“Rise,” a musical drama based on the nonfiction book “Drama High” (2013) by Michael Sokolove, 61, premiered on NBC on March 13. Sokolove grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, a blue-collar community that has long been in an economic slump. Josh Radnor, 43, plays a character based on Lou Volpe, a Levittown high school teacher who ran an acclaimed theater program for 45 years. Radnor, the former star of “How I Met Your Mother,” is a practicing Jew and a practicing musician. He is currently playing in a band with Australian Jewish musician Ben Lee, 39, and the two released a CD late last year.
Also premiering on March 13 was the ABC series “For the People.” It focuses on new lawyers working for the prosecution and the defense on criminal cases in federal court in New York City. Ben Rappaport, 32, plays a newly minted assistant U.S. attorney. Ben Shenkman, 49, plays the head of the federal prosecution unit. Rappaport, who grew up in a religious home in Houston, has appeared in a few recurring TV roles (including “The Good Wife”). Shenkman was a regular on the TBS comedy “Royal Pains,” playing Dr. Sacani, and was Emmy-nominated for his performance in the HBO production of “Angels in America.” (Both “Rise” and “For the People” air at 10 p.m.)
Zach Braff, 42, the former star of “Scrubs,” returns to series TV with his new ABC show “Alex, Inc.” He plays Alex Schuman, a radio journalist, husband and father of two who decides to quit his job and start his own company (starts March 28). The HBO series “Barry” stars Bill Hader as a low-rent hit man who moves to Los Angeles and finds a new outlook on life by getting involved in the L.A. community theater scene. Co-stars include Henry Winkler, 72, Canadian actress Sarah Goldberg, 32, and Glenn Fleshler, 49 (starts March 25).
Also on HBO is the two-part documentary “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” a biographical tribute to the late comedian (premieres March 26-27). The director is Judd Apatow, 50. Early in his career, Apatow wrote for the comedian; he later discovered in Shandling’s journals that he had made a conscious decision to mentor him and others. Apatow told Variety, “He wanted to help people and he thought that was the win in life, to help people.” There are tons of clips and home movies. The more than 40 interviewees include Sacha Baron Cohen, Jon Favreau, Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman.
If you have an on-demand service, or the ABC TV app, check out the March 21 episode of “The Goldbergs” in which Camp Ramah is mentioned. Series creator Adam F. Goldberg, 41, is from Philadelphia, so I think he was referencing the Camp Ramah overnight facility located in the nearby Pocono mountains, not the one in Northern California. Still, it’s cool that the Conservative Judaism-affiliated camp was mentioned.