From Holy Land to Hollywood...

Israel is the new Scandinavia when it comes to viewing – the source of inspiration for a wave of new TV dramas

The words Israeli and drama usually herald reports of some intractable conflict in the Middle East. But that is changing thanks to a stream of popular Israeli television series that US studios are rushing to snap up.

The small country, with a population roughly equal to London's, has become an unlikely hotbed for gripping new dramas that are spawning award-winning spinoffs.

Homeland, which was inspired by the Israeli thriller Hatufim, returns for a second series next Sunday (7 October) fresh from its success at the 2012 Emmys where it scooped all the top gongs.

American TV executives are mining Israel's airwaves to find the next candidate to receive the Homeland treatment. NBC's Universal Television has just bought the rights to another mystery series from the Israeli network behind Hatufim. The studio is planning to develop an English-language version of The Gordin Cell, which follows former Soviet spies starting a new life in Israel.

Rick Rosen, the Hollywood agent who brokered Hatufim's sale to the network Showtime among others, said Israel was emerging as the next Scandinavia, another rich source for captivating dramas. "There's an enormous amount of creativity there. There are some great writers and some great shows," he added.

What Israel's series lack in the iconic knitwear and brooding female protagonists, they make up for with psychological tension and deft storytelling. Mr Rosen said Israeli comedies were "edgier" than their American equivalents.

"It's easier to see interesting shows around the world because of the internet," he said, explaining the recent obsession with foreign formats. "The world is a smaller place."

As is clear from Homeland's cult status in the UK, British audiences are as keen on Israeli formats as US viewers. Odelia Haroush, who organised the UK's first Israeli film festival in London this summer, said: "We included television in our festival because there is so much interest. [TV series] are popular because they are very funny and emotional. [They show] the cultural and social diversity of in everyday life in Israel." Seret, the London Israeli Film and Television Festival, will be held again next June.

Other Israeli shows in the pipeline in the US include Yellow Peppers, a drama about a rural family with an autistic son, and Pillars of Smoke, a series about a mystery at a secretive commune. All are being remade for American audiences, because, as Mr Rosen said: "Americans seem to like the American versions."

Richard Ferrer, editor of Jewish News, said the nature of Israeli politics meant local writers, such as Hatufim and Homeland's Emmy-winning Gideon Raff, had plenty of potential plotlines. "Israel's survival is always at stake, so what might appear to be paranoia from a comfortable distance tends to be reality on the streets of Tel Aviv."

Mr Ferrer added: "Talented young Israeli writers like Raff are turning their country's raw survival instincts into edgy and authentic drama. His show Hatufim tapped an open wound in a country where conscription is law and kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was feared lost. It makes for truthful and plausible drama."

Life Isn't Everything

CBS is developing its own version of Israel's most successful ever sitcom about a middle-aged divorced couple who were bad at marriage and are proving even worse at divorce.

Traffic Light

Some episodes from the Hebrew version, Ramzor, featured at London's Israeli Film and Television Festival. Fox's English-language adaptation proved a rare disappointment because it messed around too much with the original.


The best-known of the spin-offs is America's favourite drama after cleaning up at the 2012 Emmys. It tells the tale of a former prisoner of war, Sgt Nicholas Brody, played by Damian Lewis, and Claire Danes' suspicious CIA agent, Carrie Mathison.

The Gordin Cell

The latest thriller getting the Hollywood treatment features former Soviet spies. The US version will be called M.I.C.E. (Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego) and is set to be shown on NBC.

The Ex-List

One of the earlier re-makes, this was based on Israel's The Mythological Ex about a woman who visits a psychic and discovers she has already dated the man she is destined to marry.

Pillars of Smoke

Described as part-Twin Peaks, part-Lost, the series is a mystery set in the Golan Heights, which follows the investigation into the disappearance of a cult from the area. In development for US reboot.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas