Here comes the judge: US remake of Israeli show ‘Your Honor’ debuts

The New Orleans setting, far removed from the usual locations for a crime drama such as New York and New Jersey, gives the American remake an interesting atmosphere.

BRYAN CRANSTON in ‘Your Honor.’
The American remake of the Israeli series, Your Honor, which recently premiered in the US on Showtime/CBS and in Israel on YesAction and YesVOD, is a tense, suspenseful tragedy that may even be better than the original.
Not surprisingly, the series, which stars Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad, was a hit with US audiences and its premiere episode broke Showtime’s viewership records, attracting nearly 800,000 viewers across various platforms.
Even though anyone who saw the Israeli series – which was created by Yes and won the prestigious Series Mania television competition in France in 2017 – or anyone who watched the trailer for the American series knew the basic setup going in, the story was still gripping.
Once again, Cranston is masterful as a decent man caught up in circumstances beyond his control that push him to abandon his principles and break the law. And, just as in Breaking Bad, moving from one side of the law to the other has unpredictable consequences and he is drawn into a nightmarish parallel universe.
He plays Michael Desiato, a New Orleans judge whose son, Adam, (Hunter Doohan), gets into a car accident and hits and critically injures a teenage motorcycle rider. The accident is a perfect storm of bad luck. Adam, an intense kid with asthma, is distraught that it is the anniversary of his mother’s death and is fleeing from a gang in a tough neighborhood where she died and where he went to leave flowers. Upset and reaching for his inhaler, he does not see Rocco (Benjamin Wadsworth) – a rich boy who has just gotten a fancy motorcycle as a birthday gift from his parents – as the motorcyclist shoots out into the intersection. Rocco is badly injured and Adam tries to perform first aid and calls 911. Panicking, he leaves the scene and hides the evidence, only to confess to his father what he has done. Wise and mournful, Michael faces every parent’s nightmare head on and tells his son he must go to the police and make things right.
But at the police station, Michael discovers that Rocco is the son of Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg, who starred in the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man), a notorious local gangster who will undoubtedly have Adam killed if he knows his identity.
The Israeli version, which was fascinating, at times veered into melodrama as the judge (Yoram Hattab) tried to use a Bedouin crime family (whose members featured Lucy Aharish and Hisham Suliman) to contain the fury of the Jewish crime family whose son was killed. In the US version, the Bedouin are replaced by African-American gang members, which works just as well. The entire cast is excellent, and Doohan is a find. Isiah Whitlock Jr. – whom fans of The Wire will remember as State Senator Clay Davis, who had a unique trademark expression – plays another politician here. Hope Davis of American Splendor and The Newsroom is Rocco’s mother. Stuhlbarg exudes low-key menace as the crime-family head. But Cranston, with his expressive, craggy face makes the hero and his tragic dilemma instantly relatable, and he dominates the series.
The New Orleans setting, far removed from the usual locations for a crime drama such as New York and New Jersey, gives the American remake an interesting atmosphere, although its version of the Big Easy is light years away from the French Quarter and other picture-postcard sites associated with the city. The series, which presents a dark yet universal story of flawed people, has also been remade in India.
The US version was created by Peter Moffat, who also made The Night Of, and among the executive producers are Robert and Michelle King, who created The Good Wife. This high-level remake with so many names from television’s A-list, both in front of and behind the camera, is further evidence, if any were needed, of the long reach of Israeli television.