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Giant Misfit

S01.E01: Episode 1

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Premieres March 16, 2020

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Herman takes his family to look at a house in an upwardly mobile neighbourhood, though Bess is wary of leaving the safety of their tight-knit Jewish community; Evelyn becomes charmed by a distinguished local clergyman.

 

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Listening to the official podcast.  David Simon is pretty explicit about the link between "America First" used in the time period of the show and now.

The Levin family grows up in the same town, actually on the same street where Philip Roth grew up.

Simon says Alvin recognizes the political danger of Lindbergh before Herman -- Roth's father's name was Herman.

 

One thing struck out at me was this sense of German nationalistic pride at the Nazis as they took over Europe among German-Americans.  At least I assume they were born here, not immigrants, even though they still spoke German and hung out at that biergarten.

Also jarring was this overt support for Hitler.  I knew the country didn't support joining the war but I thought it was more war-weariness.  But it seemed enough Americans were for Hitler an not only against America entering the war but against helping Britain for instance.

That scene where they look at the home in Union and Elizabeth's account of how she felt isolated as the only Jewish girl were powerful.  Herman gives up the promotion and more money because she didn't want their sons to feel isolated in what was obviously an anti-semitic neighborhood or town.

Ev seems apolitical but she seems so desperate to end her spinsterhood that she will be led politically by rabbi Lionel.

I got the sense that Alvin would not be long for the series but it sounds like he's a key character.

 

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Alternative history is not my favorite genre and this piece slams Lindbergh who was a real person, but never ran for president, and can’t sue because he’s long dead.

That said, I enjoyed the exterior shots of Newark and the surrounding area and how they were made to look like 80 years ago. I thought it was humorous that the youngest child, Philip, is a stand in for the author, Philip Roth, including having the neighborhood boy offer that he could play with his mom’s bra, which was a call out to Philip Roth’s more famous book, Portnoy’s Complaint. The actor who played Philip was the child at the center of the custody battle in Marriage Story and played a gay child in a famous Saturday Night Live sketch about a wishing well.

Another call out was the use of newsreel footage, which was a reference to an earlier HBO alternative history piece, the Man in the High Castle. Perhaps Mr Levin can use the newsreels to change the course of history, as somebody already did with Lindbergh.

God bless Winona Rider, but at 48 she’s a little old to play the naïf who is fooled the lover who is only interested in her for sex. Maybe the Realty Bites Winona could be so fooled by Ethan Hawke, but that was 26 years ago.

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56 minutes ago, Concerned said:

God bless Winona Rider, but at 48 she’s a little old to play the naïf who is fooled the lover who is only interested in her for sex. Maybe the Realty Bites Winona could be so fooled by Ethan Hawke, but that was 26 years ago.

She's the eldest sister. I don't think she was a naïf, just desperate not to be an "old maid".

 

58 minutes ago, Concerned said:

which was a reference to an earlier HBO alternative history piece, the Man in the High Castle.

The Man in the High Castle is on Amazon Prime.

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Alternate history is one of my favorite topics and The Man In The High Castle all the way until the Unnecessary confusing ending was an amazing story of an America occupied by the Axis Powers a generation after WW2.   So this fits.   Because there were so many ways WW2 could have gone differently and WW2 is one of the most fascinating what ifs?   
 

And yes there were plenty of Americans who outright supported Hitler’s idea of nationalism.  America for Americans.     The Civil War still fresh in many peoples minds had instilled the idea of a nation of white Christians where everyone else was just not welcome.   Of course they were the minority at least in theory but if an pro white anti Jewish president had been elected and had stoked these people On.....who knows what side we would have chosen when we eventually got involved.   

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18 minutes ago, Chaos Theory said:

Alternate history is one of my favorite topics and The Man In The High Castle all the way until the Unnecessary confusing ending was an amazing story of an America occupied by the Axis Powers a generation after WW2.   So this fits.   Because there were so many ways WW2 could have gone differently and WW2 is one of the most fascinating what ifs?   
 

And yes there were plenty of Americans who outright supported Hitler’s idea of nationalism.  America for Americans.     The Civil War still fresh in many peoples minds had instilled the idea of a nation of white Christians where everyone else was just not welcome.   Of course they were the minority at least in theory but if an pro white anti Jewish president had been elected and had stoked these people On.....who knows what side we would have chosen when we eventually got involved.   

Wasn’t just the Civil War, 10s of millions were killed in World War 1 and a lot of people just weren’t up for World War 2. That’s why France surrendered. Neville Chamberlin was so eager for a peace because the British lost a million soldiers in the first war. In hindsight, it’s the need for war is much clearer, but even in America today, it’s common to be anti-war or to think what if they had a war and nobody showed up. Of course World War 2 was different because it was a Good War, but it was also extremely cruel and the death toll far surpassed any war America has been involved in since.

My favorite part of this show was seeing Newark in its prime. The new West Side Story and the Sopranos movie are both filmed in Newark. In the Plot, rival white groups, Jews and Germans clash in Newark. But those groups are long gone and today the rival gangs are African American. When four people were recently found killed execution style near Weequahic Park (where the Levins live), the mayor responded, “They lived the life.”

Edited by Concerned
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Alternative history is not my favorite genre and this piece slams Lindbergh who was a real person, but never ran for president, and can’t sue because he’s long dead.

I do like alternative history stories, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the show demonizing Lindbergh this way. I know that he had some Nazi leanings but they are fictionalizing him in a way that seems like it shouldn't be legal. 

I'm not sure how I feel about the show overall either. A lot of the dialogue felt very stilted, especially early conversations about what Lindbergh was saying in public. It felt a little too on the nose, if you know what I mean, without violating forum rules. 

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4 hours ago, Chaos Theory said:

And yes there were plenty of Americans who outright supported Hitler’s idea of nationalism.  America for Americans.     The Civil War still fresh in many peoples minds had instilled the idea of a nation of white Christians where everyone else was just not welcome.   Of course they were the minority at least in theory but if an pro white anti Jewish president had been elected and had stoked these people On.....who knows what side we would have chosen when we eventually got involved.   

The Civil War was nearly 80 years before this series is set.  I can't imagine it was still fresh in anyone's mind by the late 1930s/early 1940s.  I think the America First movement was a reaction to the horrors of WW1.  No one was eager to engage in another European war so soon after the last one.  And obviously, prejudice against Jews was alive and well during that period as well, in that there were plenty of people who had little interest in going to war to stop what was happening in Germany or the other areas invaded or annexed by Germany.         

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Who is Alvin? I know he is the cousin of Philip and Sheldon but whose son is he and how is his mother or father related to the Levins?

Edited by DakotaLavender

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43 minutes ago, DakotaLavender said:

Who is Alvin? I know he is the cousin of Philip and Sheldon but whose son is he and how is hi smother or father related to the Levins?

I don’t think they’ve said, but the character’s name is Alvin Levin so he’s related to the kids’ father. In fact he must be the child of Herman Levin’s brother. David Krumholtz plays a character called Monty Levin who doesn’t appear until the second episode so maybe that’s him. Krumholtz recently starred in Numbers, but was also featured in Santa Clause and Aadams Family Values, among many credits.

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I read The Plot Against America a couple years ago for a book club and really loved it. Been anticipating this adaptation since I heard about it. And this first episode did not disappoint.

The cast is fantastic! Winona Ryder as Evelyn is perfect casting. Also loving Morgan Spector as Herman. And Azhy Robertson is wonderful as young Philip. The world building in this first episode was on point. I felt totally immersed in 1940's Newark.

And not gonna lie, some of the scenes definitely made my anxiety spike (particularly, when Herman sits and listens to Lindbergh's anti-Semitic speech)

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1 hour ago, DakotaLavender said:

Who is Alvin? I know he is the cousin of Philip and Sheldon but whose son is he and how is hi smother or father related to the Levins?

He's Herman's nephew, one of his parents was a sibling to herman.

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On 3/17/2020 at 8:03 AM, Concerned said:

Alternative history is not my favorite genre and this piece slams Lindbergh who was a real person, but never ran for president, and can’t sue because he’s long dead.

 

 

On 3/17/2020 at 1:03 PM, iMonrey said:

I do like alternative history stories, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the show demonizing Lindbergh this way. I know that he had some Nazi leanings but they are fictionalizing him in a way that seems like it shouldn't be legal. 

 

According to this Slate article, the Lindbergh speech was not fictionalized:  https://slate.com/culture/2020/03/plot-against-america-charles-lindbergh-des-moines-speech.html

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Alvin is Herman's brother's son.  Both of Alvin's parents are dead and Alvin has been living with his uncle's family.

Having gotten so used to streaming, I expected to be able to watch the next episodes right away, but I'll have to get used to watching the old fashioned way, week by week.

The show is very faithful to the book.  I wonder if people who haven't read the book are having any trouble keeping the plot straight?  The first episode of any show takes some time to set up the characters and story, so please stay with the show.  

Great job with the costuming and historically accurate location shots make it really seem like Newark in the '40s.

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On 3/17/2020 at 8:03 AM, Concerned said:

 Another call out was the use of newsreel footage, which was a reference to an earlier HBO alternative history piece, the Man in the High Castle. Perhaps Mr Levin can use the newsreels to change the course of history, as somebody already did with Lindbergh.

God bless Winona Rider, but at 48 she’s a little old to play the naïf who is fooled the lover who is only interested in her for sex. Maybe the Realty Bites Winona could be so fooled by Ethan Hawke, but that was 26 years ago.

Newsreels are not a call-out. They were the ACTUAL WAY people got the news. My 88 year old mom remembers them well. This is based on an award winning novel by Philip Roth so it’s weird the way you think Levin invented all this. 

winona Ryder looks no older than 35 so she’s fine. Women in those days didn’t look as young as they do now thanks to hair dye and other things. 

On 3/17/2020 at 1:03 PM, iMonrey said:

I do like alternative history stories, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the show demonizing Lindbergh this way. I know that he had some Nazi leanings but they are fictionalizing him in a way that seems like it shouldn't be legal. 

I'm not sure how I feel about the show overall either. A lot of the dialogue felt very stilted, especially early conversations about what Lindbergh was saying in public. It felt a little too on the nose, if you know what I mean, without violating forum rules. 

It’s legal. Public figures are allowed to be factionalized.

 

as a Jew I’m kind of amazed how many people didn’t know Lindbergh was a RANTING antisemite. That part of it isn’t factionalized AT ALL. And he did even consider a run for President at one point. 

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On 3/17/2020 at 9:43 AM, Concerned said:

Wasn’t just the Civil War, 10s of millions were killed in World War 1 and a lot of people just weren’t up for World War 2. That’s why France surrendered. Neville Chamberlin was so eager for a peace because the British lost a million soldiers in the first war. In hindsight, it’s the need for war is much clearer, but even in America today, it’s common to be anti-war or to think what if they had a war and nobody showed up. Of course World War 2 was different because it was a Good War, but it was also extremely cruel and the death toll far surpassed any war America has been involved in since.

My favorite part of this show was seeing Newark in its prime. The new West Side Story and the Sopranos movie are both filmed in Newark. In the Plot, rival white groups, Jews and Germans clash in Newark. But those groups are long gone and today the rival gangs are African American. When four people were recently found killed execution style near Weequahic Park (where the Levins live), the mayor responded, “They lived the life.”

The clash is in Union. Union, a town in Essex county (same county as Newark) has bier gardens and German sections. But it’s not a part of Newark and never was it’s about seven miles away and a totally separate incorporated town.

 

(I live in the town next to it and my late father worked there).

 

mkllburn one town over would have been friendlier for a Jewish smoky in the 30s.

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7 hours ago, lucindabelle said:

The clash is in Union. Union, a town in Essex county (same county as Newark) has bier gardens and German sections. But it’s not a part of Newark and never was it’s about seven miles away and a totally separate incorporated town.

 

(I live in the town next to it and my late father worked there).

 

mkllburn one town over would have been friendlier for a Jewish smoky in the 30s.

Union is in Union County as is Elizabeth where the mom grew up. Newark is in Essex County.

They increased the impact of Lindbergh’s speech and getting a medal by presenting it as occurring during World War 2 after the fall of France when both events actually occurred many years earlier. This is why I don’t like alternative history. When you give yourself permission to alter events and make stuff up, nobody believes anything you write. It’s a great story, but it’s not about Lindbergh, Newark, World War 2 or anything. The realism that they create with the costumes and set decoration is washed out by the deliberate fabrications.

Edited by Concerned

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Lindbergh gave that speech in Des Moines in 1941, not many years earlier. After Hitler had invaded France. The Medal from Goering was in 38. Lindbergh was an anti semite and a fascist. Sorry if the truth is uncomfortable.

 

Edited by edhopper
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Oops you’re right I live in Millburn which is in Essex county and RIGHT NEXT TO union. Ok? literally you can cross the street from Millburn and walk into Union. Don’t try to talk to a Jersey girl about jersey geography.
 

It’s not where my mom grew up it where I grew up and I LIVE HERE NOW. The point is that it is NOT Newark. And Lindbergh’s antisemitism is NOT alternative history as every Jewish person knows.

 

Must be nice to be able to think antisemitism and Lindbergh were Worlds apart. My 88 year old mom who LIVES IN NJ NOW knows better.

there were Nazi rallies and America first events while WWII was going on. It’s just a fact.

 

Edited by lucindabelle
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On 3/18/2020 at 6:07 PM, Starchild said:

The boy playing Philip reminds me a lot of Lukas Haas.

Which is ironic because Lukas Haas and Winona Ryder did both starred in Boys. And even in that time period(1996), the similarities between them were very startling. They almost look like twins.

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On 3/20/2020 at 9:27 PM, lucindabelle said:

Newsreels are not a call-out. They were the ACTUAL WAY people got the news. My 88 year old mom remembers them well. 

I'm no where near that old and I remember newsreels.  They were a big feature of life growing up on army bases outside the US - we always had a newsreel and a serialized short before any movie.  This was in the '60s.  The latest news and an episode of Buck Rogers!

But most people in '40s got their news from papers and the radio.  That's why they show Herman sitting by his big radio all the time.  Newsreels are convenient for a TV program because they can show real events.  Watching someone listening to the radio is not very dramatic.

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On 3/16/2020 at 8:37 PM, scrb said:

David Simon is pretty explicit about the link between "America First" used in the time period of the show and now.

I'm half way in and it's not subtle. Not a problem for me. I like allegorical shows. 

On 3/20/2020 at 10:27 PM, lucindabelle said:

as a Jew I’m kind of amazed how many people didn’t know Lindbergh was a RANTING antisemite. That part of it isn’t factionalized AT ALL.

I knew this and I'm not Jewish. I thought this was well known enough. 

On 3/17/2020 at 12:18 PM, txhorns79 said:

The Civil War was nearly 80 years before this series is set.  I can't imagine it was still fresh in anyone's mind by the late 1930s/early 1940s. 

We're still having memorials for all the world wars, pearl harbor, d day, etc., so I don't know if that's accurate. Additionally, in the 10s was when they started putting up all the confederate monuments. So it's not really out of sight out of mind. 

There's enough here for me to keep going. 

Simon is good at quick world building so I really liked this as an opener. 

Did people really talk about the news that much back then? 

I'm wondering if any of the war will be different. So far Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain look to be occurring the same. 

Edited by DoctorAtomic
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1 hour ago, DoctorAtomic said:

 We're still having memorials for all the world wars, pearl harbor, d day, etc., so I don't know if that's accurate. Additionally, in the 10s was when they started putting up all the confederate monuments. So it's not really out of sight out of mind. 

 

In 1939 THE WIZARD OF OZ references trotting out war heroes with testimonials. 
we don’t know what war but I think For older people the civil war was just your parents war. I mean, I’m  55, my father fOught in WWII. In 19 years I’ll be old (but still younger than Bernie!) and WWII will still be something I heard about directly, at the dinner table, hearing my dads war stories.

there would have been people in their 70s and 80s with that relation to the civil war.

i realized a while back that jn OUR TOWN Emily Gibbs father liking to study the civil war is just like someone in the 2000/ fascinated by Vietnam.  Thornton Wilders 1938 play begins in 1901.

and again thinking about time: many adults in 1938 (40s and 50s) would have shared Emily’s timeline. The nostalgia and tears would be real.

 

Edited by lucindabelle
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Why does the rabbi, played by John Turturro, have a southern accent? It seems offputting and strange. Kind of distracting to me whenever he speaks.

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He has a southern accent because he’s southern. There are now and have always been southern Jews. I lived in Montgomery alabama for four years, there were 3 synagogues (one merged with another while I was there), very old ones. 

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On 3/17/2020 at 10:03 AM, iMonrey said:

I know that he had some Nazi leanings but they are fictionalizing him in a way that seems like it shouldn't be legal. 

There's an acceptable level of nazism?

This is such a fantastic show. I love alt-history especially this period in American history. I wish I were watching with my Dad so he could identify the cars for me.

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On 3/28/2020 at 4:42 PM, lucindabelle said:

He has a southern accent because he’s southern. There are now and have always been southern Jews. I lived in Montgomery alabama for four years, there were 3 synagogues (one merged with another while I was there), very old ones. 

True, true. My great grandma was born in or around 1900 and raised in Savannah, Georgia. I have family that lived (and still lives) in Arkansas at the time of WWII. And my father’s family is one of the oldest Jewish families in Texas. Of course, the anti-Semitism in the south was real bad (look up Leo Frank) so a lot of southern Jews moved north. I have absolutely no issues with a southern rabbi.

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Giant Misfit

Please remember that The Plot Against America is a work of fiction. Keep the conversation about the show only and do not use it as a jumping off point to draw parallels to modern-day politicians or political parties or movements. See also.

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