Black hats and family sagas

'The A-Word' (photo credit: Courtesy)
'The A-Word'
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The new Israeli comedy series set in the yeshiva world, Shababnikim, just had its premiere at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, and it’s as close to Entourage with black hats as you can imagine. The tagline is ”Black is the new black,” and that about says it. The show will premiere on HOT 3, starting December 24, and it will show on Sundays and Mondays at 8:15 p.m. on HOT VOD.
Created by Danny Paran and Eliran Malka, it follows three rebellious yeshiva students and one very serious one as they go about their business. The series opens with a rabbi lecturing his students about some guys who dared to go skiing. His fury rises as he asks how this transgression should be punished, and he gets his comeuppance in a moment of unambiguous joy for the students that sets the tone for the entire series.
The comedy comes from three hell-raisers being forced to put up with the nerd Gedalia, whom the cunning yeshiva head forces them to room with.
I imagine that how much you enjoy the show will depend partly on how familiar with and interested you are in this world, but the cast has a relaxed vibe. You root for Gedalia to civilize the others as you root for them to corrupt him.
What this enjoyable series showcases is that they’re all really just kids and, like any other kids, they learn how to circumvent the authorities and have a good time. In one episode, the yeshiva head scrambles the Internet, a crisis for the guys, who fight back with their own router. If this isn’t incentive enough, actor Yehuda Levi, the epitome of unadulterated Israeli cool, appears as himself.
I have no doubt that this series will deeply offend many, and that others will assail its inaccuracies. However, no one should mistake comedy for documentary, and comedy that offends no one will never be very funny.
The Jewish film festival also featured a preview of the new season of Iron Dome, the series about ultra-Orthodox men who join a Haredi Nahal battalion. It’s a more dramatic look at the tensions between ultra-Orthodox and secular Israeli society.
The second season of the British show The A-Word, which is a reworking of the Israeli series Yellow Peppers, will be available on YES VOD starting December 27, although it won’t be shown on regular channels until late February.
The acclaimed program tells the story of an extended family and how it affects all of them when their young son is diagnosed with autism. Set in the hauntingly beautiful Lake District, Season Two continues on to examine the journey that Joe (Max Vento) and his family take. The entire cast is excellent, especially Vento and the actors who portray his parents, Lee Ingleby and Morven Christie.
In Season Two, Joe begins to understand how he is different from the other children. The show is especially good about the ways that Joe’s diagnosis takes a toll on his parents’ marriage. New characters are introduced, including a single mother (Lucy Gaskell) and her teenage son who has autism, Mark (Travis Smith).Getting to know Mark causes Joe’s family to reexamine their assumptions about autism. Christopher Eccleston (The Leftovers) is particularly good as Joe’s ornery grandfather.
If you think your family is dysfunctional, you’ll want to check out the documentary My Mother’s Lost Children on YES Docu on December 24 at 10 p.m. and December 29 at 11 p.m., and on YES VOD. It tells the story of Australian director Danny Ben- Moshe’s mother, Lillian, whose children from her first marriage were kidnapped by her husband in London, never to be seen again for 40 years. Ben-Moshe grew up knowing about these lost siblings, but it wasn’t until their reappearance that he delved into the story of their lives. There are many twists and turns, with detours to Tehran and Lithuania along the way, and it’s a tragic and fascinating story.
The countdown for Season Two of the Israeli political thriller Fauda has already begun. It will begin airing on YES VOD starting December 31. Happy New Year!