Celebrity jews

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Replacements

Spring has sprung and TV series that weren’t considered promising enough to make the fall line-up are being thrown on the air in the slim hope that they just might catch fire. The WB series “The Help” premiered March 11. According to the reviewers, it wouldn’t catch fire if it were doused with chicken fat and thrown in a blast furnace. This inane comedy does have the novelty value of featuring two Jewish blasts from the near past: Mindy Cohn and Tori Spelling.

Cohn, 38, is best known for playing the Jewish character, Natalie Green, on the hit ’80s series “The Facts of Life.” She plays a maid on “Help.” This is Cohn’s “comeback role” — but I would tune-in this month or you might miss the comeback. Spelling, the daughter of famous producer Aaron Spelling, appeared in the pilot as a dog walker and is supposed to be on “Help” on a recurring basis. She hasn’t done much since starring in “Beverly Hills 90210,” but she just caught some Web buzz when one site reported her presence on the Tiffany bridal registry. We checked: Yes, folks — there’s still time to get her the $2,800 menorah she wants.

A lot more promising is “The Stones,” a sit-com that began Wednesday, March 17, on CBS. Starring as a divorcing couple are veteran Jewish performers Robert Klein and Judith Light (“Who’s the Boss?”). Pretty young Jewish actress Lindsay Sloane (“The In-Laws”) co-stars as their daughter. This series got yanked from the fall line-up, and the word in trade papers is that it isn’t bad — but it has to do really well in the ratings for it to stay on the air. There were hints that the Stone family may come out as Jewish, so tune in and see.

Premiering Friday, March 19, on ABC is “The D.A.,” a four-part series starring Steven Weber, 43, as a volatile L.A. district attorney. If the material is at all good, Weber should be able to give it dramatic life. He is much more multifaceted than one would guess if you only know him as the co-star of his hit sit-com, “Wings.” He showed his singing and dancing abilities when he took over the co-lead in the Broadway production of “The Producers” from Matthew Broderick. Most impressive was the 2001 Showtime film “Clubland,” which Weber wrote and starred in. The flick about a small-time Jewish talent agent and his son, circa 1955, was beautifully acted and written. (Weber’s real-life father was a Borscht Belt talent agent.) Weber won a Jewish Image Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture for “Clubland.” Rent it. (It co-stars Brad Garrett and Jenna Hoffman, Dustin‘s daughter.)

Mamet meanderings

Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright David Mamet, 56, is noted for his prodigious output, and this year is no exception. Mamet directed and wrote a new version of “Dr. Faustus” that had its world premiere at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre on Feb. 24, and runs through April 19.

Not surprisingly, a “special invitation” to the last rehearsal of “Faustus” was offered to members of San Francisco’s Congregation Emanuel-El. Mamet is especially close to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, scholar-in-residence at Emanuel-El. Last year, Mamet and Kushner co-authored “Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.” Kushner’s analysis was grounded in the text, and he offered interesting, but lay-accessible commentary from a rabbinical perspective. Mamet, on the other hand, digressed into contemporary issues and his commentary — while fascinating — was often somewhat afield from the text.

March madness

The NCAA college basketball championship seedings came out too late to allow us to clue you in to the Jewish players before the “madness” began. However, the tourney doesn’t end until April 5 and it’s possible both Stanford and Princeton — the teams with Jewish players we know of — will still be alive. The Stanford kosher player is 6-foot-6-inch forward/guard Dan Grunfeld, the son of former NBA player Ernie Grunfeld. Dan, who celebrated a bar mitzvah, is a sophomore who has appeared in all the team’s games. Last year, the National Honor Society member told the L.A. Jewish Journal that other young Jewish basketball players should stick to their dreams. “They should just keep working hard. I’ve wanted to go to Stanford since I was really young. I just applied myself in the classroom and on the court and it paid off.”

The Princeton Tigers feature standout sophomore guard Scott Greenman, who is the team’s second-highest scorer. Tigers Michael Rudoy and Luke Friedman saw little action this year.

Nate Bloom is the Oakland-based editor of www.Jewhoo.com.

Nate Bloom

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