my foot, just had my elbow sewn back together from non-Jewish activities, choices that were not very Yiddish.” 

But if being an athlete was outside the Jewish norm, becoming an actor was even more unusual for a kid from a tough Bronx neighborhood. “I don’t think any actors came out of there,” he said. “That was an even bigger convention to break.”

“Back in the Game” premieres Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.


ANDY SAMBERG

Andy Samberg in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/FOX

It should come as no surprise that Andy Samberg was voted class clown in school. “I got kicked out of class a lot for not being able to keep my mouth shut,” said the former “Saturday Night Live” mischief-maker, who stars as smart-ass, hotshot detective Jake Peralta in the Fox comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

“Jake goes into the crime scene acting like a maniac, but he’s great at catching bad guys. He’s serious when it comes to solving crimes, so when he’s being a jackass, you can forgive him,” observed Samberg, who is comfortable with the “irreverent and silly vibe” of the show. “To show up and be handed 25 great jokes is the best feeling you can have as a comedian,” he said.

The Berkeley native is from a long line of funny Jews. “I grew up in a funny family with a funny father, and his family was funny. We were always joking around and cracking each other up,” Samberg remembered. He wasn’t raised in an observant home. “I’m much more into the heritage and the history of it and remembering everybody that came before me more than the religious part” of Judaism, he said.

Samberg admits to missing his friends at “Saturday Night Live,” particularly the “camaraderie and the intensity of coming up with something on a Thursday or Friday and have it be on television on Saturday.” He’d be glad to make a guest appearance. “I’ll go back to host anytime they want me to.”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine” premieres Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.


LINDA LAVIN

Linda Lavin in “Sean Saves the World.” Photo by Chris Haston/NBC

Best known as the titular waitress on the long-running sitcom “Alice,” and later as Nana Sophie on “The O.C.,” and more recently, for movie roles in “The Back-up Plan” and “Wanderlust,” Linda Lavin returns to the small screen this fall as Sean Hayes’ pushy, meddling mom, Lorna, in NBC’s “Sean Saves the World.”

“It’s great to be back. I love being in this town with a job,” said Lavin, who was lured by the “smart, sophisticated” pilot script for the show about a divorced gay father and his relationships with his mother, teenage daughter and co-workers. “The generational differences are a source of comedy,” she added

Although the family’s religion has not yet been established on the series, Lavin finds that being Jewish, as well as female, “gives me a unique perspective on life. I bring what the script and tonality demands, whether it’s Jewish, European or New York humor. As an actor, I’m not the same in everything I do, but I bring myself to everything I do.”

“Sean Saves the World” premieres Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. on NBC.


SETH GREEN

Seth Green plays stoner Eli Sachs in “Dads.” Photo by Joseph Llanes/FOX

The premise of the Fox sitcom “Dads” is simple: A pair of best friends and business partners, played by Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi, have their lives disrupted when their fathers (Peter Reigert, Martin Mull) move in with them. Green, as single stoner Eli Sachs, and Riegert, as his grumpy dad David, in a case of art imitating life, are Jewish. “Jewish negativity, guilt, pessimism — there will be a lot of that stuff,” said executive producer/writer Alec Sulkin, adding, “The other pair is as WASPy as they come.”

Green, (“Family Guy,” “Robot Chicken”), whose diverse comic influences include Mel Brooks and Don Rickles, finds depth in the played-for-laughs father-son arguments. “The relationship is so caustic. We say whatever we’re feeling. We may not be solving anything, but there are moments of tenderness and connection where we’re trying to find a way to each other despite so much acquired damage,” he said. 

Thankfully, Green’s relationship with his own father, Herb, a retired teacher, is drama-free. “My dad and I get along really well,” he said, adding, “I’ve definitely acquired more sympathy for my parents as I’ve gotten older and see things from a different perspective. I don’t know that I’m in a hurry to have kids, but I would do my best not to completely foul them up.”

“Dads” premieres Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. on Fox.


LIZZY CAPLAN

Lizzy Caplan in “Masters of Sex.” Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/SHOWTIME

Since starting out in the television cult favorite “Freaks and Geeks,” Lizzy Caplan has worked steadily in TV and film in everything from “True Blood,” “Mean Girls,” “Cloverfield,” “Party Down” and “127 Hours” to a role on “New Girl” last year. Her latest role is a distinct departure from what she’s done before, and certainly her most provocative: sex researcher Virginia Johnson in the Showtime drama “Masters of Sex.” 

Based on the book of the same name by Thomas Maier, the series co-stars Michael Sheen as William Masters, Johnson’s boss and subsequent research partner and lover. Calling Johnson “by far the most layered and the toughest” character she’s played to date, Caplan says she was drawn to the contradictions in a 1950s woman and single mother with a progressive attitude toward sexuality. “She wasn’t tied down by society’s moral rules,” she said.

Lamenting the sexual double standard that still exists six decades later, Caplan feels “fortunate that I wasn’t raised in an ultra-religious household where I was told to abstain from sex and think of my body as evil.” A Los Angeles native, she did attend Hebrew school, Jewish camp, had a disco-themed bat mitzvah and went on an ulpan group trip to Israel at 16. She started acting professionally shortly thereafter.

While she’d been “quite comfortable” in the comedic, contemporary niche she’d carved out for herself, Caplan is relishing the opportunity to step out of that comfort zone. “I needed something like this,” she said, “I’m hoping that the audience will be accepting of me trying something new.”

“Masters of Sex” premieres Sept. 29 at 10 p.m. on Showtime.


JAMES WOLK

James Wolk stars in “The Crazy Ones.” Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS

After memorable turns in the dramas “Political Animals” and “Mad Men,” James Wolk is putting his comedy and improv theater background to use in the CBS workplace sitcom “The Crazy Ones,” opposite Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter owners of an advertising firm. 

Although he says it’s “nearly impossible” to keep a straight face in scenes with Williams, Wolk is relishing his role as young creative genius Zach Cropper. “He’s flying by the seat of his pants. He’s like Peter Pan — he never wants to grow up.” 

Wolk, who grew up in the Detroit area in a Reform Jewish home, was bar mitzvahed and has fond memories of celebrating the Jewish holidays and of one Jewish food in particular. “Detroit has amazing challah,” he said.

While Zach Cropper isn’t Jewish, Wolk plays a doctor named Noah Bernstein in the romantic comedy “There’s Always Woodstock,” due out later this year. 

Travel plans are also on his future agenda. “I’d like to make a trip to Israel at some point,” he said. “I never took my Birthright trip.”

“The Crazy Ones” premieres September 26 at 9 p.m. on CBS.


Other offerings of note: The PBS documentary series “Genealogy Roadshow” includes the story of a Latina from Texas hoping to verify her Sephardic Jewish ancestry (Oct. 14). Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays reporter Jonathan Harker in NBC’s “Dracula” (Oct. 25), and Ben Rappaport joins the cast of CBS’ “The Good Wife” as a fourth-year associate who’ll join the new law firm Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Cary (Matt Czuchry) are secretly forming (Sept. 29).

Q&A with Nikki Levy


“Saturday Night Live” alumna Laraine Newman shares an experience she had in high school, when, high on a psychedelic drug, she saw her mother as a person and not just her parent for the first time. 

Actress (and daughter of Motown icon Diana Ross) Tracee Ellis Ross, one of the stars of the TV series “Girlfriends,” which ended in 2008, shares a story about when she once used what she thought was a toilet, but which was actually a stage prop, and how she worried that her mistake would ruin her mom’s reputation. 

On Sept. 13, Newman and Ross were among a cast of comedians, screenwriters and actors who appeared in the show “Don’t Tell My Mother!” an increasingly popular storytelling comedy show produced monthly at Café Club Fais Do-Do in Los Angeles. Next month, the show celebrates its one-year anniversary with a performance on Oct. 11 and expands to New York.

“Don’t Tell My Mother!” creator Nikki Levy is a producer at 20th Century Fox who grew up in a Jewish household in New York — with a stereotypical Jewish mother. During a series of interviews, she described how, for her, the show’s best stories are wild without being mean-spirited, salacious but still enlightening. The following is an edited and condensed version of those interviews.

 

Jewish Journal: If you’re a performer, what’s the incentive to go out in front of an audience and share something personal and humiliating, other than to get laughs? Are there other reasons that performers might do it?

Nikki Levy: I figure it’s for a couple of reasons. One, it feels really good to be honest — and sometimes it’s easier to do it in front of a crowd than in front of a really good friend. 

Also, I think people like to get exposure. Someone who is doing our next show got an agent from doing the show [last May]. Someone also cast a pilot from doing the show. So there’s the actual work incentive.

But I think the other incentive is the honesty involved with it. I work in the entertainment business, a lot of people I get are people who act and write, and I think a lot of people don’t get to do this kind of show. They’re maybe on a TV show or write for a super successful sitcom or something, but that idea of sharing writing, performing in a different kind of medium and in a really personal way is kind of freeing. They’re not writing for someone else’s voice, not writing for a character. They’re writing as them. 

 

JJ: Your audience has been growing, and similar comedic storytelling shows also have been dong well. Why do audiences respond so enthusiastically to this type of confessional storytelling? 

NL: Well, my feeling is we’re bombarded with so much bulls— all the time that it’s very compelling when someone honest is performing. I learned this thing once, in acting class — it’s a reason we look at car crashes: All of a sudden, we see something that’s real, it captures us because it’s truth. For instance, in a play you drift off, but the minute someone gets real, actually real, your eyes automatically go to that person. In this world now, with Facebook, Twitter and celebrities tweeting personal things, we’re past the point of going to see stand-up [comedy], of someone doing a character. People want to see things that are real and things that are honest.

 

JJ: You’ve had 10 shows and hosted dozens of performers at this point. Do performers make similar confessions? You said a lot of the stories have been salacious. What other topics have popped up a lot, besides sex? 

NL: We had a great story from someone who accidentally shoplifted at age 24 and got arrested, when really she was spacey, as opposed to shoplifting. One of my favorite stories — by [performer] Jen Kober — she told a story about being a fat kid in a small town and her mother would make her ration cheese that she got from Costco. Jen, 8 years old, realized she needed to steal the entire block of cheese and convince her mother she never bought it. That’s a story I loved. They’re definitely not all sex stories. Drugs come up. Getting arrested comes up. Stealing comes up. Losing your virginity is something that comes up. 

I told my “Hand-Job in the Holy Land” story. … I think it was probably 1993. It was the USY Israel Pilgrimage. … I told that story in March. People loved it. It was short, like five to seven minutes, and people loved it. A lot of audience members are Jews … a lot of the audience having been in USY tours when they were kids. 

 

JJ: How did you become interested in comedy?

NL: Well, I came from a totally bananas household, the wild, wild East Coast of Queens. And coming from two parents who did not get along, there was a lot of yelling, so I would park myself in front of the TV and I would pop in the same three VHS tapes over and over again: “Coming to America”; the critically acclaimed [she says this sarcastically] “Moving Violations,” starring Bill Murray’s brother, John Murray — it’s so awesome but so bad; and “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.”… I don’t know what drew me to comedy, but I loved it and I love everything about it, and I was totally in love with Eddie Murphy, completely in love.

When I was 12, I came out to L.A. with my mom to visit family, and one of my family members worked at Paramount, so we got a tour of the studio lot, and I saw Eddie Murphy’s golf cart — this is during the ’80s, and I thought, “Oh my God, I’m totally going to work at a studio, in movies, in casting or development.”

For whatever reason, I chose development. But I loved comedies since I was  a kid, probably because it was a great distraction from all the craziness at home. It was such an awesome escape.

 

JJ:  So when did you move to Los Angeles to pursue development?

NL: I moved in November 2002. I’d been working at the Oxygen network, in New York, but I’d gone to school [at Northwestern University] for film [specifically, creative writing for media]. I always wanted to work in film, and there was no film in New York. I was 24 years old, and my mom said, “If not now, when? And if you don’t like it, come back.” 

I sublet my amazing place in Park Slope, and I came out here, and I felt the max I would be here is six years. [She landed several jobs, including positions at Imagine Entertainment as the junior development executive on Oscar nominee “Frost/Nixon” and running “Ice Age” director Chris Wedge’s animation company, before taking a break living in Buddhist monasteries in Northern California, “because I wanted a change,” she said.] … It was during that time, between Imagine and working for Chris, that I started writing again and doing a little performing here and there. 

Last October, we had our first [“Don’t Tell My Mother!”] show, and we had 100 people waiting at the door. It was Yom Kippur, and it was my birthday. … I had told my producer to lay out 35 seats because I wanted the place to look packed. … When all those people came, I was flabbergasted, literally. 

 

JJ: So your expectations for the show weren’t high?

NL: No, I didn’t have any high hopes for the show. I just figured we’ll do it, and it will be fun. I worked with people on their pieces, like I do now, and hoped it would be good. … I couldn’t believe all these people came. Granted, they were mostly my friends, but still they showed up and gave the impression that maybe there is something to this. The theater took the entire door of 100 people. I didn’t even arrange anything with them. They took all the money because I was, like, whatever, I don’t care.

I get that a big part of [the success] has to do with the title — we all have something with our moms and want to hear salacious stories that you wouldn’t share elsewhere. … But I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I was finally inhabiting my own skin. And it became, like, OK, we’re here to make these people happy. Let’s just have fun. And it was such a fun show.

For information about upcoming performances of “Don’t Tell My Mother!” visit donttellmymother.com.

Fox pulls version of Israeli sitcom


Fox pulled the sitcom “Traffic Light,” a version of the Israeli show “Ramzor,” due to poor ratings.

The show’s 13th and last episode will be aired May 17. Fox bought the rights to the show, about three longtime friends and their romantic relationships, last year.

Producers in Russia, France and Italy also bought the rights to the show.

Adir Miller, the Israeli producer of Ramzor, said he was unhappy about the changes made to the American version of the show. With the failure of the American “Traffic Light,” Miller said he will not allow deviation from the original format in the future, Globes reported Wednesday.

The American version was written by Bob Fischer, who wrote the Fox TV series “Married with Children” and the film “Wedding Crashers.”

The Hebrew version of the show airs in several other countries, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Georgia.

“Ramzor,” which airs on Israel Channel 2 and is owned by its franchisee Keshet, will begin airing its third season at the end of the month. Its second season was among the top 10 most watched shows of 2009, with 23.7 percent of Israelis watching. It won an international Emmy Award for best comedy last November.

“Fox’s decision is not surprising, in view of the fact that the format of the serial ‘Ramzor’ was purchased but, in practice, the version of the show known to Israeli audiences was not broadcast, but was written as a completely new serial,” Keshet said in a statement to Globes. “Fox has again approached Keshet to ask Adir Miller to write a new serial personally in the spirit of the original ‘Ramzor.’ “

Rabbis urge Fox to sanction Beck for Nazi comments


A group of American rabbis is calling on Fox News to sanction personality Glenn Beck for “his completely unacceptable attacks” on Holocaust survivor George Soros.

In an ad that was scheduled to run in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal and in a letter to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, the rabbis note Beck’s recent attack on the billionaire Soros and the response by Fox News chief Roger Ailes that the outrage was confined to “left-wing rabbis.”

“We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and Roger Ailes apologize for his dismissive remarks about rabbis’ sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air,” the letter said.

Signatories included leading figures of the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements. They call for Beck to stop talking about the Holocaust and the Nazis.

The ad was paid for by Jewish Funds for Justice, a liberal group that earlier this month delivered a petition to Fox calling for Beck’s ouster. Also, the group organized a response last year after Beck said the term “social justice” was a code for Nazism and communism.

Ad below.

 

The Gold and the Beautful


 

“They hated me, didn’t they, because they barely laughed,” Elon Gold said fretfully after his audition on the new Fox sitcom “Stacked,” starring Pamela Anderson.

“That’s exactly the neurosis your character needs,” Executive Producer Steve Levitan told the 34 year old comic-actor (“You’re the One,” “The In-Laws”).

The anxiety factor is why Gold was hired as a last-minute replacement for Tom Everett Scott, who was deemed too laid back to portray Gavin, the tense bookstore owner employing party girl Skyler (Anderson).

In the promising pilot — which one critic called “‘Frasier’ with boobs” — Gold proved a hilarious comic foil for the vacuous yet surprisingly insightful Anderson. The ex “Baywatch” beauty whose, er, body of work has rendered her America’s iconic blonde bombshell, is the latest celebrity to essentially play herself on TV, albeit not on a reality show.

Gold, in part, is playing himself, too. The character “needs to be an uptight, neurotic intellectual, and I think that Elon can portray that,” Levitan told the New York Daily News.

The comic agrees that his “head is filled with all kinds of crazy problems”; the latest is Levitan’s idea about creating a Marilyn Monroe-Arthur Miller style affair between Gavin and Skyler.

“I’m almost hoping they don’t make my character Jewish, in case romance sparks and I get in trouble from all my relatives for marrying a shiksa,” said Gold, an observant Jew.

The relatives no doubt approve his take on landing the show to “a Purim miracle,” however. On that holiday, Levitan called him in for a meeting and the next night he was surprised in his synagogue parking lot by a Fox executive, with Gold’s contract in hand.

The comic said he was excited to land the sitcom because it’s “a throwback to shows like ‘Cheers’ and ‘Taxi'” and also because of ex-Playboy model Anderson, whom he had ogled on “Baywatch.”

“It doesn’t matter what she wears, she’s provocative,” he said of meeting her on the “Stacked” set. But he’s madly in love with his wife, Sacha, who does not feel threatened by Anderson.

“Her theory is, the more beautiful the actress, the less chance I’d ever have,” Gold said.

“Stacked” airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.

 

‘O.C.’: How a Young Creator Spells Success


Josh Schwartz doesn’t sleep much on Tuesday nights anymore.

That’s the night his new show, "The O.C.," airs on FOX, and the weekly insomnia awaiting the public’s response has become an occupational hazard ever since.

Over coffee early one morning, Schwartz, the 27-year-old who’s being touted as the youngest person ever to create his own television network drama, discussed his recent starburst since the show debuted in August. "We’re starting to settle now," he said, looking disheveled by design in vintage green T-shirt, powder blue cords and sneakers.

The Jewish writer and executive producer has cause to relax, as Fox just picked up a full season of his teen drama — "it’s not a soap" — about a tony Newport Beach gated community. While the show is currently on hiatus for Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series, it is set to resume on Oct. 30. — hopefully resuming its summer spot as the highest-rated drama with teens, as well as pulling in the key coveted demographic of 18-49-year olds.

"The O.C." is centered on the Cohen family and Ryan, the troubled teen from Chino they adopt (Benjamin McKenzie). Schwartz has infused a little bit of Jewish soul into the predominantly whitebread "O.C.," with Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), a liberal Jewish pro-bono lawyer, and his son, Seth, a nerdy and sarcastic high school senior (played by the unlikeliest of geeks, Adam Brody). Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan) is the WASPy mom who has garnered them entree into this exclusive world, as she has the money from working in her father’s real estate development business.

So far, hints at the characters’ Jewishness have been limited to throwaway lines. Explaining why he can’t get along with Kirsten’s uber-WASP dad when he comes to visit, Sandy says, "I’m still Jewish." Seth makes reference to studying the Talmud and to his Jewfro in two recent episodes, and Schwartz has promised a season finale involving "Chrismakah," wherein Ryan has to make the little money he has to purchase one gift last for eight.

Explaining this choice, Schwartz said, "For Sandy it just felt like one more thing to add…. But it felt like it was a natural thing for his character, coming from his background and how it would make him sort of feel a little bit even more out of place in Newport, and for Seth, as well."

Much of the basis for ‘The O.C.’ is autobiographical, Schwartz told the Journal. Raised Reform in Providence R.I. to parents who were Jewish toy inventors, Schwartz says he based his characters on people he knew in Providence or at USC, where he majored in film. Of all the "O.C." characters, he says Seth Cohen’s take on the world is closest to his own: "Sort of a smart ass, but with an underlying sweetness."

"I remember when I was a kid I was always looking for someone like that, that was cool, to kind of get behind, and hopefully Seth Cohen will be that to inspire more kids to be proud of their background," Schwartz said, "But it’s not gonna be a Star of David burning on the Cohens’ front lawn or anything inflammatory like that. I think we just want to sort of weave it into the background of these characters and have it be part of their personal culture."

Brody, for one, is pleased with this decision. As a secular Jewish actor playing a Jewish character, he said, "I like the way Josh does it. It’s self-deprecating. I never want to be on ‘Seventh Heaven,’" he said, referring to the moralizing WB show about a reverend’s family.

For Jews living in Orange County, it’s doubtful whether being Jewish makes them feel out of place. "I think if Jews feel isolated, they isolate themselves," said Elsa Goldberg, 39, from Laguna Beach. She said there were many Jewish organizations available to people looking to meet fellow Jews.

She finds other aspects of the show off the mark as well, a sentiment expressed by quite a few who live in the O.C. There is, however, at least one thing she thinks Schwartz got half right. "I think that there’s probably a lot of intermarriage out here," she said, "but Jews always seem to find each other."

Schwartz isn’t reading all of the criticism, but he admits to perusing the message boards online. "You gotta check in," he says, "and I find if anybody starts to rag on a certain element of the show then I have to go in and make fun of it in the next episode…. But it’s interesting … as soon as the show airs, five minutes later you can go online and see what people thought about the show and that’s really exciting. Then sweat over it next week."

Despite being want for sleep, Schwartz doesn’t seem to be sweating too much at the criticism, nor the pressure of all his new responsibility. He’s mostly just grateful. "It’s really exciting and I just try not to blow it. Just try not to have too many people hate you for not appreciating it. Because I do appreciate it."

"The O.C." summer season runs on FOX in October if the baseball playoffs end early. The new season will begin on Thursday, Oct. 30 at 9 p.m.

Time’s on his Side


There’s no denying that Fox’s critically acclaimed "24" is a fast-moving show that, unlike other dramas, operates in "real time" — each 60-minute episode’s action literally unfolds over an hour’s time.

But what series co-creator Joel Surnow never anticipated was that his rookie show would move as fast in the real world: Not even halfway through its first season,"24" was nominated for Best TV Drama and Best Actor (Kiefer Sutherland)Golden Globes.Dark horse Sutherland won over perennial award show favorites Martin Sheen and James Gandolfini.

Since episode one, the series has tracked Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland) into a web of intrigue that turns his corrupted agency against him. Bauer’s odyssey grows murkier each week as he must foil an assassination attempt on an African American presidential candidate while simultaneously locating his own kidnapped wife and daughter. The twist: He cannot trust anyone.

It’s been a fast rise for Surnow, 47, who wrote for "The Equalizer" and "Bay City Blues." Surnow co-created "24" with his former "La Femme Nikita" partner, Robert Cochran.

"Both Bob and I were raised steeped in Judeo-Christian values," Surnow says. "Bob was raised Christian-Scientist, and we inform the show with those values. We see our hero the same way."

Growing up on the fringes of Beverly Hills in the 1970s was exhilarating for Surnow, who moved from Detroit at age 9 and was bar mitzvahed at West L.A.’s Congregation Mogen David. Surnow’s father, whose lineage comes from Odessa, w as a tin man. His mother, in clothing retail, came from Lithuanian descent. Surnow attended Beverly Hills High, dated the daughter of B-movie horrormeister William Castle and befriended the son of Frank Sutton (Sgt. Carter on "Gomer Pyle").

A few years ago, "24"’s star went through some growth of his own. Sutherland left Hollywood to go the cowboy way on the rodeo circuit. When he decided to make "24" his big return, there was no hesitation at Fox.

"He was transitioning from boy to man in his life," Surnow says. "I think his life experience outside of the business gave him some gravitas, as they say."

Indeed, the running storyline of "24" harkens back to 1970s TV staple "The Fugitive," which strung viewers along by dangling a dramatic carrot from week to week. "24’s" glossy cinematic style evokes filmmaker Michael Mann. No accident: Surnow worked on the first season of Mann’s visually flashy "Miami Vice."

"I was influenced by his attention to detail," Surnow says, "which I think he brought to TV — saying that a series could look bigger, like a movie."

Stylish flourishes, like a split-screen effect, make "24" appear big screen. But this is more functional than conscious homage to Norman Jewison’s "Thomas Crown Affair."

"It was organic," says Surnow, who credits the pilot’s director, Steven Hopkins and editor Dave Thompson, for this device. "A real-time show has lots of phone calls, and phone calls on TV are boring. We decided to start and end every act with a split screen."

Off the clock, Surnow spends time with his five children, ages 6 – 19. "Two Jewish, three mutts," he says, tongue in cheek. Now remarried, Surnow says, "I’m basically a holiday Jew. However, she’s a pretty devout Catholic, and there are a lot of similarities in the two cultures."

"24’s" creators have already begun brainstorming for a Day Two. But Surnow has an even grander project ahead once season one wraps.

"I’m going to plan a vacation," he says, laughing.

In the ‘Company’ of Kline


"Come and knock on my door,"began the jingle on the popular ’70s ABC sitcom "Three’s Company." These days, opportunity knocks on the door of actor Richard Kline.

Kline, who played smarmy bachelor Larry Dallas on the quintessential sitcom, returns this week as director of KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman’s new one-man show, "The Reception." Coleman’s humorous meditation on marriage follows his and Kline’s collaboration on Coleman’s first production, the autobiographical "It’s Me! Dad!"

Kline’s reception in Hollywood following the 1977-1984 run of "Three’s Company" was the typical typecasting tale. He was in demand for a roster of annoying-neighbor roles, including Jefferson on Fox’s long-running "Married With Children." He declined the role, sans regret.

"It was too sleazy," Kline says. "I know that sounds funny coming from the guy playing Larry. But it’s a question of degree."

Instead, Kline veered into a succession of dramatic guest shots: "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere," "L.A. Law." He recently returned to situation comedy on NBC’s canceled "Inside Schwartz," and appears on an upcoming episode of WB’s "The Gilmore Girls."

Kline caught the acting bug as a youth in summer camp. Descended from Hungarian-Russian stock, he grew up in New York, where his father sold Israel Bonds, and his mother worked for Jewish Welfare Board. While serving as a first lieutenant in the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles division during the VietnamWar, Kline recalls, "My mother would send over these Passover and Chanukah packages — matzah ball soup, gefilte fish."

Kline still maintains a Jewish connection. He belongs to Stephen S. Wise Temple. His daughter Colby, 18, is finishing up Milken High School. In fact, Kline will be the master of ceremonies at a Milken fundraiser next week.

And while he still enjoys acting, it isn’t everything to him. After "Three’s Company," he got into theater under the tutelage of an icon, Burt Reynolds, who later employed Kline’s directorial services on his own sitcom, "Evening Shade." Reynolds broke Kline into directing at his Jupiter, Fla., playhouse with projects such as "Social Security," a play by Andrew Bergman ("Honeymoon in Vegas").

Directing for the stage has become Kline’s prime passion. He has helmed numerous local productions, including Neil Simon’s "Rumors," and Noel Coward’s "Present Laughter," for which he won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award.

So did his "Three’s Company" lech-about-town persona hurt him while dating?

"I didn’t really do any dating," Kline says, amused. "I was married throughout the run of the show. It’s a great question, but it didn’t even apply."

"The Reception" runs at the Victory Theatre, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 24. Call (818) 841-5421 for tickets.

‘That ’70s Show’ Star Enters Cyberspace


On Fox’s breakout comedy, “That ’70s Show,” Mila Kunis plays spoiled and sassy Jackie Burkhardt. But, in real life, she’s very much a child of the ’90s, down to her fascination with the Internet.

“I’m on AOL and Netscape every day,” the 15-year-old sitcom star told Up Front. “I’m addicted.”

Kunis recently participated in an online public-service campaign called “Turn On Your Light,” sponsored by Sparksmag.com, an electronic magazine for Jewish adolescents between the ages of 9 and 13. In the PSA, Kunis describes how human kindness can brighten up even the darkest moments: “Sometimes we benefit from the light of kindness, and sometimes we’re asked to shine it,” she tells her fans from cyberspace.

“I just I thought it would be fun to do,” said Kunis. “I thought that kids could relate to it.”

Sparksmag.com is the brainchild of Rabbi Mark H. Levine, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife and three children, ages 8, 11 and 15. Levine launched the http://www.sparksmag.com Web site address in late 1997 after he realized that newsstand magazines in the secular world were better executed than what was coming out of the Jewish sector. To save costs, Levine sought an online outlet for his cyber paper, itself an offshoot of Sparks Family of Media, Levine’s nonprofit organization dedicated to melding Jewish education with the entertainment world.

Says the 46-year-old Reconstructionist rabbi of his pet project: “It’s nondenominational. It tries to teach Jewish values. It is not a religious site per se…. For many kids…if you come on strong with the religious element, that’s really going to turn them off.”

Updated monthly, Sparksmag.com, according to Levine, helps children “see elements of the world around them through Jewish eyes.” It also appeals to the fact that, as Americans, “we live in two civilizations, not just the Jewish world.” In hitting up Sparksmag.com, Levine promises, Jewish kids will glean factoids related to their heritage and history.

Levine is now in the early stages of developing a radio show. He also hopes to enlist the talents of Marla Sokoloff (“The Practice”) to join Kunis on the “Turn On Your Life” spots.

As for Kunis, the sitcom star thinks that, as a young Jewish actress, it’s important to set a good example for her fans and Hollywood peers. Aside from more episodes of “That ’70s Show,” Kunis will grace the cover of YM magazine in September and, as her schedule permits, continue to participate in causes when and where she can.

“The more I could do to help people, the better,” said Kunis. “Every little thing counts.” — Michael Aushenker, Community Editor