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Banking on ‘Bros’: Netflix’s first original Hebrew-language series is finally arriving

With its original release date delayed by the events of October 7 – and its rescheduled premiere party canceled due to the Iranian attack – ‘Bros’ emerges during a deeply charged moment

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Guy Amir (left) and Hanan Savyon at a Beitar Jerusalem soccer game in a scene from their new Netflix series 'Bros.' (Courtesy Netflix)
Guy Amir (left) and Hanan Savyon at a Beitar Jerusalem soccer game in a scene from their new Netflix series 'Bros.' (Courtesy Netflix)

The year is 2008, and the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team is playing Wislow Krakow in Poland.

The pivotal UEFA Champions League qualifying game serves as the dramatic backdrop for the new series “Bros,” an Israeli dark comedy hitting Netflix on Thursday.

The series, called “Ba’esh Uvamayim” in Hebrew (“Through fire and water”), is the brainchild of longtime collaborators Guy Amir and Hanan Savyon, who wrote, directed and star in the show as lifelong best friends Nisso and Pini.

It is also the first fully Hebrew and Israeli original production for Netflix. The show was originally slated to premiere on the streaming platform in early November but was postponed in the wake of the Hamas massacre on October 7.

A spokesperson for Netflix denied a report in the Ynet news outlet earlier this month that the company was seeking to downplay the international release of the show amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Yet nobody involved with the show was made available for interviews ahead of its premiere, with the spokesperson saying the stars and creators preferred to let the series speak for itself, rather than answer questions that would undoubtedly veer to the political.

The production was also directly affected by the Hamas massacre: sound designer Lior Waitzman, who had been working on the show, was murdered on October 7 while out riding his bike near his home in Sderot.

And months after it was rescheduled, the premiere ended up even lower-key than expected, when a celebratory screening slated for Sunday evening in Israel was canceled in the wake of Iran’s missile and drone attack.

The show, of course, has nothing to do with Hamas, Gaza or even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, there’s very little politics at all.

While speculation had arisen after the show was announced that it would deal with one of the most infamous chapters in Beitar Jerusalem history – when the team signed two Muslim players from Chechnya in 2012, sparking outrage from La Familia, a notoriously racist subset of the team’s diehard fans – it is actually set years earlier, with no reference to the team’s long history of controversies.

Truthfully, while the series is set around two friends and their love for the team, the show is only nominally about the 2008 season, or even soccer or sports. At its heart, “Bros” tells a story about, well, bros – two lifelong friends played by Savyon and Amir who grew up in Jerusalem and run a sports bar where they imbibe perhaps a bit too much.

Facing bumps in their personal lives, the pair find themselves caught up in drama and uncertainty that tests their decades of friendship and the future of their business.

Hanan Savyon (left) and Guy Amir in a scene from their new Netflix series ‘Bros.’ (Courtesy Netflix)

Savyon and Amir are veterans in the Israeli TV world, and have teamed up on numerous projects over the years, including 2010’s “Asfur” (featuring a young Gal Gadot) and 2013’s “Scarred” as well as films “Maktub” in 2017 and “Forgiveness” in 2019.

While the series feels somewhat autobiographical – Savyon grew up in Jerusalem, the pair have been friends for close to 25 years (having met in acting school), are both devoted Beitar fans and used to co-own a bar in Givatayim – one would hope the similarities end there.

Throughout the show’s eight episodes, the two friends get up to increasingly wild and unrealistic antics in Jerusalem and Krakow, as they struggle with their changing life trajectories and the future of their beloved bar, as well as cops, drug dealers, insurance investigators and a mob of angry neo-Nazis.

Guy Amir (left) and Hanan Savyon in a scene set in Poland in their new Netflix series ‘Bros.’ (Courtesy Netflix)

For a show (at least originally) aimed at audiences in Netflix’s 190 countries, “Bros” is deeply and undeniably Israeli. Just eight minutes into the first episode, the pair crack a joke about Hezbollah terrorists. It takes until just episode two until a reference to the Holocaust arises.

Jerusalemites will likely delight at seeing some of the capital’s easily recognizable neighborhoods on screen, while those who regularly fly to and from Israel will chuckle when Amir’s character orders a “special kosher” meal on board a plane, just because he’s sick of seeing the religious passengers get to eat first.

It’s difficult to predict the traction “Bros” might get on Netflix, the most popular streaming service around the globe. While global audiences have devoured Israeli shows like “Fauda” and “Tehran,” which center on conflict and violence, and “Shtisel,” which shone a light on and humanized an insular, little-known community, “Bros” is essentially about two middle-aged idiots who are often hard to root for, muddling their way through life while making terrible decisions and trying to grow up several decades too late.

But perhaps this is the perfect time to show that actually, Israelis are just like everybody else.

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