Promo "My Nephew Benz" Season 2 (here educational)
Many beloved series ended their current incarnation this week, but of all of them I will miss the most one small Israeli series that many are not familiar with, simply because it is a youth series that is broadcast here educationally. The second season of the addictive comedy "My Nephew Benz" ended this week, and the only consolation is that there are at least two more seasons in the pipeline. So if you've never heard of it, or maybe you've heard but assumed it's just some "kids'" hit that isn't relevant to you, know that the magic of "Benz" is suitable for everyone, and it crosses ages, humor and accumulation mode.
It begins when Yoni (Daniel Koren), a neurotic history teacher at a very mediocre high school in the city of Ness Ziona, expresses a wish to become the school's principal after the current principal (Dov Navon) retires. His wish arrives, with Yoni's characteristic misfortune, in the ears of the devil (Maor Cohen in perfect casting), who rushes to sign Yoni to a contract. According to the agreement, Yoni will run the school after passing Bencifer (Uri Vered), the son of Satan, through matriculation. Please, even the premise of the series is ridiculous and fun in advance. So the boy/demon Benz goes down to Earth and is forced to live with June and start going to school. Like any high school student, he does it with total reluctance, just because his father forces him. Unlike a regular high school student, Benz also has to learn how people behave, what is socially acceptable, and how to live when your whole being is a huge secret, and among other things you have access to small miracles.
The comic tension often stems from the wonderful neuroticism of June, who is always on the hysterical end of the emotional scale, and has to run and put out fires that Benz starts because of his innocence or indifference to mortal customs, and the need to maintain Benz's magical identity. Their cover story is that Benz is Yoni's nephew, who grew up in the most mysterious place on earth - North Korea - and therefore his ways are strange. The dynamic of the duo Koren and Vered is at the heart of the story and they hold this whole production together, repeatedly creating comedic or moving moments together.
Holding all this production. Uri Vered and Daniel Koren, "My Nephew Benz" (Photo: Kan Educational)
But I wouldn't want it to be implied that, apart from the two, this series isn't bursting with entertaining characters and a wonderful cast of actors. This is a mix of familiar and new faces - very strong comedians such as the third "This and That" - Gitit Fischer, Oshrit Seroussi and Chen Rotman (the latter is also one of the writers) - Omer Etzion, Avi Greinik and Sharon Teicher, alongside happy guest appearances by Guri Alfi, Galit Hugi, Adi Beatty, Noa Kirel and many more. And alongside them, a group of promising young actors who play the high school students. This clever casting means there's always a balance between the stability of scruffy comedians who know the job well, and the lighter youthful spirit of the younger actors. This balance characterizes "My Nephew Benz" in other areas as well.
This is a series of its kind that we have seen more than once - a series for youth that takes place in the school environment, and as such it uses all the known clichés and patterns - but only as a jumping-off point. The creators of the series were educated on all the high school series of the Ninties and they enjoy turning clichés on their heads and breaking them at every opportunity, and also fill the script with endless references to the movies and series they grew up on. At the same time, the series constantly references contemporary popular culture, including an episode filmed entirely as if it were a live broadcast on TikTok.
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Bursting with a wonderful cast. Omer Etzion, Gitit Fischer and Koren, "My Nephew Benz" Season 2 (Photo: Jorge Novomansky, Kan Educational)
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In every high school series we have several regular characters, and here, too, Benz's high school experience comes complete with a group of friends that includes his bestie Neta (Noa Cohen), the smart one who often functions as the Straight Woman, the one who is the voice of sanity that no one listens to; Dark Bud (Noa Astangelov, "The Commander") who has a Wednesday aesthetic but a big heart that loves all animals and tries to save the planet; Alex, the stressed computer geek (Idan Marin), and Olaf, a student from Belgium with an unclear accent and customs no less bizarre than Benz's own.
Let's not forget that every invented high school must legally also be the most acceptable and intolerable girl, and here it is rich and spoiled Julie (Emma Alfie the talent bomb), a network influencer who goes everywhere with a minimum of three runners-up; And Lital Jr. (Yehuda Bohbot), who is the handsomest with the most beautiful hair and therefore does not need to study or say think. They and many other supporting characters gracefully hold the levels of fun and trolling that the show's writers demand of them.
And yes, this is a series of educational. And besides making us fun and making us laugh, it also has a purpose to convey educational messages. But if you've just had flashbacks to a "very special episode" of American shows in the 1984s, don't worry. The creators don't land the message on the viewers' heads, and it's always woven just right into a supernatural plot that's too stupid to be burdensome. Without ever saying it directly, there seems to be a lot of preoccupation with power as a corrupting element throughout the series – when you give someone too much power, it quickly becomes a tool for oppression. This is what happens when conscientious Nitzan assumes the role of "Noah" and must decide which of her classmates will "enter the ark and be saved," i.e., receive a passing grade in the Bible. This is what happens when Little Jr. suddenly acquires an intelligence unnatural to him, and the chain of events leads to an apocalyptic reality in the style of <>. As Yuli's popularity declines and Gaia rises in her place, she offers her followers ("believers") a system based on empathy and empowerment rather than Yuli's totalitarian regime, but it quickly becomes clear that this too is just a way to gain power and influence.
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The obvious archetypals. Noa Astangelov and her mother Alfie, "My Nephew Benz" Season 2 (Photo: Jorge Novomansky, here Educational)
It's a super self-aware series. Creator Dror Weidman ("The New Jew," "Whatever You Say"), director and writer Dan Messer ("Home Alone," "This and That") and other talented screenwriters know that they come with "older" messages to the world of young people, just as they are aware of the gap between the humor of their Gen X and the humor of their TikTok generation (temporary name), and they walk this elusive line very wisely. Take, for example, the episode in which Benz's best friend Alex mentions the fact that he is gay in season two. When Benz expresses surprise, Alex reminds him through a flashback (which we haven't seen before) that he has already come out to his friends, including Benz, who at the time expressed equal support and disinterest. In this way, the series bypasses the seemingly obvious dramatic moment and conveys that this new detail about Alex is simply another thing to know about this character, but it doesn't define it.
If once at least a special episode was devoted to coming out, here it is mentioned almost in passing, and the fact that Benz didn't even see coming out as something worth remembering fits his character - we don't really expect Benz to be interested in such things. Sexual attraction between people is overwhelmingly strange to him, especially since he himself dated a lava monster for a while. Instead, this mention of Alex begs Benz the question of whether the fact that he himself holds a big secret means that he is being oppressed, that his rights to be who he is being trampled upon. The focus of the episode actually becomes on Bencifer's desire to "come out" as a demon - which everyone knew, and the burden on his shoulders would be eased, as happened to Alex when he stopped hiding the fact that he was gay.
This plot direction also allows the writers to reflect to their younger audience, among other things, the problematic appropriation of the LGBT struggle – Alex thinks Benz is laughing at him and belittling the process he went through. In this way, the series ping-ponges messages, between text and subtext, between the meta and the thing itself. And this clever use of plots that appear to be most wonderfully stupid to say something profound and important about the human condition is the superpower of this series.
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The young cast gracefully holds the fun and trolling. "My Nephew Benz" Season 2 (Photo: Kan Educational)
Coincidentally or not, the series created a hero on the autistic spectrum. Bencifer is a kind of "alien" at school, he's not from here and doesn't fully understand the rules. Complexities of human interaction, such as sarcasm or pictorial expressions, what is a proportional response to new emotions, what does the girl you love mean and why your best friend is angry - all this goes over his head, and he needs a guide to explain to him all these subtleties. In the way Uri Vered plays Benz, there is a kind of distant detachment and an inability to maintain eye contact. Perhaps if Benz had come to an environment that doesn't accept his otherness, one that mocks his weirdness instead of dismissing everything delusional he says as "I guess that's how it is in North Korea," he would probably escape the harsh reality of high school back to hell and seek refuge there. But fortunately for him, he came down to life on Earth at the most open time to the exceptions ever, and the creators of the series are doing their part in normalizing giving space to the other and her language.
Plots woven throughout the season culminate in two end-of-season episodes, which solve most of the problems and dangers faced by the protagonists throughout the season. The plot to expose Bencifer's true nature fails, and everything supposedly returns to zero in a way that provides us with exactly the level of trolling and joy we are used to receiving here. Of course, once everything seems to be okay, and even the romantic triangle of the series is finally resolved, a big cliffhanger arrives that opens up a host of new questions and tension between the characters, who will wait for the next season. Me and the rest of the fans of the series can't wait anymore.
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- My nephew Benz
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