Deadwood Returns and Dr. Ruth

 The Western series “Deadwood” was set in the 1870s in the famous South Dakota town. It ran on HBO for three years (2004-06) before being abruptly canceled despite getting great reviews (ratings were so/so and it was a costly program to produce).

The successful re-booting of many TV shows led to the decision to make a two-hour HBO “Deadwood” movie which wind-ups many plot lines. It will premiere on May 31. Advance reviews are good and all the still-living stars of the original are in it. This includes ROBIN WEIGERT, 49, as Calamity Jane (who really lived); Timothy Olymphant as (real) lawman Seth Bullock; and John Hawkes as SOL STAR (1840-1917), a real Deadwood Jewish merchant who was Bullock’s best friend.

Sadly, this movie marks the end of “Deadwood” creator, writer, and executive producer DAVID MILCH’s creative life. In 2015, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and there’s a great article in the May, 27, issue of The New Yorker  about how he is coping with the disease. It seems like his family is his anchor. His wife, RITA STERN, has stood by him through his drug addiction and an incredibly bad gambling addiction which wiped them out financially. His daughter, OLIVIA MILCH, 24, who co-wrote the recent movie “Ocean’s 8,” helped her father with the Deadwood movie script.

“Ask Dr. Ruth,” a documentary about the famous sex and relationship counselor, will premiere on Hulu on June 1. Dr. RUTH WESTHEIMER, 90, talks candidly about her whole life, including surviving the Holocaust and fighting and getting wounded in Israel’s War of Independence. The film got very good reviews when it played many recent film festivals, including Sundance. The film is full of interesting details, like her original name, Karola Ruth Siegel, and her height (4-foot 7’). But the most interesting thing, to me, is how she just shines with an infectious joy of life.

Is Anything in Game of Thrones, Jewish?

A friend just asked me if there were characters or themes in “Games of Thrones” (GOT) that a reasonable person could take to be Jewish. I thought about this and came up with two answers. I don’t maintain that these are amazing insights. But I thought my ideas were interesting and I thought I’d relay them while the series was still fresh in the minds of its fan multitude.

I first thought about the creation of the Night King and his army of zombie-like Wights. It’s gradually revealed that the Night King was created by the “Children of the Forest.” The Children were the original non-human inhabitants of the continent of Westros. The “game” in GOT centered on who would rule Westeros. But thousands of years before that “game,” the Children were being slaughtered by the first human invaders of Westeros. To stave off their genocide, they took a human man and magically turned him into the Night King, a creature who could revive the dead and order them to kill the living. The Night King is much like the mythical figure of the Golem in many Jewish tales. The Golem was a super-powerful creature, magically created by a rabbi, who was meant to protect the Jewish community. But in many story versions he becomes uncontrollable. The Children, likewise, could not ultimately control the Night King and he and his minions eventually turned on the Children and humans, alike.

I also came to realize that if there was a Jewish character in the series it was Tyrion, a very smart and funny man who should have been the ultimate high-station insider by virtue of his birth into a powerful noble family. But he never could truly be such an insider because he was a dwarf. This “between two worlds” existence has been, and is, a situation that prominent Jews in the Diaspora have faced for centuries.  

For example, even the very wealthy and ennobled British Rothschilds, who have lived the model life of the British aristocracy (like castles full of the finest antique furnishings), are not quite viewed as “one of us” by the rest of the non-Jewish aristocracy. However, being an “insider/outsider” has its pluses. For example, a huge number of comedians are American Jews or Canadians of any background. Both groups know American culture, but are somewhat apart psychically from the mass of Americans. They often look at the culture in a removed way and that removal often fosters a comedic “take” that would not occur to most “heartland” Americans. (Now you know why Tyrion was funny and possibly why he was smart and empathetic).

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