War, women and Borat: What's new to watch during the coronavirus pandemic

A number of new offerings have been made available on TV, VOD and streaming services.

HUGH GRANT and Nicole Kidman in ‘The Undoing.’ (photo credit: YES/HOME BOX OFFICE)
HUGH GRANT and Nicole Kidman in ‘The Undoing.’
(photo credit: YES/HOME BOX OFFICE)
As the months of the pandemic have turned into more than half a year, television networks and streaming services are fighting for captive audiences with more unusual and more interesting fare, some of which would have been in movie theaters were it not for the virus.
That’s certainly the case with Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which is available in Israel on Amazon Prime. Yes, it’s in incredibly bad taste, and if some of it doesn’t offend you, you’re probably a robot. But most of it is really funny and outrageous and – no spoilers – it offers an interesting explanation of the origins of the coronavirus.
Closer to home, KAN 11 is offering Valley of Tears, an epic miniseries – the most expensive ever produced for Israeli television – about the Yom Kippur War, particularly the fighting on the Golan Heights where Israeli forces were outnumbered by Syrians. Episodes are available for free on the KAN website, and new episodes are broadcast on Mondays at 9:15 p.m.
Viewing is recommended for audiences 14 and older, and this is one time you should listen to their recommendation, because this gripping series shows the violence of war very graphically. The series has stirred discussion of the war throughout Israel and has reportedly caused some veterans of the war to seek treatment for PTSD. But for all of its realism, it’s a drama and each episode leaves the audience in suspense.
Netflix recently released The Trial of the Chicago 7 and FX has also gone back to late-20th century history for Mrs. America, a series that will run on Yes VOD beginning November 1 and Yes Drama starting November 8. It is about the unexpected backlash against the Equal Rights Amendment led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the ‘70s. Schlafly was painted as a kind of grotesque Stepford Wife-like puppet of the patriarchy at the time, but she is portrayed here by Cate Blanchett as a complex woman who fought a great deal of sexism herself.
As the series tells it, she loved her work as an adviser on nuclear policy to the defense establishment in Washington, but found herself pushed more and more into speaking about women’s issues. It is a reminder that no one is all one thing. On the other side of the spectrum, the series focuses on the feminists who pushed for ratification of the ERA, including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba, who played Suzanne on Orange is the New Black) and Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale, who was one of the handlers on The Americans). Even if you think you know everything there is about this period the series will surprise you.
One heavily promoted series that won’t surprise you is The Undoing, an HBO series that is currently running on Hot, Yes and Cellcom. A psychological thriller, in some ways it plays like retread of Big Little Lies. Supposedly, it’s the story of the dilemma faced by a New York woman, Grace (Nicole Kidman), a psychologist who supposedly has it all, after a tragedy forces her to reevaluate everything she ever knew about her husband, a pediatric oncologist, played by Hugh Grant doing his best to keep a straight face.
Everything has been heightened from the novel on which it is based, You Should Have Known, and the characters are super-rich and privileged. The drama is pedestrian at best, but what may draw you in is the incredible real-estate porn (huge apartments filled with great art, overlooking Central Park), designer clothes and fabulous hair. If the premise itself intrigues you, read the book by Jean Hanff Korelitz, which goes much deeper.
As I watched the Netflix remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rebecca, I tried to imagine what it would be like to see the new version if you had no idea what the original was like. The conclusion I came to was that, much like The Undoing, anyone who would stick with it would do so for the gorgeous locations (a mansion in the English countryside, the French Riviera) and the beautiful, tailored clothes. The lead actors – Lily James and Armie Hammer – look quite nice too, but if you want suspense and great performances, check out the original with Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, if you can find it.