Sinking buckets and submarines in new series - TV Time

Israeli and American basketball is front and center in two new series.

 ‘WINNING TIME’ focuses on the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers’ dynasty. (photo credit: Warrick Page/HBO/Yes)
‘WINNING TIME’ focuses on the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers’ dynasty.
(photo credit: Warrick Page/HBO/Yes)

Israeli and American basketball is front and center in two new series.

The more you are into US basketball and the more you like the Los Angeles Lakers, the more you will enjoy the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, which is airing on Hot HBO on Mondays at 10 p.m., as well as on Hot VOD, Next TV, CellcomTV, Yes VOD and StingTV. But fans of the series’ creator, Adam McKay, and his unique brand of showmanship can also have fun watching the series. McKay was the director who made the black comedy about the end of the world Don’t Look Up, as well as such sharp political satires as Vice and The Big Short. Characters in his movies break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience, detailing their motivations and narrating their lives, often exaggerating their talents and their achievements. It’s a style that works well for this story of how Dr. Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly), a chemist and entrepreneur bought the Los Angeles Lakers in the late 70s, signed Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) and changed the face of American basketball. The series is set to pulsing pop music and it features a fair amount of nudity and profanity, so it is not for everyone.

The series opens the day Johnson is diagnosed as HIV positive and flashes back to more than 10 years earlier, when Buss bought the team. A series like this is only as good as its cast, and the good news is that Reilly and Isaiah are both wonderful in their roles. It can’t be easy to portray a sports and entertainment legend like Magic Johnson, but Isaiah pulls it off and Reilly, who has long been one of America’s greatest character actors, gets the complex leading role he has always deserved.

The rivalry between the Maccabi Tel Aviv and HaPoel Tel Aviv basketball teams in the 1990s is the subject of The Punch, a new three-part documentary series that starts running on Docu Yes on March 24 at 9 p.m., as well as on StingTV and Yes VOD. Like Winning Time, it will be enjoyed most by those who follow basketball, but it is about more than sports. It goes into the politics and history behind the teams and their rivalry. HaPoel was associated more with socialist, primarily Ashkenazi youth movements, while Maccabi was favored more by those on the Right. Arik Einstein was HaPoel’s biggest fan, singing about them at times, and they were seen more as the lovable losers and underdogs. In 1992, after Maccabi had been the Israeli champions for 22 years, they faced off in the playoffs and this is the focus of the series. Understanding the story of these two teams will teach you a great deal about recent Israeli history and culture, and watching the interviews with the players, staff and their supporters are lively and fun.

If you are looking for an exciting, twisty thriller in an unusual setting, you can tune in to Vigil on Yes TV Action on March 12 at 10 p.m. and on Yes VOD, and on March 17 at 10 p.m. on Hot HBO, Next TV and Hot VOD. It is the story of a murder investigation on a nuclear submarine that patrols the waters off the coast of Scotland. It stars Suranne Jones (Coronation Street, Doctor Foster and many other series) as Amy, a police detective brought aboard the submarine by helicopter to investigate what at first looks like a drug overdose.

 ‘VIGIL’ – a murder investigation on a nuclear submarine. (credit: YES) ‘VIGIL’ – a murder investigation on a nuclear submarine. (credit: YES)

The scenes of life on board are fascinating and create many limitations for Amy, whose communications with her partner on land are monitored by the crew. Jones is a memorable detective, strong and vulnerable, who finds herself suffering from claustrophobia, as the submarine reminds her of a recent car accident in which she lost family members. And as an outsider, she finds that the crew has closed ranks and is uncooperative at first, especially when she uncovers evidence of foul play.

The series also looks at the issue of nuclear weapons, featuring some characters who are anti-nuclear protestors in a camp of caravans near a naval base, which is particularly interesting this week, as Russian attacks on Ukrainian power plants have been in the headlines and the possibilities for accidents or attacks on nuclear submarines seem especially real and scary.

While Vigil is not without clichés, especially when dealing with the submarine crew (there is the by-the-book captain who is tough but fair, his deputy who has something to hide, and so on) the pacing is so good, it keeps the suspense level high. Rose Leslie plays her partner, who is investigating the murder on land and who is also Amy’s lover. Although the two are apart for much of the series, their relationship is shown in flashbacks and they have real chemistry. Leslie is best known for Game of Thrones and also starred in The Good Fight, but here as a closeted lesbian detective, she is particularly good. Paterson Joseph, who plays the submarine captain, is always fun to watch and although you may not recognize his name, you have probably seen him in other shows, including The Leftovers and Survivors (an excellent series about the aftermath of a global pandemic, which is worth watching if you can find it). This very well-done series got me hooked after 10 minutes and even if you don’t have a touch of claustrophobia, as I do, you may well get hooked, too. It has the vibe of Nordic Noir and at times reminded me of the iconic Danish-Swedish series, The Bridge.

If you are interested in a true-life murder set on a submarine, you can watch the HBO two-part documentary, Undercurrent: The Disappearance of Kim Wall on Hot 8 on March 10 at 10 p.m. and on Hot HBO, Hot VOD and Yes Docu starting on March 10, and on Yes VOD, StingTV and on CellcomTV. You may not remember this bizarre case, but it was a huge story in Scandinavia. Kim Wall was a Swedish journalist who went to interview Danish entrepreneur Peter Madsen, a kind of Elon Musk-like figure, aboard his midget submarine. She never returned and her body parts started washing up on land a few days later. Madsen was arrested the day after she disappeared and found guilty in a trial that garnered huge public interest of her murder, who later admitted to the killing in a Danish documentary. It’s a fascinating but nightmarish story.