TV in Tel Aviv spells success in America

By Tom Tugend, December 29, 2011
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Ramzor strides towards US

Ramzor strides towards US

Americans who want to sample Israel's popular culture don't have to travel to Tel Aviv - they merely have to turn on their home television sets.

A growing number of American TV producers, impressed by the creativity and energy of their Israeli counterparts, are adapting that country's hit shows to US tastes.

In a report by entertainment trade paper Variety, Showtime president David Nevins credited Israel's "culture of story-tellers" for the quantity and quality of its TV output.

The trend took off three years ago, when Israel's BeTipul, about a psychiatrist and his patients, became the HBO hit, In Treatment.

In early 2011, Israel's Ramzor became America's Traffic Light, focusing on three male friends and the women in their lives.

Enjoying a second season on Showtime is Homeland, adapted from Hatufim (Prisoners of War) about soldiers whose loyalties are questioned after they return from the wars.

A surprise hit is NBC's Who's Still Standing? - a copy of Israel's first reality show. In both versions, one main competitor and 10 challengers field trivia questions. Wrong answers result in the contestant being dropped through a trap-door.

US viewers can also look forward to adaptations of The Frame, an Israeli competition series, and the crime drama, Naked Truth.

Alex Gansa, the American producer of Homeland, told Variety that the comparative youth of the Israeli television industry accounts its originality.

"They're not boxed into any way of telling stories yet," Gansa said. "There's a freedom and freewheeling style that is very attractive to people here in America. We tend to get very narrow-minded about things - doctors, lawyers, police procedurals - and the Israelis, among others, have broken free of that."

He noted that, Israel's low productions costs offer "much more freedom to try new things, while we have the advantage of watching to see if they're successful."

A front-page story in the same issue of Variety says Tel Aviv is not only the centre of Israel's film and TV industry, but also "the hottest gay destination in the Middle East."

A third article analyses the strides made by Palestinian filmmakers

Last updated: 12:43pm, December 29 2011