December 8, 2019

The Jewish Faces of Fall TV

Your guide to the members of the Tribe behind the new and returning shows as stars, creators and characters this season.

ABC Sept. 26
In the ABC sitcom “Single Parents,” Brad Garrett plays a wealthy, widowed dermatologist with 7-year-old twin daughters and a new set of friends. As the divorced father of two college-age kids in real life, a lot about it seems familiar to Garrett.

“You’re thrown into a social group according to whom your kids hang out with. And you don’t necessarily have a lot in common with the adults at soccer or the birthday parties,” Garrett said, adding that the character he plays “reminds me of some fathers at the school when my kids were growing up.”

His character, Douglas, also reminds him of himself. “As far as the sarcasm, there’s a lot of me in this guy. I get to be acerbic and edgy. He’s definitely a strong cup of coffee, this guy. I love playing someone that has a little bit of
an edge.”

When he read the pilot script, Garrett said, he “liked the fact that [Douglas] was the jerk of the group, because behind that jerk is a very afraid, lonely man. This is someone I haven’t played on TV before. I hope my parenting was better.”

He’s cautiously optimistic that the new show will be as successful as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which ran for nine seasons, with him costarring as Ray Romano’s brother. “It’s very early but the ensemble and the good writing brought me here, and with a little luck we’ll have what we had on ‘Raymond.’”

Netflix Nov. 16
Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin come to Netflix in a series from creator Chuck Lorre (“The Big Bang Theory,” “Mom,” “Young Sheldon”) about friendship and aging, with Douglas as a divorced, once-successful actor-turned-acting coach, Sandy Kominsky, and Arkin as his best friend and agent, Norman Newlander.

“We talk a lot about prostates on this show,” Lorre (born Charles Levine) said. “It began with my desire to write about what I’m living, which is getting older, and entropy — the decay of the flesh. There’s the loss of loved ones and how it affects your relationships and friendships, and how you respond to a culture that feels like it’s moving away from you. It has to be funny; otherwise it’s heartbreaking.”

That combination of comedy, tragedy and difficulties attracted Douglas to the role. “I try to pick projects that resonate with me or have some things that I can understand, and I certainly understand Sandy Kominsky and some of the stuff that he’s going through,” he said.

Judaism comes into play, as Norman is “a man who’s not necessarily comfortable with how he was raised and he’s charting his own spiritual journey as part of the series,” Lorre said. “That’s something Alan and I were both interested in.”

Lisa Edelstein (“Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce”) shocks shivah sitters when she makes an entrance in Episode Three as Norman’s alcoholic, pill-popping daughter.

CBS Oct. 1
After seven seasons on “New Girl,” Max Greenfield wasn’t looking to do another TV series so soon, but he found “The Neighborhood” too good to pass up. Called in to replace another actor in the comedy about a white family moving into a black neighborhood in Los Angeles, “I got to see everything that had been established in the pilot: The scripts, the world, the sets,” he said. “It was so well done that it became a no-brainer to do the show.”

The fact that it was an ensemble and that he portrays a more grounded character than Schmidt on his previous series also appealed to him. “After seven seasons of insanity on ‘New Girl,’ I’m happy to let everyone else go nuts,” Greenfield said. “I have incredible teammates here, and I knew I didn’t have to carry the show.”

The subject matter also resonated. “It’s about two families in a unique scenario from culturally different places and it gives us all the room in the world to explore,” Greenfield said. “It has provided a level of consciousness that I like to think I had before, but I’m certainly aware of it now. It’s the most diverse writers’ room I’ve ever seen, and I’m excited to see what they come up with.”

Ann Curry, the producer of and host of returning PBS show, “We’ll Meet Again.”

PBS Oct. 30
“We’ll Meet Again,” produced and hosted by Ann Curry, returns to PBS with six new episodes about people seeking to reconnect with strangers or long-lost friends who impacted their lives. This season, one episode involves two Holocaust survivors, both of whom are named Benjamin. The first “is a survivor of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau and survived a death march,” Curry said. “He was dying. He just couldn’t hold on any longer. He collapsed and then he woke up in a hospital where he met another boy who also thought he’d lost everyone in his family, and they made a connection. Now, at 89, he wants to reconnect.”

The Ben in the second story was a toddler during the war who survived several brushes with death before his family escaped to the United States. “He was among the only Jewish people who were brought into this country during the war. The number was less than a thousand,” Curry said. “After their arrival, they were put in a camp with barbed wire around it in upstate New York and
were kept there till the end of the war. [Benjamin] met a little girl there who made him
realize he could be happy again, and now he’s seeking her.”

The episode is scheduled to air sometime in November.

CBS Sept. 27
Twenty years since it ended its 10-season run, a rebooted “Murphy Brown” is returning to CBS with nearly its entire cast intact, including Grant Shaud as Miles Silverberg. Though he’s no longer the naïve young producer he initially played, the Jewish character is as neurotic as ever.

“I thought, ‘How’s that going to play?’ Part of the original character was that he was so young and in over his head,” Shaud said. “But when we did the promos it came right out of me.”

Shaud “didn’t even dream” that “Murphy Brown” would return “because you don’t sit around and dream about the impossible. I’m still pinching myself,” he said. The cast kept in touch over the years, but he hadn’t seen any of the returning writers in 20 years. “By the end of that first week we were so exhausted because it was so emotional,” he said. “It was like going to a high school reunion every day.”

Fans of the original series should know that Miles’ marriage to Corky (Faith Ford) is being treated like it never happened, but the new fans the show hopes to attract won’t notice. “We’re introducing it to a whole new generation,” Shaud said.

Amazon Prime Nov. 2
Based on the podcast of the same name, “Homecoming” is a half-hour psychological thriller starring Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman, a caseworker who helps returning war veterans at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center. But not all is kosher, and secrets come back to haunt her four years after she has left the facility. Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg adapted their podcast for and serve as show runners of the Amazon series.

“The show is very concerned with these kinds of moral gray areas, especially in the late episodes,” Horowitz said. “[Bergman] has to dissect how she feels about what she has done, how guilty she should be and how she should make amends for it.”

The cast also includes Bobby Cannavale, and Sissy Spacek as Bergman’s mother.

“It was fun to dig back into [the podcast] and expand it” for television, Horowitz said. “It’s about twice as long as the podcast so we can go deeper into it. We made two seasons of the podcast. The show is kind of a mix of the two [seasons]. There will be a second season [of the TV show]. We have a lot of ideas. There are a lot of places it can go.”


From “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner comes “The Romanoffs,” an anthology series featuring eight separate stories about people who think they’re descended from the Russian royal family. Launching Oct. 12 on Amazon Prime, the cast
includes Corey Stoll, Amanda Peet and Paul Reiser.

Now without Roseanne Barr, her family comedy continues on ABC in “The Conners.” The cast includes Sarah Gilbert and Michael Fishman. (Oct. 16).

The second season of Sarah Silverman’s “I Love You, America,” launches on Hulu Sept 6.

James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal return for season two of HBO’s “The Deuce” on Sept. 9. Gyllenhaal also plays the title role of a woman who becomes obsessed with a
student in her class, a poetry prodigy, in “The Kindergarten Teacher.” Based on an Israeli film of the same name, it debuts on Netflix
Oct. 12.

Also of Israeli origin, “The Good Cop” from producer Andy Breckman (“Monk”) stars Josh Groban in the title of a by-the-book NYPD detective who lives with his father (Tony Danza), a corrupt former cop. It begins streaming Sept. 21 on Netflix.

Jonah Hill and Emma Stone enter a pharmaceutical trial that has dire complications in “Maniac,” a Netflix limited series premiering Sept. 21.

Eric Dane sets sail for the last time in “The Last Ship,” which begins its final season on TNT Sept. 9.

Rachel Bloom returns to the CW Oct. 12 in the fourth and final season of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

The personal side of Israeli classical violinist Itzhak Perlman is showcased in the documentary “Itzhak,” coming to PBS’ “American Masters” Sept. 14. On the same date, Israeli actor Oded Fehr (“24: Legacy”) joins Sean Penn and Natascha McElhone in the Hulu series “The First,” about the launch of the first human mission to Mars.

Gail Simmons is back to judge the second season of Universal Kids’ “Top Chef Junior,” which includes a Jewish contestant from Los Angeles, beginning Sept. 8.

Fred Savage returns to host “Child Support,” premiering Oct. 5 on ABC.

Jewish performers nominated for Emmy Awards, airing live on NBC Sept. 17, include Larry David, Henry Winkler, Carl Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, Judith Light, Liev
Schreiber, Judd Apatow, Evan Rachel Wood
and Michael Stuhlbarg. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has 14 potential winners, creator
Amy Sherman-Palladino and actresses Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein
among them.

James Wolk (“Zoo”) is in the cast of the CBS All Access series “Tell Me a Story,” a psychological thriller premiering Oct. 31 that twists the children’s fairy tales “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Three Little Pigs” and “Hansel and Gretel” into something dark and sinister.

Ben Stiller executive produces and directs the Showtime limited series “Escape at Dannemora,” based on the infamous
jailbreak and manhunt that riveted the
nation in 2015. Premiering Nov. 18, it stars Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Arquette and
Paul Dano.