Transparent Judaism

Transparent is the best Jewish show on television. The premise and goal of the show is not about Judaism at all. Most obviously, it is about Maura, a recently out trans woman and the ramifications of her revelations to her three children. It is also about the three sexually diverse adult children who are extraordinarily selfish (actually all the main characters are pretty self-absorbed) and each engages in different sexual explorations as adults (and also in flashback as teenagers). Brutal, honest, complicated, awkward, and real.

However, the family is also Jewish. And they are real Jews.

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Visiting Franklin and Bash

IMG_2101Drive far enough north in LA and you arrive at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Just a mile further and you can uncover Santa Clarita Studios – the TV home of Justified, Vegas, and Make It Or Break ItThe independent filming location is nestled among non-descript office space. I was there thanks to one of those who-knows-who type things. My congregant, Bernie Kessler, knows Pamela Chais, a veteran TV writer of such shows as Love, Sydney and Maude. Pamela is the mother of Bill Chais, a TV writer and producer, who is also the co-creator the TNT Dramedy Franklin & Bash. Bernie was driving Pamela up to see her son’s set and got me an invite along. Now that’s an excellent congregant. And I got a great tour.

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I Preferred the Book

bibleThe Bible is inherently cinematic. it has the global story filled with dramatic tension, complicated personal lives, special effects, war, comedy, power, surprises, and much more. It is Game of Thrones with more violence and sex, but without Peter Dinklage.

So when The History Channel’s The Bible miniseries was announced, I was curious to see how a modern television version might put out a sweeping run of biblical stories. Along with millions of Americans, I watched the 10 hours of The Bible and I found those key elements – it was dramatic (the overbearing score reminded me of that), intense (the constant violence made sure I knew that), and passionate (all the shouting made sure I was aware they were playing IMPORTANT characters).

ht_mark_burnett_and_roma_downey_bible_lpl_130227_wgThe Bible was produced by Mark Burnett (from Survivor) and Roma Downey (from Touched by an Angel) as a….well, passion product. They hope to bring over a billion new readers to the Bible. To help you on your journey there is the companion website, and they have created a merchandising machine – a companion novelization (Stephen Colbert had something to say about that), soundtrack,, DVD (on sale today!), mobile app, and more. Their “passion product” has also become a money making machine.

But while they attempted to make a family-friendly, marketable Bible for today, there were some areas of significant concern. And areas where I would have wished things were different.

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House of Cards

housecardsI finished watching Netflix’s House of Cards last week. While I saw all 13 episodes in a relatively brief time, I did not have the same intensity as with other marathon TV watching (ex. early seasons of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland, Parks and Recreation). I did not binge.

The main reason? I just didn’t really like almost any of the characters.

The men are byproducts of their vices and power. There is little self-control or morality at play.

The women ultimately are objects of desire who use sex to further their ends (with some exceptions).

The show is wonderfully acted with great production values, surpassing twists, and great suspense and surprise. But that’s only enough to make it good.

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Happy Birthday to the Worst Star Wars thing ever

Star Wars fans tend to be harsh. We love the franchise and characters so much that when near misses (Ewoks), true misses (most of the edits on the original trilogy by Mr Can’t-Leave-Well-Enough-Alone) and total abominations (Jar Jar Binks) show up we are vocal and even manic. Many are panicked over the Disney take-over of Star Wars and the coming episodes VII-IX. I’m not. I bet they surpass Episodes I-III and lead to great rides in the theme parks. But maybe that’s because I’ve already seen the lowest Star Wars can sink.

As an 8-year-old boy, a year removed from seeing Star Wars when it was first released into the theaters, I discovered true hell. On this day, November 17, in 1978, my family gathered to watch The Star Wars Holiday Special. The variety special that unfolded was so terrible, so ridiculous that I couldn’t even bring myself to watch it all again today for this post. I appreciated the YouTube commentator who said he was too high to watch this. That’s how bad it is.

Let’s share just a few lowlights of what’s been called “the worst two-hours of television.”

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