‘Manchester,’ ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Code Black’

‘Manchester’ an Oscar contender

Kenneth Lonergan

“Manchester by the Sea,” which opened last week in the Bay Area, has gotten positive reviews from major critics, and Oscar talk is in the air for the lead actors and director-screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan, 55. The film tells the story of the working-class Chandler family, Joe and his 17-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), who live north of Boston. Joe suddenly dies and his will names younger brother Lee (Casey Affleck) as Patrick’s legal guardian. The money that comes with the guardianship persuades Lee to give up his nothing job and come back to Manchester-by-the-Sea, even though it forces him to deal with a tragic past involving his ex-wife (Michelle Williams).

Lonergan has plowed this ground before. Most of his works begin with an unexpected event that forces a confrontation between close friends or family members. The dialogue is always smart, sharp and surprisingly funny. Lonergan’s first Broadway success, “This Is Our Youth” (1996), was about three young adult Jewish friends who face a crisis involving embezzled money, a possible mob hit and the need to quickly raise cash by selling drugs. Still, there’s humor in the play. Likewise, Lonergan’s film “You Can Count on Me” (2000) was a critical hit about a “half-Jewish” brother and sister who work to sort out their relationship after a crisis.

Something familiar, something new

Ricki Lake

NBC is presenting the Broadway musical version of “Hairspray” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7. Harvey Weinstein, 64, reprises his co-starring Broadway role as Edna Turnblad. Billy Eichner, 38, has a small role as a TV reporter. Appearing in cameos are Ricki Lake, 48, and Marissa Jaret Winokur, 45. Both played star character Tracey Turnblad in, respectively, the original “Hairspray” film and the original Broadway musical. Marc Shaiman, 57, composed the music.

The same day, Hulu begins streaming the entire first season (10 episodes) of “Shut Eye.” It centers on a failed magician who holds himself out as a psychic. Emmanuelle Chriqui, 37 (“Entourage”), co-stars as a gifted hypnotist.

‘Code Black’ and strength in numbers

Marlee Matlin, 51, will guest star on the Dec. 7 episode of CBS medical drama “Code Black.” She’ll play a deaf patient who arrives at the hospital with her translator after their car rolls over into a river. Matlin’s film credits include “Children of a Lesser God,” for which she won the best actress Oscar.

Gabrielle Carteris

While none of the regular cast members of “Code” are Jewish, Gabrielle Carteris, 55, played a recurring character, Nurse Amy Wolowitz, in the show’s first season (2015-16). I suspect Carteris has put her “nursing career” on hold because she has been very busy since last March when she became president of SAG-AFTRA, the 160,000-member union of actors, broadcasters and voice-over artists. Carteris assumed the office when the union’s president died midterm and, in the words of a recent New York Times profile, the studios were confident she would “leave the sluggish union on cruise control.” But in August, she helped advocate for a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in the industry. In October, she authorized the current strike of voice actors who work for video game makers.

Her toughness was evident when she co-starred in “Beverly Hills, 90210.” In 2008, she told the Forward that even though she played Andrea Zuckerman, the only explicitly Jewish character on “90210,” a Jewish executive ordered her to take off the Star of David she wore on set one day. He said, “Middle America doesn’t want to see that.” She told him she would take it off only if other cast members also were banned from wearing religious symbols, such as crosses. The execs couldn’t get around this point, so they banned wearing any religious symbols.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.