Translating Israeli Television to U.S. Screens
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When Homeland returns for a second season this Sunday night, it will be able to boast a bevy of Emmy’s and claim Barack Obama as a fanboy. But perhaps its most noted distinction is indirectly leading to the creation of America’s new catchphrase—“Mandy Patinkin, holla.” As I’m sure you know, Homeland is an adaptation of the Israeli TV series Hatufim, Prisoners of War, and is only one in a flood of programming coming out of the Israeli-Hollywood pipeline. Just last week Universal Television bought rights to The Gordin Cell, a series following former Russian intelligence agents reintegrating themselves in Israel.
There have been various hypotheses offered for the recent obsession with Israeli television: Israelis, they’re just like us! 9/11! And inevitably—Jews run Hollywood. Showtime and HBO as well as all the major networks have at least one Israeli television adaptation in the works.
But the Israeli TV shopping spree hasn’t been particularly discriminatory and results vary: The sitcom The Ex-List was canceled after only four episodes, and the reality show 3 got the axe after two. And while the success and failure of a show can be a crapshoot, there does seem to be a pattern in whether or not a series has crossover success.
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