borer 88 298.
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Writing for Israeli TV can't be easy. With all the cultural tension, political scandals and constant threats of terrorism swirling in the background, it's got to be hard focusing long enough to think of a concept sufficiently dramatic to fill a 45-minute TV program. If only life in this country weren't so boring!
Looking around and seeing a dearth of distinctly Israeli inspiration, producers at HOT Television have done the next most obvious thing: identify a wildly popular foreign genre and adapt it - with extremely questionable results - for the small screen.
Welcome, then, to the world of Haborer (The Arbitrator), a new weekly drama that's equal parts The Sopranos, The Godfather and Shabbat dinner with that dysfunctional family you know from Holon.
The series kicked off last weekend like most mob dramas, with criminals, hoods and low-lifes all gathering for the bar mitzva of Oz Asulin, the youngest son of underworld boss Baruch Asulin.
This being the most important mob-sponsored religious gathering of the week, nearly all the major players turned out to pay their respects, including Avi (Shlomi Kuriat), Oz's volatile older brother, and both Avi's jealous wife and his mistress (Neta Gerty), a drug-addicted floozy whose ex, the colorfully named Moshe Jeefa, spends his time at a night club not dissimilar from The Sopranos' Bada Bing.
Playing the role of Michael Corleone - er, Nadav Feldman - is Yehuda Levy, taking his regularly scheduled, once yearly break from soap operas and celebrity gossip columns to attempt a serious part. (It's a cliche' - but a valid one - to bemoan Levy's wasted talent in utterly disposable efforts like the nightly HOT telenovela The Champ.) His character, an uptight social work student with a suspicious inclination towards violence, learned in Saturday night's episode that he isn't who he thinks he is - he was adopted as a baby but never told - and that he may be able to track down his biological parents with the help of an ex-girlfriend.
The identity of those parents hasn't yet been revealed, but the smart drug money says his dad's Baruch Asulin, hospitalized in Haborer's second episode in the aftermath of a failed hit attempt against him in a traditional Syrian-style synagogue. (He defended himself with a pair of bejeweled Torah crowns.)
The rest of the show is a tremendously silly but somehow irresistible mix of mob drama cliche's modified to fit the show's Israeli setting. Instead of snacking on lasagna and chianti, these gangsters drink Kiddush wine and eat challa; instead of swimming with the fishes, rivals get buried in Pardes Katz; instead of nicknames like "Paulie Walnuts" and "Jonny Sack," Haborer is blessed with "Ron the Persian" and "Avram Bulldog."
Somewhere, Mario Puzo is rolling over in his grave - or wishing he'd put in more of an effort with his Hebrew.