Local boy Bryan Greenberg among Jewish actors leading new TV shows

BY CATE MARQUIS, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Three new TV shows debut, featuring Jewish men in lead roles.

On ABC, October Road, a character-driven drama starring Parkway graduate Byran Greenberg, debuted Thursday, Mar. 15 on local Channel 30 and will air weekly at 9 p.m., following the popular Grey’s Anatomy.

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Over at NBC, Channel 5 locally, Raines is detective drama staring actor Jeff Goldblum, in a cross between various incarnations of the genre. The program airs weekly on Thursdays at 9 p.m.

On Showtime, radio host Ira Glass brings his quirky series of true-life stories, This American Life, from NPR radio to the television screen. It airs on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

In October Road, Bryan Greenberg stars as Nick Garrett, a writer who is returning to his small town after ten years. Greenberg was born in Omaha, Nebraska but moved to Chesterfield, Missouri, with his parents, both psychologists, at age twelve. He was interested in acting from a young age. When his sister tried out for a role in an Omaha ballet company’s version of The Nutcracker, eight-year old Bryan tagged along and ended up with a role and toured with the production. He left for New York after graduating from Parkway Central High School to launch his career. He has appeared in numerous films and TV shows. His film roles include the drama A Civil Action, with John Travolta, and teen film Perfect Score. In 2005, he starred with Meryl Streep, who played a Jewish psychologist in the family comedy-drama Prime. Greenberg played her artist son David Bloomberg, who falls for one of his psychologist mother’s non-Jewish patients, precipitating a family crisis. On TV, Greenberg has had roles in Law and Order, The Sopranos and One Tree Hill.

In his new show October Road, the problem for Bryan Greenberg’s character Nick Garrett is that Nick’s novel may have burned some bridges in his hometown. His novel featured characters based on real people back home. Since it cast some of them, and the town, in a not-too-flattering light, not everyone is glad to see him return. The show has some elements of Zach Braff’s film Garden State, with the local-boy-made-good aspect but Nick is not the emotional mess as the central character of Braff’s film. The show has a very appealing, gold-tinged visual style, with glowing lighting and prettily framed scenes evoking small-town nostalgia. The dialogue and the cast of characters already show promise for a good drama, with a touch of ironic or bittersweet humor.

Greenberg is good-looking but in a guy-next-door way, and his likeable, nice-guy persona holds promise for the show. Greenberg does a good job crafting a lead character we want to get to know, and strikes the right tone of a man conflicted about his return home to a place he had thought he left behind forever. The first episode of October Road was a very promising start, with a bit of a mystery to solve, for a show worth a look.

In another of the new TV shows Raines, movie actor Jeff Goldblum stars as a cop with some personal problems, who solves murders by so vividly imagining the crime scene and victim that they come to life. His imagination is so vivid that he hallucinates that the victims are speaking to him. This odd concept draws on other police dramas with quirky detectives, like Monk, and supernatural, voice-of-the-dead shows like Medium, but if he hallucinates that the dead are speaking to him, could that mean he might be schizophrenic? Anyway, we shall see how this one evolves. Jeff Goldblum is a talented actor, and has done numerous fine turns in supporting roles, but whether he will be appealing enough in this lead role to charm, or at least intrigue audiences, is something we shall also have to see as the show develops.

One more new TV show is the non-fiction This American Life on Showtime.

If you have heard the radio program This American Life, you know what to expect: real-life stories about people that start out either ordinary or with a predictable path, which suddenly veer off in unexpected, often ironic directions. Glass’ dry narrative often underlines the ironic twists in these tales of folly rewarded or “no good deed goes unpunished.” No two stories are alike and you never know where actions will lead. The radio show is part O. Henry story and part Twilight Zone, and the TV version promises the same.