Television looks to Israel for ideas

“In Treatment” is the first of several Israeli television shows being remade for American audiences, said Daniel Sussman, a manager at Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, who is producing an adaptation of another popular Israeli television series for HBO.

“It’s a real wave that includes drama, comedy and reality, hours, half-hours and reality,” Sussman said.

His show, “A Touch Away,” follows two families from different worlds -- one Jewish, one Russian -- who move in next door to each other. Sussman said he plans to start remaking the show for U.S. viewers with perhaps Latino and Asian families when the strike ends.

With the success of shows like “The Office” and “Ugly Betty,” the industry has continued to scour the world for inventive, fresh and cheaper shows to remake. In recent years, Israeli films and TV have moved to the forefront because they have improved greatly in quality, said David Lonner, a William Morris agent who sponsors industry tours to Israel.


Sussman and Lonner belong to a movement to build links between Hollywood and Israel that is producing results.

“A Touch Away,” for instance, was created by Zedfrir Kohonofsky, who participated in an annual master class in cinema and television put on by the Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership and Entertainment Division. Lonner said he signed some Israeli filmmakers who contributed to that class.

Last summer’s seminar, held in Los Angeles, drew up-and-coming Israeli producers, writers and directors, as well as veterans from Hollywood, including Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment; publicist Howard Bragman; director Jon Avnet; and a group from “CSI” including executive producers Jonathan Littman, Richard Lewis and Ken Fink, and costar George Eads.

Lonner co-sponsored a mission to Israel in November with industry leaders including Tassler; Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment; and producer Davis Guggenheim. Lonner plans to make it an annual mission.

Hagai Levi, creator of “In Treatment,” said its success has been exciting not only for him but for the whole film and TV industry in Israel.

It’s become a cliche to say the world needs to see something from Israel that’s not about war, but Levi thinks it’s true. He said, “People here, especially in Tel Aviv, are dealing with everyday life and everyday problems.”