The real reality in ‘Lost in Asia’

The sequel to the social satire ‘Lost in Africa’ premieres on YES Drama.

Lost in Asia (photo credit: Courtesy)
Lost in Asia
(photo credit: Courtesy)
More Israeli television series are being snapped up by those idea-hungry networks in the US – the latest was Irreversible (Bilti Hafich), a comedy series about a couple raising a baby. It was purchased by ABC, which committed a seven-figure sum to develop a pilot. It’s a little hard to figure out why this show, as winning as it is, would be such a desirable acquisition for an American network, but ABC seems thrilled with it.
Stoplight (Ramzor), a series about three guys at different stages of their lives, wasn’t a hit on the Fox Network, and so far it’s the dramas, such as B’Tipul (which became HBO’s In Treatment) and Hatufim (which was reworked into Showtime’s Homeland) that have had the biggest success.
A new series, Lost in Asia, is premiering on YES Drama on Sunday night at 10, and it seems unlikely to spawn a US version, although you never know. It would be a long shot because it seems so uniquely Israeli. And while the show is airing on YES Drama, it’s really a social satire rather than a drama. It’s a sequel to Lost in Africa, about a fashion mogul who brings an Israeli crew to shoot a promotional campaign in Africa.
That worked because there was something endearing about the cluelessness of the models and the brashness of Hani (Tzahi Grad), the head of the fashion company.
Now Hani and his partners are back in Israel, where he is determined to become a real estate mogul and plans to build a huge luxury apartment complex called Hani Power City. He and his cronies decide to have a model apartment on display in a shopping mall, with their spokesmodels, played again by Rotem Sela and Aiden Haviv. This is a not-so-subtle dig at reality TV, and the couple spend their days on display at the mall, supposedly living their normal lives, while teenage girls scream at them and curious onlookers snap photos.
The show also gleefully parodies the corruption endemic to Israeli politics, as Hani shells out bribe after bribe to try to get the project started and to keep it going. As the promos have shown, perhaps a bit too often, Hani sings out, “We bribed a minister?” Grad, who may have replaced Moshe Ivgy as Israel’s hardest-working actor, always has a kind of playfulness mixed with malevolence that couldn’t be better for his role as the blatantly self-interested Hani. You can learn a lot more about how political corruption in Israel really works from seeing this show than from watching all the so-called experts trying to out-scream each other on the political talk shows. And you’ll enjoy your learning experience much more.
There’s also a topical subplot about environmental protesters who demonstrate against the proposed year-round swimming pool and can’t be bought off that’s very funny. We’ll have to stay tuned to see if the show can keep the humor this fresh throughout the season.
Staying in the realm of original Israeli programming, HOT is broadcasting the new season of Mehubarim (Connected) on Wednesday nights at 8. This show started out as an upscale reality show about a group of women who were given cameras and asked to record their lives for an hour a day, and it was also purchased for American television.
Then it switched to men, and this is its first mixed season. The good news is, no one gets plastic surgery or throws drinks on each other as they do on typical reality shows. The bad news is, it isn’t that entertaining to watch a highly educated, very successful group of people record their every thought, even if they are people with whom you can identify.