Ronit, rock ’n’ roll and really good writing

This week on the small screen

Ronit Elkabetz in 'Trepalium' (photo credit: PR)
Ronit Elkabetz in 'Trepalium'
(photo credit: PR)
Ronit Elkabetz will be starring in a French television series, Trepalium, from the prestigious Arte company. It takes place in the near future, when 80 percent of people are unemployed and segregated by a wall from the remaining 20 percent who live in luxury. Elkabetz, last seen as a woman fighting for her right to divorce in Gett, will play the prime minister, whose husband is kidnapped by rebels from the 80 percent. Lubna Azabal, who starred in the Oscar-nominated movies Incendies and Paradise Now, as well as the Israeli movie Strangers, co-stars.
The series will air on YES in early 2016.
Another series that is coming up in January and will be aired on YES Oh has two producers with very familiar names: Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese. The two are teaming up to create an HBO series called Vinyl, a drama about the music business in New York in the 1970s, when punk, disco and hip hop were either just beginning or at the height of their popularity.
The show’s hero (or anti-hero?) is a record-label president, Richie Finestra, played by Bobby Cannavale, an actor who made his name in indie films such as The Station Agent and who played a tough working-class guy in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Other series regulars will include Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano (who played one of the most engaging characters on Parenthood) and James Jagger (Mick’s son).
This will be Scorsese’s second foray into television. His first, the series Boardwalk Empire, with Steve Buscemi as a crime kingpin in Atlantic City between the two world wars, was a success and gave many characters actors a chance to shine, including Cannavale, as well as Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man).
Scorsese and Jagger teamed up previously on the Rolling Stones’ concert film Shine a Light in 2008.
Although Jagger has acted in the past, he will not be acting in Vinyl, but his participation makes it official: Television is now the hottest medium around.
But will these big names guarantee that the show will be a hit? Not necessarily. The 2011 series Luck, starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, about the world of horse racing, ran only one season. The real question is whether the show can recreate the excitement of the music scene in those years, and that will mean great music. Can even HBO, with all its clout and cash, find actor/ musicians who can channel the spirit of such artists as the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls and many others? We’ll see. One thing seems certain: The premiere party will be a lot of fun, whether the series is a hit or not.
Empire, which has just returned with a strong second season, faced a similar dilemma to Vinyl in that it also focuses on a music mogul, in this case, in hip hop/ rap. But the drama among the main characters is what really fuels the show, rather than the music, which is rather tame pop.
Aficionados of the hip hop scene have criticized the music on Empire for its inauthenticity, but since the show’s soapy storyline has been a hit, no one seems to care. Empire airs on YES Drama on Mondays at 10 p.m. and on YES VOD.
The surprise hit comedy from Britain, Catastrophe, about an American man and an Irish woman who marry after a fling in London leaves her pregnant, will be back soon for its second season. Starting on November 18, HOT Xtra is rerunning all the episodes of Season One.
This series may sound like a cliche, but its leads, played by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, who are also the series’ writers and producers, manage to make this storyline smart, believable, enjoyable and very funny.
Carrie Fisher will turn up as Rob’s mother in Season Two, while in the first season she was just a voice on the telephone.
Catastrophe is the rare comedy series with no gimmicks except for good writing and acting. So you have time to catch up in time for Season Two.