“The Spy,” a six-episode series premiering Friday, Sept. 6 on Netflix, is about Eli Cohen (1924-1965), a real-life Israeli spy. If you are unfamiliar with Cohen’s story, you can check out his biography on My Jewish Learning. But better yet, just watch the original Netflix series. To that end, I won’t disclose his most important espionage assignment, but I will give you a little background: Cohen was born and raised in Egypt and was fluent in Arabic. His family was strongly Zionist, and Cohen secretly aided Israel while still in Egypt. He narrowly avoided being detected for a long time, but when his position became untenable, he escaped to Israel in 1956.
“The Spy” was created, written and directed by Gideon Raff, 46, an Israeli producer and writer who is most famous for creating the Israeli series “Prisoners of War,” which was remade (with some changes) as the Showtime hit “Homeland.”
British actor-comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, 47, plays Eli Cohen; since his mother is an Israeli and he is fluent in Hebrew, it probably helped Baron Cohen give a more authentic performance. U.S. actor Noah Emmerich, 54, co-stars as Dan Peleg. Netflix describes Peleg this way: “Dan is a charming, rumpled and brilliant Mossad trainer. He is wise, wary and stubborn, and has a tendency to blur the boundaries between the personal and professional. He has conflicted feelings about Eli, and is tormented by a mistake he made in the past.” Emmerich co-starred as FBI agent Stan Beeman in the FX series “The Americans,” and I’ll always remember him as Jim Carrey’s faux best friend in the 1998 fantasy-drama hit “The Truman Show.”
Jews in country music?
On Sunday, Sept. 15, most PBS stations will air the first of eight episodes of the Ken Burns documentary series “Country Music,” and a week earlier, they’ll air “Live at the Ryman,” a concert taped earlier this year that celebrated the release of the Burns series.
While there aren’t many Jewish country artists, the biggest Jewish country musician of all (literally and figuratively) was part of that concert. I speak of Ray Benson, 68, a 6-foot-7 guy who has been the leader of the popular Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel since its founding in 1970. At the Ryman concert, Asleep at the Wheel played “New Rose of San Antonio,” which was the signature song of Bob Wills, the late “King of Western Swing” and a major subject of Burns’ series. The concert will air on KQED Channel 9 on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m., with a repeat showing later that night at 2 a.m.
The Creative Arts Emmys
The Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 22 will feature a record number of categories, 27. But wait, there’s even more: The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be presented over two days in mid-September, with an edited show airing at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 on FXX.
In my Sept. 20 column, I’ll cover the Primetime Emmys, but here are some Jewish (and Jewish-themed) nominees in the Creative Arts Emmys.
Documentary filmmaking: “RBG,” a film about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, directed-produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, 55; “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes,” directed-produced by Alexis Bloom, 44; and “Three Identical Strangers,” a film about Jewish triplets separated at birth.
Outstanding informational special or series: “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain; and “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”, hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, 65.
Animated program: “BoJack Horseman,” created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, 35, who was raised in Palo Alto and profiled a year ago in J.; and “Big Mouth,” created by Nick Kroll, 41, Andrew Goldberg, 41, Mark Levin, 51, and Levin’s wife, Jennifer Flackett.
Guest appearances: Adam Sandler, 52, on “Saturday Night Live” and Maya Rudolph, 47, on “The Good Place.”