New shows on CBS, Netflix feature Jewish talent

Adam Goldberg

By Nate Bloom, Special to the Jewish Light

A new version of the ‘80s TV series “The Equalizer” started on CBS on Feb. 7. Queen Latifah stars as Robyn McCall, an enigmatic woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. ADAM GOLDBERG, 50, is a main cast member. He’s best known as the star of the “Hebrew Hammer” movies and as the Jewish army soldier who tragically dies in a one-on-one fight with a Nazi soldier near the end of “Saving Private Ryan.”

“Clarice,” another new CBS series, starts on Feb. 11 at 9 p.m.,  follows FBI agent Clarice Sterling a year after (1993) the events depicted in the film “The Silence of the Lambs.” MICHAEL CUDLITZ, 56, a big burly guy whose father is Jewish, plays a main character. He was a series regular in “Band of Brothers” and “Southland.”

“Clarice” was created by ALEX KURTZMAN, 47, and JENNY LUMET, 53. Kurtzman credits include co-writing “Star Trek” (2009) and “Star Trek: Into the Darkness” (2013).  Lumet is the daughter of the late, great director SIDNEY LUMET (“Dog Day Afternoon” and “12 Angry Men”). Lena Horne was her maternal grandmother. Now mostly a producer, Jenny Lumet is best known for writing “Rachel Getting Married” (2008), a critically acclaimed film.  Her husband, ALEX WEINSTEIN, is an artist whom Lumet once referred to as “a nice Jewish boy.”

The original Netflix film, “Malcolm & Maria,” began streaming on Feb. 5. It’s a two-character movie, made during the pandemic, with a very small crew. Here is the brief official description: “When filmmaker Malcolm (John David Washington) and his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) return home from a movie premiere and await his film’s critical response, the evening takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the couple’s love.”

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For more details, see the long Variety review on-line, which gave it a rave review, as did other many outlets. (Oscar nominations seem a certainty.) All this praise includes SAM LEVINSON, 36, the film’s director and writer. He is best known as the creator and “showrunner” of the American version of “Euphoria” on HBO (which stars Zendaya and was based on an Israeli series). Levinson is the son of Oscar-winning (“Rain Man”) director BARRY LEVINSON, 77.

“French Exit,” a new film, opens in whatever theaters are open on Feb. 12 and will begin streaming on demand the same day or shortly thereafter. Michelle Pfeiffer plays an aging American socialite living on the little that is left of her inheritance. She moves to a small Parisan apartment with her son and cat (who is the reincarnation of her late husband). The film played the New York Film Festival and major reviews are already in. Pfeiffer’s performance has been widely praised and she will probably get an Oscar nom. Major reviewers were about evenly split on the film. Likewise, critics were divided on how well AZAZEL JACOBS, 49, directed the film. I always root for him—because his father, avant-garde filmmaker KEN JACOBS, 87, was my college cinema studies professor.

On Feb. 2, it was announced that Jeff Bezos would step down as CEO of Amazon sometime in the third quarter of 2021. He would “transition” into the role of executive chairman. His replacement as CEO will be ANDY JASSY, 53. (Bezos will retain a lot of oversight power in his new role.)

Jassy is currently the head of Amazon’s highly successful cloud computing division (“AWS”). A Harvard business school grad, he joined Amazon in 1997 and worked in several positions before he and Bezos decided to launch AWS in 2005. Jassy has been the head of the division since then.  He has a reputation as being even-tempered and low-key, like Bezos. His even-temper will be tested in the public arena. Big tech, including Amazon, is facing a storm of varied criticisms.

Jassy grew-up in a wealthy New York City suburb. His father, EVERETT, now 83, is a Harvard Law School grad and was a partner in a major law firm. His grandfather, DAVID, also an attorney, was born in Russia. Andy Jassy’s mother, MARGERY, 82, is also Jewish and she grew up near Detroit.

Andy Jassy married (1997) his wife, ELANA CAPLAN JASSY, 53, in a ceremony presided over a rabbi who is her cousin. The couple has two children. At the time of their marriage, Elana’s father, GEORGE, was a partner in the same firm as Andy’s father and he was also head of the Jewish Television Network, a production company.