The dramedy Uri And Ella aired to great acclaim in Israel starting in November 2016. It was a property that was so hot, that there was word that it was being adapted into an American pilot. But that never happened; four-and-a-half years later, HBO Max stepped up and bought the U.S. streaming rights for the show. Was it worth the wait?
Opening Shot: An older man and a younger woman on a motorcycle. We see that they’re a father and daughter when they’re out for dinner, and the daughter starts to play charades.
The Gist: Uri (Shlomo Bar-Aba), one of Israel’s most beloved singers, lives with his daughter Ella (Dina Senderson). The two of them have grown so close since his wife and her mother died of cancer a year prior that they act more like a romantic couple than a father and daughter. Which makes it weirder because Ella’s boyfriend (Gal Toren) is staying with them a lot.
One rainy night, Uri finds himself stuck at a movie theater by himself, watching a boring Danish film. It’s something he and Ella usually do together, but she tells him she’s staying in to look for a job. Of course, she gets so frustrated, she thinks it’s time to “take it up a notch” and “have kids or something.”
At the theater, he flirts with a woman his age, especially when a drunken woman walks in and starts yelling at everyone. On the way out, the woman passes out as she passes the two of them on a balcony. The older woman leaves, and Uri is there to pick up the pieces, as it were. Her name is Kineret (Liron Vaisman), and when she asks Uri to take her home, he obliges, dragging her up four flights of stairs because she claims the elevator doesn’t work.
But at her apartment, the two of them run into her estranged husband, who has kicked Kineret out because of her alcohol and drug abuse. Then their two daughters wake up and Uri sees the heartbreak in Kineret as she only has a few fleeting moments with them, while not in very good shape. On their way down the elevator (yes, it actually works), she kisses him. As he takes her for something to eat, he calls her “special,” but tells her they can’t enter into anything right now; it’s too soon after his wife’s death.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Uri And Ella displays the kind of parent-child co-dependent relationship you see on a show like Gilmore Girls, only weirder.
Our Take: We’ve complained in the past about shows that give us too much exposition at the start; either it’s a lot of information to swallow or it’s presented in a way that’s completely unnatural. They tell instead of show. Uri And Ella, on the other hand, gives too little exposition in its first episode, leading us confused about a few things.
For some reason or another, co-creators Senderson, Ofer Seker and Yuval Shafferman fail to find a spot where Uri addresses Ella by her name. That would have cleared up a whole lot. Instead, we were left wondering if Ella was the drunk woman in the movie theater; when he called her Kineret, though, we became even more confused. The show is supposed to be about a romance, but when you’re setting up a romantic comedy where the couple is a father and daughter, well, you may need more of a setup. Like telling us earlier in the episode that Uri’s wife died and he’s not ready to get out there, for instance.
It’s not like we didn’t get the closeness of Uri and Ella’s relationship from the start, though; Ella seems completely free enough to sign a blowjob to her dad as part of their charades game; she was trying to say “hooker”. We also get that Ella, who we’re assuming is somewhere around 30, is cute and funny with a megawatt smile, but is certainly unsure of herself. Instead of really looking for a job, for instance, she’d rather make fun of the questions on the career quiz. But it’s not like getting a job is an imperative, though; Uri’s got money to spare and takes care of her very well, because she takes care of him emotionally.
One of the other things we didn’t get any information about is Uri’s career; we were surprised that it seemed that random people knew who he was, including Kineret’s estranged husband. Are they neighbors? No, it’s that Uri is so famous that everyone knows him, but for some reason or another aren’t startstruck around him.
Once we understood the dynamic, though, the series settles into a nice, albeit quirky, rhythm. In the second episode, when Ella decides to cheat on her meek boyfriend with a celebrity chef named Tzuki (Pablo Rozenberg), and Uri gets jealous enough to try to warn Tzuki to stay away. That episode felt more like the rhythm the series wants to achieve, and we expect good things going forward, especially because the chemistry between Senderson and Bar-Aba is so good.
Sex and Skin: None except Kineret kissing Uri in the first episode. In the second episode, we see Ella laying in bed with Tzuki after having sex, but no sex itself.
Parting Shot: Ella laughs her ass off at the sight of her dripping-wet father, coming in way later than expected. She calls him a goofball.
Sleeper Star: Liron Vaisman plays the drunken Kineret very well, lacing her antics with the sadness that Kineret is feeling pretty much all the time, except when she’s around Uri.
Most Pilot-y Line: We’re not 100% sure when Uri’s opinion of Kineret changed. Maybe it was when he saw her with her children and got some insight into how vulnerable she is.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Uri And Ella takes some time to settle into its groove, but it’s also a well-acted dramedy showcase for its stars.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, , , Fast Company and elsewhere.