The character of Guy Nehama, played by Reshef Levi, dreams of becoming a standup comic. (photo from Topic)
It took me a couple of episodes, but then I was hooked. Initially, most of the characters on the award-winning Israeli show Nehama – in particular the lead, Guy Nehama, played by Reshef Levi – are completely unappealing, even annoying. While they more or less stay that way, they do start to show shades of competence and compassion, and begin to use humour to salve as often as to stab. But, most importantly, their intrigues, become, well, intriguing, and more plentiful.
The series starts dramatically, to say the least. Guy’s wife careens off the road, the car rolls (if I’m remembering correctly – so much has happened since then). She manages to get out of the vehicle but doesn’t make it far, though she does manage to make a short phone call. Since it’s the starting point of everything and the main plot, it’s not too much of a spoiler to share that she dies, leaving Guy with their five children, ranging in age from baby to high schooler.
A tech guru working for a beast of a man, Guy – as he repeats often – is the household’s sole breadwinner. Before his wife’s death, he had little or no time for parenting. After she dies, he has no choice but to change his attitude and his approach. It’s difficult, though, not just because of his own self-absorption, but because of the people around him and their pressures and secrets.
Overarching all this is Guy’s dream of becoming a standup comic. He had been the more talented half of a comedy duo and the fact that his partner went on to become famous, while he became his family’s breadwinner in a “real” job, frustrates Guy to no end. In the first couple of episodes, where we don’t see Guy perform, it is hard to believe that this whiny, lacklustre man who constantly dictates ridiculous stories into a recorder could be funny, but turns out he is, which, combined with him trying to do right by his kids, makes him an underdog to root for, as he discovers his wife had lied to him on more than one account – and others, including his children, continue to lie to him.
There are 10 episodes in the first season of Nehama. The acting is superb, the comedy is dark; the hour-long shows go quickly. Topic, a streaming service launched last year by First Look Media, can be accessed on topic.com, AppleTV, Android, Roku, Amazon Prime and elsewhere.