Israeli TV: A scary bride, a funny woman and spies

Check out these TV show recommendations to enjoy during Passover vacation.

 GEMMA ARTERON in ‘Funny Woman.' (photo credit: YES)
GEMMA ARTERON in ‘Funny Woman.'
(photo credit: YES)

Kan 11’s new series, The Malevolent Bride, is running on Sundays after the news on Channel 11 and it’s scary and fun. It tells a story of demonic possession in the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem, as the titular bride and other women and girls suddenly find themselves possessed. It may sound like The Exorcist and it plays a bit like that. 

A police detective (Hisham Suliman) who doesn’t believe in anything supernatural investigates various crimes committed by these women. At the same time, two people who have been implicated in the women’s violent acts come together to figure out what is really going on – a scientific researcher (Tom Avni) who left the haredi community years ago and who finds his name coming up over and over in the investigation, and a doctor (Lioz Levi) who works with mentally ill religious women, who has been accused of not doing enough to help her patients. 

The series creates a menacing atmosphere and, as is always the case in the best supernatural dramas, like Rosemary’s Baby, you will find your sympathies shifting among the different characters as you wonder who is really guilty of what, and whether these women are just mentally ill or if there is actually a raging devil on the loose. 

I have to admit that although I am pretty much able to watch any kind of gore, I tend to get spooked easily by these kinds of demonic tales. Naturally, The Malevolent Bride features some very creepy and violent scenes, so be forewarned. 

An illustration photo shows the logo of Netflix, the American provider of on-demand internet streaming media. (credit: REUTERS)An illustration photo shows the logo of Netflix, the American provider of on-demand internet streaming media. (credit: REUTERS)

NICK HORNBY is an extraordinarily enjoyable writer, so it’s no surprise that his books, such as High Fidelity and About a Boy, transfer well to the screen. His 2014 novel, Funny Girl, has just been adapted as a miniseries called Funny Woman, in a title change that obviously makes sense, since it eliminates any confusion with the Broadway show and Barbra Streisand movie. It is running on Yes VOD and Binge starting April 2. 

If you would just like to sit back and have fun, this is the series to watch. It’s also an excellent audiobook and I’ve noticed that the better a book is read aloud, the more likely it is to be a good movie or series. 

Gemma Arteron (Tamara Drewe, The King’s Man), gives a very entertaining performance as Barbara, a young woman who wins a bathing-beauty contest in Blackpool in the 1960s and finds herself in swinging London, where she gradually learns she is well suited to TV comedy. There is no heavy message here, nothing that tries to teach you anything. It’s just a gently comic story set in an interesting era with characters that you’d like to spend time with, and a supporting cast that includes Rupert Everett, Arsher Ali, Tom Bateman and David Threlfall. 

A spy series for Passover 

IF YOU would like to enjoy some good escapist spy/thriller series during Passover, you may find it’s not so easy to find something worth watching. If you have Apple TV+ and you haven’t seen Slow Horses yet, that’s what I would go for now. There are two seasons available of the series, which is based on novels by Mick Herron and deals with screw-ups from Britain’s secret service, led by the wonderfully awful Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman). Both seasons are good and the second season, in some ways, is even better than the first. 

But if you have already seen that, there are slim pickings. It’s amazing how many recent series just won’t hold your interest. They tend to feature attractive, ethnically diverse casts and some plot element that involves the word “cyber”: cybersecurity, cyberterrorism, cybertechnology, etc. But the good-looking characters are bland and forgettable and the action is just not suspenseful enough to keep you coming back. 

The latest is Netflix’s The Night Agent, the story of a young FBI agent, Peter (Gabriel Basso), who answers an emergency phone line for undercover agents in trouble at night and ends up helping Rose (Lucianne Buchanan), a young hi-tech executive whose aunt and uncle turn out to be in an intelligence service. People are trying to kill her and the two of them must figure out who and why. The chase-and-action sequences are staged extremely well, but the plot gets shakier and less interesting with each episode. 

Shuffle the elements just a little and you’ve got another Netflix series called The Recruit, about a lawyer for the CIA. Then there’s Netflix’s Treason, which features an excellent cast that includes Ciaran Hinds and Olga Kurylenko. It tells a story about the director of a British intelligence agency, which has plot holes so big you could drive a truck through them. 

Apple TV+’s Liaison – the names even sound similar – stars the wonderful Vincent Cassel (The Specials, Black Swan) and Eva Green (Casino Royale). Cassel is a kind of high-level mercenary, looking for some kind of top-secret cyber stuff that Syrian dissidents hiding in Europe have; Green plays his former lover who is investigating cyberterror for the British government. There are secrets, double-crossing and a good supporting cast that includes Laetitia Eido of Fauda but after a couple of episodes, I couldn’t find a reason to continue. 

However, for those who have Disney+, it is worth watching – or even re-watching – two series that are among the best suspense-thriller shows ever made: Homeland (based on the Israeli series, Prisoners of War) and The Americans. 

Perhaps the most important difference between these series and the recent shows is that the characters in Homeland and The Americans are truly distinctive, the result of a clear vision by a writer/showrunner and not the creation of a committee, and there is a psychological dimension to each the enriches the story. Even watching these older shows for a second time is more entertaining than seeing any of these new series. 

IF YOU missed Elvis when it was in the theaters, you can see it on April 3 on Cinema 1 on Hot at 10 p.m. Austin Butler gives a star-making performance in the title role, rising to the challenge of putting his own stamp on a very familiar figure. Tom Hanks chews a bit of scenery as Colonel Parker, Elvis’s mentor. It’s all larger than life and a bit overblown, which is the trademark style of its director, Baz Luhrmann.