Spinning the TV dial
Sheryl Sandberg, 49, the chief operating officer of Facebook and a Menlo Park resident, will be featured on the PBS celebrity ancestry show “Finding Your Roots.” Her episode is scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Meanwhile, the Feb. 5 episode will feature former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who reportedly was surprised when he learned, on camera during the taping, that he had about 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.
In “The Passage,” a sci-fi drama series that started on Fox on Jan. 14, Mark-Paul Gosselaar stars as a federal agent tasked with bringing a young girl to a secret medical base where she’ll be a test subject for a dangerous virus. Known as Zack on “Saved by the Bell” and Det. John Clark on “NYPD Blue,” Gosselaar, 44, had a Jewish grandfather. The series also stars Emmanuelle Chriqui, 43, who played Sloan on HBO’s “Entourage” and was in the movie “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” as the love interest of the character played by Adam Sandler, 52.
The documentary “Three Identical Strangers” was a surprise hit when it played in theaters last year, and now available on CNNgo and on CNN TV, debuting Saturday, Feb. 2. The doc tells the story of three identical, American Jewish baby boys who were separated at birth in 1961 by a Jewish adoption agency and placed with three Jewish families. I will not spoil the story’s surprises (such as the shocking reasons why they were separated), but I will say that this 97-minute doc was such a hit that last summer it was announced that a feature film based on the brothers’ story will be made. By the way, the Louise Wise Services adoption agency also placed the Jewish mother of Andy Samberg, 40, with her adoptive parents (see the Jan. 8 episode of “Finding Your Roots”).
The black comedy “Russian Doll,” a Netflix original series dropping on Friday, Feb. 1, has kind of a “Groundhog Day” premise and stars Natasha Lyonne, 39, who co-created the series and co-wrote seven of the eight episodes. Lyonne stars as Nadia, the guest of honor at a New York City soiree that she can’t escape, attending the same party night after night. Why? Apparently she dies at said party every night, only to do it all over the next day.
This ’n’ that
A new film version of “West Side Story,” directed by Steven Spielberg, 72, is coming together. Of course, the filmmakers will use the incredible score by Stephen Sondheim, 88, and the late Leonard Bernstein. Last year, Tony Kushner, 62, penned a revised story, and casting is mostly done, with Ansel Elgort, 24, who had a Jewish paternal grandfather, playing Tony, the male lead. Last week, it was revealed that an unknown 17-year-old girl from New Jersey, Rachel Zegler, has been cast as Maria, the female lead. Zegler, who will be making her big-screen debut, was found in a nationwide casting call — and, no, shucks, she isn’t Jewish, posting once on Twitter “I’m not even Jewish …” Berkeley resident Rita Moreno, 87, whose late husband was Jewish, has been cast in a supporting role as a luncheonette owner; Moreno played Maria’s best friend in the original 1961 movie and won an Oscar as best supporting actress.
Logan Lerman, 26 (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) will co-star in “The Hunt,” a 10-episode Amazon Prime Video original series that’s early in the production process. Set in the late 1970s, the show is about Nazi hunters in New York City discovering that hundreds of high-ranking Nazis are living in the U.S. and are scheming to create a Fourth Reich. Lerman plays a young man named Jonah Heidelbaum (Jewish, I bet) who tracks down his grandmother’s killer. Al Pacino, appearing in his first TV series, plays a Nazi hunter who mentors Heidelbaum.