Losing Alice

Pound for pound the Israelis make the best TV.

Canada and the U.K. punch far above their weight in music, but when it comes to TV series, there doesn’t seem to be a bad Israeli show, at least not one I’ve seen.

The best is “Prisoners of War.”

But really, for me it all started with “In Treatment,” the HBO therapy show that was lifted from the original Israeli series. And when HBO tried to extend it, beyond the initial two seasons of “BeTipul,” they failed. You just can’t recreate the Israeli ethos.

And what is that exactly?

A world where character is more important than action, where only so much money can be made so you focus on getting it right as opposed to getting rich. Where budgets cannot cover special effects, so it comes down to the script.

Of course “Fauda” has action, but that’s not what sells the show, it’s Doron and the rest of the characters. It all seems real. They’re fighting for a cause, and they could die tomorrow.

And there are so many other shows. “False Flag” on Hulu. “When Heroes Fly” on Netflix. “Srugim.” And of course “Shtisel.”

I preferred “Srugim” to “Shtisel,” but they’re both really good. And in “Shtisel” Akiva wants to marry Elisheva, but she’s tainted by being a widow two times over, and his family just won’t accept her.

Elisheva is played by Ayelet Zurer. Ayelet Zurer is the star of “Losing Alice.”

Zurer radiates intelligence, emotion, without even saying much. You’re drawn to her, she’s beautiful. Until she’s paired with Lihi Kornowski in “Losing Alice.” Kornowski is young and vibrant and makes Zurer appear to be the housewife she plays. Amazing juxtaposition. You sit there and watch and wonder what attraction really is.

And it works the other way too. Everybody wants to sleep with Gal Toren, who plays movie star David. But the truth is David and Zurer, Alice in this show, are supported by David’s mother, who knows no boundaries.

That’s a concept that is talked about in psychology that is addressed too infrequently, but when you see it, you immediately recognize it, whether it be in a TV series or real life. There are just certain people who cross lines with impunity, they don’t even think about it.

Like Sophie, played by Kornowski. She’s young and attractive and manipulative. She gets what she wants. And she doesn’t care what it takes to get it. Blurred lines? We’re not talking about Robin Thicke here, we’re talking about real life.

Every male has experienced this. Someone out of your league shows interest in you. How do you behave? Usually you play along in the moment, and maybe savor the experience a bit thereafter, but you know it was a one time deal.

Unless it’s not.

If they approach you again, if they want to continue, how do you deal with this? Some people run away. Some people go further until they freak out and pull the ripcord. Some people go all the way to the end, and ruin their lives or at least put a big dent in them.

Do you fly straight or take risks? Everybody does drugs, should you? Marijuana is essentially legal, does that mean you should smoke too? And if offered cocaine or mushrooms… Where do you draw the line? Some people never cross it, they stay on their side of the fence. They’ve paid their dues in pursuit of the life where you jump through hoops and you get what you deserve, but then some of these people are tempted. Like doctor Tamir in this show. Or Jeff Bezos. Are these women really interested in you, do you really have a chance?

Mo stayed with John Dean. To everyone’s surprise. But usually this is not the case.

Women are smart. And some know their ticket is their looks, and they expire, and they want to make the most of them while they can, like Sophie.

And, like Sophie, there are plenty of people who didn’t fit into the system, couldn’t get into the right college, couldn’t qualify for the course, but that does not mean they’re not smart. Oftentimes they’re much smarter than the achievers, because street smarts always trump book smarts, every single day.

So will you roll with the cool people to feel cool yourself, even though you’re really not, for the adventure, or..?

You could get in trouble. Alice does here. Even if you’re not trying, there could be a random police check that could net you.

They’re swimming at night and all I hear is my father’s voice in my head, DON’T!

Don’t ride on the back of cars.

Don’t dive into lakes in the dark.

I’m still here, a lot of people who did the above are not. I can still remember the stories growing up, I can still remember where they happened. But I’m neither rich nor famous, whereas people without portfolio came to Hollywood and made it. Yes, some O.D.’ed, like Don Simpson, who no one even talks about anymore. Some bounced from one tragedy to another, ruining their lives, like Jan-Michael Vincent. And you wouldn’t get in trouble if you had those roles, if you had the cash and the adulation…but playing it safe you can’t get the cash and the adulation.

And where are the boundaries in relationships? That sexy talk between friends, is it just talk or is there really something underneath, that you’d act on if you both weren’t married. And if you both weren’t married would you be interested in each other anyway?

Truthfully, we’re only half way through “Losing Alice.” And it’s not the best show I’ve ever seen, but I am hooked, I am not straying, we watched four episodes straight and if Felice hadn’t needed to sleep, I’d be on episode five right now.

Genre shows… They dominate streaming services. It’s much harder to write real life, real characters, something that reflects regular existence.

Like when you cross a boundary in your marriage and you can’t tell your spouse but the telltale heart is beating heavy inside, you can’t get your transgression off of your mind, acted so well by David in this show.

And life is boring and presented with a little excitement…are you really going to refrain from dipping your toe in?

Can you balance work and family. What are the costs?

Somehow they nail all this in Israeli shows. Maybe because Israel is a small country, like Canada, like the U.K., unburdened by the hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. who believe they live in the greatest country in the world. But if you’re not the behemoth, you pick and choose your entry points. Theoretically everybody can write a script. But can everybody write a good one?

And another pleasure of watching foreign TV is you see the same actors again and again, you’ll watch anything they’re in. Like Audrey Fleurot, in “A French Village” and “Spiral” and more. And Ayelet Zurer.

The truth is there’s a plethora of product out there and very little is great. And with everybody fighting for attention much of the great is hidden.

And “Losing Alice” is on Apple TV+, which everybody seems to have a free subscription to, but the ink goes to the business of the channel as opposed to the shows on the service.

So I’ve never heard anybody talk about “Losing Alice.” I found it doing research. And honestly the fact that it was Israeli was a plus. I didn’t even know it had Zurer in it until we watched it.

And like I said, “Losing Alice” is not fantastic, but much of the TV fare is mediocre. Made for a lowbrow audience which believes subtitles are anathema and three-dimensionality is hard to achieve, so why look for it. Most of the series you hear about are lousy, it’s just that there’s so much money invested the producers hype them, you don’t hear about the rest.

So you’re on your own.

Tonight we found “Losing Alice.”

Just when I was worried we’d hit all the highlights.

P.S. Watch “Losing Alice” in Hebrew, with English subtitles, not the dubbed version.

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