Israeli TV shows have recently become a hot property in Hollywood. In recent years, several major U.S. television networks like CBS, HBO, and Fox, have developed TV series based on successful Israeli projects. And now NBC is joining the “Israel club,” picking up the rights to “Pillars of Smoke” (Timrot Ashan), a mystery originally produced by the HOT cable company. The NBC version will be produced by Peter Traugott, best known for his work producing the ABC series Samantha Who.
Pillars of Smoke premiered in 2009 and ran for a full season (a second one is set to premiere later this year, producers said), and was the first Israeli series to be broadcast in a high definition TV format. The show surrounds the fate of members of a cult-based kibbutz in the northern Golan, who drop out of society, following a charismatic – and enigmatic – yoga trainer.
The series opens with the disappearance of all members of the kibbutz, and revolves around police and private investigations into their whereabouts. During the course of the series, secrets of members of the community, and the police investigating their disappearance, are revealed, and theories from suicide to a political and security conspiracy are followed. The program was described by one American media critic as “Twin Peaks meets Northern Exposure meets Lost.”
HOT staffers, along with executives of the Herzliya Studios – producers of the Israeli series – expressed great satisfaction at the NBC decision, telling Israeli media that they believed that American viewers would like Pillars of Smoke, as the idea behind it appealed to anyone who likes a good mystery.
Pillars of Smoke is now the fourth Israeli series tapped for a U.S. audience in recent years. Other Israeli programs to reach American TV screens over the past few years include HBO’s In Treatment, CBS’ The Ex List, and Fox’s Traffic Light. In addition, Showtime will be showing this fall a program called Homeland, based on the Israeli series “Hatufim,” and HBO is developing yet another series, called “The Naked Truth,” based on a show with a similar name broadcast on Channel 10.
One official in the Israeli television industry said that in recent years “hundreds” of Israeli projects have been optioned by networks around the world, although most of those ideas were still on the shelf.