Promo for the series "The Embassy" (Network 13)
It's no secret that countries like Abu Dhabi and Dubai excite the imagination of Israelis.
The great wealth of the oil-affected Emirates is excellently portrayed in advertisements for outrageous flights and vacations, not to mention movies and series.
He inspires big ideas about easy combinations and deals with billionaire sheikhs who don't know what to do with all the money they have, and are just waiting for some Israeli ma'acher to help them think of investment solutions.
From the moment a peace agreement was signed in 2020 and open trade relations were opened between us and those countries, we could hardly wait for the corona test to come out negative before we flocked there to taste everything they have to offer.
We all became Samantha in the second Sex and the City movie.
"The Embassy", the new series of Network 13, revolves around Yitzhak Miman (played by Itzik Cohen), who has won the coveted position of Israel's ambassador in Abu Dhabi.
Around him are staff members who work at the embassy, such as the innocent political advisor Zvika (Yuval Haklai, creator of the series), Yael the tough representative of the Mossad (Maya Wertheimer), and Vasmin (Lidor Adri) the speaker who tries to be the voice of sanity and restrain everyone.
He has an intelligent wife who understands his heart (Esnat Fishman), and a brother who is just looking for the next combine (Ido Mosari).
All of them, down to the last of the embassy employees, are very, very, well, Israeli.
The embassy (Photo: Network 13)
The series is built around the tension that supposedly exists between two cultures that are similar in some things but very different in others, the initial and careful relations between the two, and the gap between the manners of the people of Abu Dhabi, the importance they attach to respect and style, and the Israeli attitude of absolute chauvinism.
It's also actually a workplace comedy, which just takes place in an important and respected political institution instead of just an office, so there's a natural comedic element here.
The expectation is that the atmosphere behind the scenes of the embassy establishment will be one of world affairs, and the characters will take themselves and their role with the seriousness of Tobey Ziegler from "The White House".
But no, we are talking about Israelis, so all their adventures are petty and even a diplomatic incident is at the level of "the Tunisian ambassador parked in our parking lot" and nothing more.
At least according to the first three chapters.
The series remains where it is comfortable, in the Israeli world.
We don't see enough of the Abu Dhabi character to appreciate the ironic gap between us and them, and we need it for the cultural context.
It feels like the creators relied on the most basic and shallow stigma that we all have in mind when we think of the Gulf countries and didn't try to bring something beyond.
So the "Most Beautiful Breastfeeding" contest is a big deal in the Emirates, OK, sounds reasonable, and that's about all we've learned about this culture, which to almost all of us watching is brand new.
We have sheikhs who close dubious deals here too, and an entire episode that deals with the competition between the mayors of Israel in the battle for who will get to be a twin city of Abu Dhabi could have found itself in a series about the mayor of Yeruhem.
In fact, the Twin Cities episode is the weakest of the first three episodes.
It is full of chewable Israeli clichés (Tel Aviv is clowning and vegetarianism, Rishon Lezion is nail polish and the Superland, in Ramat Gan there is nothing but the sparry, blah blah blah).
Since all the jokes wink at the broad Israeli common denominator all the time, it turns out that instead of feeling like we're in on the joke, it just feels like we're being laughed at.
And worse than that - sometimes it's really forced.
"Why do you have the face of a lemon baffla?"
the ambassador asks Yasmin, the speaker, while the office personnel explain to those who did not grow up here what "Hugo" is and who Gil Sassover is.
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The embassy (Photo: Network 13)
It helps a lot that the series has a great cast.
Itzik Cohen is an excellent comedian who without a doubt can and should be at the center of a series.
Around him are familiar faces that are always fun to come, such as Fishman and Mosri, and many less familiar faces that will be intriguing to see where they will go from here.
The potential is great and the actors are completely capable, but the lack of uniformity in the writing is the fault of the series.
This is the weak link here - a script at a variable level.
The writing is mostly entertaining but that's about it.
Alongside cute plots such as the unexpected friendship of ambassadors from enemy countries who find a common language as fans of the same football team, we get the mystery of "who stole Havi's tropicals from the kitchen".
The characters are not developed enough for us not to think that we have already seen them elsewhere.
The series constantly walks the line between nice and cheesy, and sometimes stumbles to this side and sometimes to that side.
The texts don't always sound like something real people would say, the credibility of the scene varies from sentence to sentence, from actor to actor, and the gaps are jarring.
Gaps jarring to the ear.
The embassy (photo: Network 13)
Two of the creators of the series wrote to "Kopa Rasahite", which means that they understand the distillation of the ridiculous face of Israeli society and its reflection as something sharp and precise to convey a message, but the "embassy" is not there.
Even though it deals with the world of diplomacy, it is not a political satire, so don't expect polish and certainly not VIP, and even though it is an office comedy, it simply does what has been done before it and does not innovate.
So there is no statement about the culture of the combine beyond "yes, we have such a culture", and maybe the series doesn't aspire to that at all, and I'm just looking for a message in a place that only comes to make jokes that speak to as many TV viewers in Israel as possible.
Legitimate, and the series is indeed easy to watch and entertaining, but on the other hand it is neglected and forgotten, which is a shame, because with this cast you can do much more.
Maybe in the next episodes.
In the end, all that remains of her is the joy that the creators knew how to cast the wonderful Eden Daniel Gabai, because when he speaks I want him to be in every scene.