Although Israeli television has become a major source for material for US television, it loses all of its function as a window into Israeli society when it gets adapted to the US. Not so of course for the actual Israeli programs several of which can be found with English subtitles on DVD or on the web…and usually in the annual Israel Film Festival that tours several major cities each year.
Israelis are big on reality shows, they have their versions of top chef (including one version for kids), “American” idol and The Voice…also including one for kids, as well as Survivor and Big Brother. They are hugely popular. I have only caught the music shows and they can be interesting. Last year’s American idol (Kochav Nolad) winners were a young man of mizrachi descent and a young woman, a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants from Sderot. The family was rushed after Shabbat to prepare for the huge outdoor final. The father exclaimed that now he truly felt like an Israeli. Of course the entire town of Sderot was on the streets celebrating. Is she extremely talented ? yes. Was the fix on ? I’ll let you decide. Here’s the link to the current (10th !) season.
Another big hit is eretz nehederet a topical satire show…think Saturday Night Live with much sharper humor. Here’s their take on Birthright as you can see they can be pretty tough on their subjects.(the definition of birthright/taglit as propaganda trip” is not mine or one I agree with btw)
Here are three excellent shows that can be found in English. on the web and often on DVD
Mesooderim (roughly the set ones) think Entourage but with fellows who have hit it big with a “high tech” “exit” (selling out to a larger company or going public) and going from rags to riches. The crew includes a flashy big spender (the marketing guy “Mr. Outside), a hippie type, a shy serious type and of course the geeky socially awkward member of the crew. The series gets particularly funny with bang on satire when the flashiest member of the crew decides to enter politics complete with an image consultant (just keep repeating “you will do things differently” without any details) and cameos by actual politicians.
Here’s the full first episode in Hebrew. Even if you can’t follow all the Hebrew watching the first few minutes will give you a great idea of the show.
For those comfortable with the hebrew all the episodes can be found here.
Serugim (from kippa seruga=knit kippa) this one is already very popular in the states—at least among some circles. It tells the story of young dati (think US modern orthodox) singles in Jerusalem and their trials and tribulations seeking love in the big city while balancing religious observance and their new lifestyle. The characters include the guy that cant settled down, to the couple that does, to the successful career woman who intimidates her matches and the woman who gradually becomes dat lash (dati le sheavar)/chozair b sheeyla (returning to questioning…the opposite of chozair be teshuva/baalar teshuva). Here’s a clip. The series is extremely popular and has gone through 3 seasons all available on DVD and many can be found on you tube.
Here’s a short clip with english subtitles, much more available some with English on you tube. All three seasons are available on DVD. The show was hugely popular and gave much of Israel insights into a part of society they actually knew little about.
Avoda Aravit : the title itself is ironic, the term is used by Israelis to describe shoddy work regardless of who produced it. The series is a real breakthrough the story of Amjad and his family successful Israeli/Palestinian yuppies living in West Jerusalem among middle class Israeli neighbors and their dilemmas of fitting in while juggling their relationship to the family back in Amjad’s birthplace village. The other major characters are their friends, a couple: a successful Israeli/Palestinian and an Israeli Jewish photojournalist. The Arab characters speak Arabic, the Jews Hebrew. The satire is brilliant and hilarious. The show is also hugely successful it just completed its third season with an amazing…not so funny final episode. It is written by Sayeed Kashua—a serious novelist—and regular columnist for Haaretz with a satire column.
Here’s a short clip with english.
All of the episodes in hebrew are available here And here is a site with some more clips with english