If you miss Fauda, the good news is that Ghosts of Beirut, the new show by Fauda creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, is now showing on Yes VOD and StingTV; and will start running on Yes Action at 10 p.m. on May 27, while in the US it is available on Showtime.
The series focuses on the hunt – by the Mossad and the CIA – for Lebanese terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, according to the ads for the series, “The most dangerous man the world has ever known.” That is debatable, although he was one of the founding members of Islamic Jihad and a high-level member of Hezbollah.
Believed responsible for many infamous terror attacks, including the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and military barracks in Beirut, Mughniyeh was hunted by the US and Israelis for decades.
The focus of the series is mainly on Beirut in the 1980s (when Mughniyeh is played by Amir Khoury) and the early 2000s (when he is played by Hisham Suliman.)
The four-episode series plays a bit like the movie Zero Dark Thirty (about the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden) and introduces many characters in a relatively short time to create a large canvas of those involved in the operation.
Clearly, if you read the news, you will know Mughniyeh’s eventual fate, so Raz (who does not act in the series) and Issacharoff keep us busy with rapidly shifting storylines to build suspense.
Somehow – at least based on the early episodes released to the press – the series works despite the hype, just as Fauda worked long before there was any hype associated with it.
And just as Fauda differentiated itself from virtually every portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict that had come before, by painting in-depth portraits of its Palestinian characters and showing the conflict through their eyes as well as from the point of view of the Israeli counterterrorist, Ghosts tells the story partly from Mughniyeh’s perspective.
Here, the creators employ a potent weapon of their own, and that is Amir Khoury. An accomplished actor, Khoury is also a genuine star, one who may leap to international superstardom. Very few actors are so different from role to role. You might not even recognize him at first in Ghosts, even if you saw him as an Egyptian photojournalist in Avi Nesher’s Image of Victory or as Samir in Fauda. His smoldering screen presence is so winning that you may find yourself doubting that the character he plays is about to embark on a career as one of the world’s most deadly terrorists when Hezbollah agents come to recruit him.
Hisham Suliman also gives a credible and compelling performance as the older, wiser but still dangerous Mughniyeh.
The series spends a fair amount of time portraying those who hunted Mughniyeh, aka Radwan, or “Ghost,” but the CIA operatives played by Dermot Mulroney (as Robert Ames), Dina Shihabi and others are not terribly memorable. We don’t really care that Ames’ family time was disrupted by his pursuit of this terrorist, as the script wants us to, or that it’s personal for Shihabi’s character, Lena, because Hezbollah made life hell for her family in Beirut.
Ghosts also mixes in commentaries by actual journalists to lend a semi-documentary feel, but these are often used to underline points rather than to illuminate them. There is quite a bit of exposition-heavy dialogue, probably aimed at educating those who have forgotten the events that took place in Lebanon in the 1980s or are too young to know much about them.
When Ames looks out from the balcony of his Beirut hotel at the coastline as he chats on the phone with his wife, he notes that “after eight years of civil war,” the city looks surprisingly good. Still, the slow-burn tension, chase scenes and surprises are similar to what Fauda’s fans have come to love, and Ghosts will keep you entertained until the new season of Fauda debuts.
Accused: A new anthology series arrives on Israeli TV
HOWARD GORDON was one of the creators of Homeland (based on the Israeli series, Prisoners of War) and 24 and now he has a new series, Accused, running on Yes VOD and Yes Drama. It is also a reworking of a previous show, this one from the UK, and it’s an anthology series, in which each episode examines a case of someone accused of a crime.
The first episode, which was released to the press, focuses on a couple (Michael Chiklis of The Shield and Jill Hennessy of Law and Order) who face every parent’s worst nightmare: They fear they are raising a son who is a psychopath. It focuses on the father, a neurosurgeon, who is liked and respected everywhere, except at home, where he is constantly in conflict with his calculating, angry son (Oakes Fegley), whom he suspects may be planning a violent crime.
Desperate to prevent a tragedy, the father begins to contemplate extreme measures. It’s a sad and scary tale that will put your children’s minor misdeeds into perspective – and it’s reminiscent of the 2011 movie, We Have to Talk About Kevin, which told the devastating story of a mother raising a bad-seed kid.
An upcoming episode, “Samir’s Story,” was directed by Sameh Zoabi, who made the comedy, Tel Aviv on Fire, and stars Adam Bakri.
Anthology series are tricky. Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, attempted it with The Romanoffs. The result: a lackluster anthology about eight people who are connected only by the fact that they believe themselves to be descendants of the Russian royal family.
Some episodes in anthologies tend to be much better than others. So we’ll have to wait and see how the rest of Accused plays out, but it has a very strong cast, which includes Abigail Breslin, Keith Carradine, Rachel Bilson, Whitney Cummings and Jason Ritter.