Friday, January 30, 2009

The Weather May Be Cold... But the Tube is Sizzling

Well folks we are back on the desktop in the ol’ Bunkey Room…. Just in case you are a new reader here at NWOW, we call it The Bunkey Room because my office is in one of the spare bedrooms that still has the bunk bed that was left behind by the previous owners. Technically it’s a loft-bed… but that’s besides the point. Thanks to my pal Danny at Compusave… I have my computer back and it is working better than ever. If you saw the earlier column, my computer had to be wiped clean after it caught a nasty virus from the the blogskins dot com website which I innocently clicked on while looking for a new background for this blog and my podcast. I brought the machine to Danny and as soon as I told him I messed it up by going on a skins site… I knew I sounded just like every other goofball that picks up spyware from porn sites…even though my virus acquisition was rather innocent.

So this year is off to a wintry start… It’s either cold or snowing.. but we still haven’t had that big ass kicking snow storm.. just little 2-3 inch snow falls that require some minor shoveling but are nonetheless quite annoying. So with the weather cold… at least the Winter 2009 TV season has been quite hot.. with this one notable exception.

LOVING LEAH – What a bizarre show this turned out to be. In an era where TV Movies and miniseries have been replaced by dopey reality shows, CBS continues to occasionally run the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. This one was about a woman named Leah who married a “born again” Jew. Her husband went from a lifestyle of minimal Jewish involvement to becoming ultra Orthodox. Unfortunately, the poor shlub drops dead at the beginning of the movie and because of a rather obscure Jewish law, his poor widow Leah is told that she must marry her husband’s unmarried brother. Unless…

Well it turns out the brother is a doctor living in DC, and embracing the lifestyle of a pais wearing Talmud studier like his brother is not in the cards. The widow Leah tells him that he can get off the hook by participating in an ancient ritual. Unfortunately, the Rabbi who conducts this ceremony should have done it in Hebrew, because one line just rubs the good Dr. the wrong way and he backs out and announces that he will marry Leah instead.

Well this marriage is one of those “Let’s fool Mr. Roper/Mr. Furley with our living arrangements”… Leah feels restricted by her lifestyle and decides a move out of Brooklyn away from her domineering mother might not be such a bad idea and then we spend the rest of the movie wondering if these two knuckleheads are going to hook up.

However, whoever cast this movie had a sense of humor because Leah’s frumpy sister is played by Natasha Lyonne from American Pie and worst of all her mother is played by Susie Essman, the foul mouthed comedienne whose crazy ad libbed monologues on Curb Your Enthusiasm prevent it from ever being syndicated on cable. That casting might have backfired because instead of following the movie, you spend the whole time waiting for this ultra Orthodox woman to unfurl a slew of f bombs on the other cast members.

Was this movie realistic? Perhaps. The ultra Orthodox single women do sneak into movie theaters and I have heard even sneak away to go clubbing… (I have been with Trophy Wife for so long I don’t even remember the women that I used to see at the bar and club scene!) But the writers had to be very careful here to not step on any toes while maintaining some semblance of accuracy. Aside from a couple of minor errors, the movie was somewhat plausible. But I did cringe when the Doctor asked Leah if she loved his brother and she didn’t say anything. Usually these women get married after a few dates and of course they don’t love their husbands at their weddings.. but they do tend to grow to love them over time. That might have been a better answer to that very sticky question.

Oddly enough, there are very few scenes involving the Ultra Orthodox Men... it's mostly women we see which makes you wonder if the screenplay writer had access to the men in a community that spends a lot of time doing things seperately. The screenplay was written by a woman named Peninah Goldstein. The men appear to be more isolated from the real world spending almost all of their time stuyding the Talmud or at work. Perhaps Goldstein felt more comfy writing about the women for the sake of accuracy since she wouldn't have been able to do any Oprah/Barbara Walters-esque interviews to see how the men really feel.

And The Jewish Week weighs in this week in a column by Jonathan Mark where he criticizes Essman for telling the ladies on The View that when she did the movie she portrayed her character as upset about her daughter’s dating the non religious doctor as if her real life daughter was dating a right wing Republican. Mark seems offended by this as if it’s a dig on ultras but in reality that answer is pretty much on the money. Mark compares the Leah character to a Chabad-nik, but the movie never really states what kind of Chasidic group this family belonged to. And in reality, the average chusid would be quite upset if their daughter had married a non observant man… so Essman seems to have hit the nail right on the head. Essman actually did a decent job... but it woulda been funny in the scene where Lyonne’s character was eating donuts if she would have barged in and yelled….”Hey stop eating those donuts you fat f---!!”


Woo hoo.. I am confused as always.. but thrilled that the show has taken on this Time Travelling twist. And rumor has it that the guy who created the Time Loop Theory that I have written about in the past is actually an employee of ABC! Is this really a plant? I don’t know.. but the show is just as wacky and weird as always.

I still don’t get it that all 6 have to go back to save the ones left behind.. Five isn't good enough? Trophy Wife thinks that they all need to get back in time to the moment they got on the helicopter so they can readjust the stuff that happened after that fateful moment. Nonetheless, the whole idea of getting off and getting back on the island seems to be a back burner story since all the fun seems to go on on that wild crazy island. Now we find out that the oh so popular Desmond is trying to find Daniel’s mom because he suddenly remembers that Daniel once told him to do so.

Last Wednesday, Desmond found a link between his evil father in law Charles and Daniel. This is one of those crazy situations you rarely find on TV where 2 or more characters have the same first name since it makes un-natural TV dialogue more confusing. Nonetheless, Desmond had a friend on the island named Charlie and named his son Charlie. Now the Lost blog commenters are speculating that the time maneuverings that all 3 Charles are actually the same person… Other sites wonder who he is named after…. Isn’t it obvious? Charles Nelson Reilly!

Desmond’s father in law tells him he can find Daniel’s mom in LA. That perked up my ears because I remember that Kate was in LA last week hanging out with Sun. And while we are all trying to figure out whos the mama… Kate has assumed the identity of Baby Aaron’s mother even though Aaron’s mom was really Claire. Ladies and Gentlemen I present my latest Lost theory…

Daniel is from the future… and his “mom in LA” is actually Kate,… but in reality he is Claire’s son Aaron. Sounds like a soap opera doesn’t it?

Someone at ABC thought it would be a great idea to put Life on Mars with its time travel elements on after Lost. Not such a good idea… especially since they don’t even have a commercial or a Liz Cho news tease between the end of Lost and the beginning of LoM. They just go - boom – right into it. Huh? You need some time to decompress after watching that crazy show… and LoM had such a wacky opening with a non sympathetic cop and a building jumper that it was hard to squeeze all this stuff into my poor little brain!

The episode by the way was not as good as the first batch and from what I have read on the internet – the format is being tweaked to welcome the viewers that did not see the earlier episodes. Those earlier shows in the fall followed the format of the very popular British version which I am now thinking of watching if I can find it somewhere. Nonetheless, the fact that our time traveling cop ended up doing the ol' hoochie mcscoochie with a woman who he later found out was the boss’s daughter was quite an amusing twist. I have heard a theory that Sam Tyler is really in a coma after being hit by a car, and he is dreaming that he is in the middle of a 1970s crime drama. That actually makes sense to me.


Jack is back and 24 is kickin butt. I see a lot of fans are kvetching on line about this season.. but I must admit that after not seeing a fresh 24 since May of ’07…(except for the movie late last year that came too soon after a thrilling Giant game)… the show seems right on track with the usual twists and turns. Interestingly enough, I have noticed a lot of shows have been using storytelling devices in non chronological order. I don’t know where this started… maybe the Seinfeld backwards episode where they went to India? That was actually based on the backwards storytelling in a play. Maybe the brilliant movie Memento, which involved a man who has no short term memory so he is just as in the dark as the viewer? Nonetheless, 24has to play by some strict rules and can only do linear story telling in real time, so let’s give the writers credit for playing under some very difficult rules!

This season picks up with the usual craziness of past seasons... even though CTU is no longer around and Bill and Chloe seem to have started their own intelligence company. I also never realized how young Janeane Garafolo looks! She is actually older than me, but her character could probably pass for her late 20s. The whole twist with Tony being alive is a little soap opera-esque… but it’s still rather entertaining. I don’t take the fans complaining too seriously since those same fans will be back on the same websites criticizing Heroes once that show comes back. If you don’t like it,… watch something else, but quit the endless (fill in the show) sucks and jumped the shark banter so the rest of us can enjoy ourselves!

PUMPSTRADAMUS SUPER BOWL PICK: Pumpy set a new record hitting 11 wins and finished 11-6 while Unbiased Giants fan ended the season at a respectable 31-19-1. We hope to have Pumpy on a podcast shortly. This Sunday the Steelers are 7 point favorites over Arizona. Sayeth the Pump: "Because the Vatican reinstated a Holocaust denying Bishop, I must go against the Cardinals! Take the Steelers!"


alberich said...

My lovely wife and I actually watched Loving Leah. My lovely wife is a woman with a great degree of patience for everything except commercials (she'll change the channel away from any commercial accept the Optimum Online commercials beloved by our daughter who objects to any change away from those). My wife was most curious as to how exactly the doctor and Leah would actually end up together for realsies ... so we actually sat through this one.

My wife thought it was definitely a movie about Jews that was made for Evangelical Christian consumption. They might no know who Susie Essman is, so the waiting for the f-bomb distraction wouldn't happen with the presumed target audience.

My objection to this sort of story is that it's as if Conservative and/or Modern Orthodox Judaism don't exist. The only meeting ground between secular and frum is a Reform shul? At least they acknowledged Reform Judaism. Sometimes these frummie breaks with his/her community stories present things as if once you leave frummie-dum, you can only be entirely secular. There is no other choice.

Actually, IIRC in the movie you do see a portrait of a certain Rebbe so they are definitely Chabad.

Nate said...

This is a very good question. I actually don't recall seeng the Lubav Rebbe pic... so maybe you're right about that.

Why a reform temple? Well if they had already cast Ricki Lake as the rabbi, it couldn't be an Orthodox Shul!

I also found it odd that she wandered into a Reform Temple. Did she do it because she knew it would shock her mother? And was she running away from her ultra Ortho life or her domineering mother? And did she go to a Reform Temple because her ulterior motive was to ultimately get her "husband" interested in Judaism?

A Reform Temple (or an Aish beginner service) could be a good service for a never involved Jew like the "husband" because the services are probably easier to follow than the more traditional Conservative and Orthodox. That is not a diss on the Conservs and Orthos, or Conservadox or Orthoservatives.... but I have seen people with very little Jewish background have a difficult time following along those types of services even though my 2 regular Rabbis over the past 32 years have gone to great lengths to try to help people not feel left out!

Back in the pre Trophy Wife Days, I used to know a lovely young lady who had grown up Orthodox who joined me one Friday Night for services at Bnai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side. Her quote afterwards - "It gave me the heebie jeebies". So it is a tad of a stretch to imagine a frummie wandering to reform,

alberich said...

Actually my parents agreed on Reform for exactly the sort of reason you mention: my dad went to a Conservadox shul growing up and my mom's family's connection to Judaism was that the didn't go to school on the High Holiday's and observed Hannukah and Passover rather than Christmas and Easter -- so they agreed on Reform.

In terms of religiosity, it was a perfect choice for both of them. However, as far as simply following the services was concerned, until my mom finally learned to read Hebrew, it was actually easier for her to follow Conservative because the Siddur had Hebrew on one side and English on the other (and, unlike in Orthodox services, pages would be announced, she could sit by my dad and follow from him, etc.) -- as opposed to the Reform Siddur/Services where there was a lot of jumping around between Hebrew and English and, unless you knew both languages, it would be hard to follow.

Of course, in the movie, they did say his family did have some affiliation with a Reform shul, and it was presented that she kinda walked by the shul and was drawn in ... but still, it would be nice to see a shout out to our movement every now and then ;)

That was one of the nice things about that movie where Ben Stiller became a Rabbi and married the blond girl of Irish ancestry who converted: the page numbers from Sim Shalom!