This Israeli cop comedy on Netflix is the perfect pandemic pick-me-up
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This Israeli cop comedy on Netflix is the perfect pandemic pick-me-up

"Hashoter Hatov" turns toxic masculinity on its head

The cast of “Hashoter Hatov”  Photo courtesy of Netflix via JTA.org
The cast of “Hashoter Hatov” Photo courtesy of Netflix via JTA.org

Israeli TV is all the rage right now. You’ve probably heard of “Shtisel,” the sensation about a haredi Orthodox family in Jerusalem that swept the world since it premiered on Netflix in 2019, or maybe you know “The Beauty and the Baker,” an enchanting Israeli comedic telenovela (streamable on Amazon Prime for all you romance lovers), which just got an exciting stateside adaptation by ABC.

But one less hailed Israeli show that you definitely should be watching is called “Hashoter Hatov” — Hebrew for “The Good Cop.”

This Israeli police comedy is a delight that turns the toxic masculinity associated with police work — especially in a macho country like Israel — on its head. It’s so great that it got an American adaptation with Josh Groban and Tony Danza at its helm. But the American show couldn’t fully capture the lightness and magic of its Israeli counterpart and fizzled after one season.

“Hashoter Hatov” stars comedy veteran Yuval Semo (known for being a member of Israeli comedy troupe The Prozac Trio and a cast member of the Israeli ensemble show “Eretz Nehederet”) as Danny Konfino, a gruff and successful cop who comes from a family of petty criminals. Unsurprisingly, they don’t really respect his penchant for the law.

Konfino lives with his girlfriend and her son until he finds her cheating on him with a woman. So he winds up back in his childhood home.

Konfino’s mother is played by Liora Rivlin, who is known as one of the leads in “Krovim Krovim,” Israel’s first sitcom from the 1980s. She is absolutely spectacular as both a loving mom and sexually empowered woman. Then there’s Konfino’s father, played by Moshe Ivgy, an Israeli acting legend, whose reputation has been tarnished by accusations of sexual harassment from several women; he was also convicted earlier this year of indecent assault. So it might seem ironic that he’s featured in a show that challenges and dismantles toxic ideas about masculinity and sex, but it’s clear that particular agenda is important to show creators.

In the push and pull between appearing authoritative and manly, or loving and gracious, Danny choses the latter, over and over again.

“Hashoter Hatov” was originally conceived as a “Reno 911”-inspired show, but it turned out to be its own creature, one that is a mix of moving and funny, that brings a heartfelt vulnerability to a profession normally thought of as macho. The show was conceived by Erez Aviram, a former journalist and veteran writer for “Eretz Nehederet” (Israel’s “Saturday Night Live” equivalent) who has years of an almost anthropological study of the comedic fabric of Israeli society. That in turn makes the show deeply and accurately Israeli.

The show’s brand of humor is heartfelt and infectious. You can feel its spirit in the opening number, which has the troupe of cops do a silly dance across a hallway. It’s deceptively simple, but it’s one of my favorite openings to a show — the cast keeps straight faces and brings out the personality of their characters to a joyfully imperfect musical number.

Like many serialized police shows, “Hashoter Hatov” digs into the personal lives of its characters, and shows how those intersect with their professional ones — but there’s nothing glamorous about the daily lives of these broke cops, in a country that also, well, is not exactly into rules and regulations.

Still, the show has a vision of justice, in which friendship and love triumph over being a stickler about the rules.

So if you’re looking to be moved, to laugh and to be distracted from the raging pandemic — “Hashoter Hatov” is your next binge. pjc

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