According to an article in this week’s Newsweek, Israeli TV is quickly becoming the hottest commodity to hit Hollywood since Ben Stiller did his Derelicte schtick in Zoolander. Not to nuke the fridge here, but with acts like Yael Naim picking up steam in MacAir commercials and shows like HBO’s In Treatment (B’tipul) managing to muster a modest, but staunchly loyal cult following, it’s not at all surprising that TV and film execs are looking to Israel to provide them with some much needed fresh and original programming. Have you seen NBC‘s and ABC‘s Summer programming? There’s not one show among the bunch that’s not reality TV.

It’s telling of Israel’s rising popularity and perhaps indicative of its viability as a fixture in the entertainment industry that network TV had followed in the footsteps of HBO and chosen to add and adapt an Israeli show, Mythological X, (about love, nonetheless) to their Fall roster. (To sneak a preview of The Ex-List, click here) Loaded, a FOX-produced show about dot-com millionaires is also slated  to air in the Fall.

But aside from the creative, engaging story lines that Israel seems to have the capacity to deliver, why has Hollywood looked to another country to fulfill what seems to be a gaping hole in the U.S. entertainment industry at present? To quote Joshua Alston, “Israeli shows are cheap”:

“In Treatment” premiered new episodes five days a week over nine weeks. “We’re used to doing 12 or 13 episodes per season,” says HBO executive Michael Lombardo. “The cost-effectiveness of the show is what enabled us to take on this huge commitment of 45 episodes.

“The relatively low cost will allow U.S. networks to try out Israeli formats and give them space to find an audience. “In Treatment” premiered to sluggish numbers that would spell trouble for a pricier show. But it built steam by the end of the season, and performed well enough relative to its cost that HBO will launch a second season this fall.

What may be considered “shoestring budgets” by U.S. standards is fueling the passion and stamina of Israel’s entertainment industry and in turn delivering a premium product at a bargain rate. And as long as this translates to the end result being more Gabriel Byrne, then I’m one happy gal.

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