The popular Israeli drama Shtisel has been dominating on Netflix since its debut on the streaming giant in 2018.
Now, a co-creator of NBC’s Friends wants to capitalize on the incredible wave of popularity enjoyed by the soap about the fictional ultra-Orthodox family living in Jerusalem.
What is ‘Shtisel’ about?
The addictive drama first aired on Israeli television in 2013. Once it began streaming on Netflix in 2018, the series took off. Receiving critical acclaim and a huge fan base as diverse as the holy city itself, Shtisel became a hit.
Many viewers may have tuned in to the soap initially out of curiosity: how good could a show about ultra-Orthodox Jewish life be? But it isn’t so much the drama’s gentle weaving through everyday Haredi life that has kept its loyal fans as its deft handling of the universal themes of love, hope, and loss.
Why is ‘Shtisel’ so popular?
One of the drama’s stars Doval’e Glickman, who portrays the Shtisel family patriarch Shulem, offered his take on why the program appeals to so many viewers, and not only those from Jewish backgrounds.
“I say to myself, Shtisel can make peace with the world,” he told The Globe and Mail in 2019. “I sat in a restaurant in Paris and three Lebanese women came over to me. It was very difficult for me to understand how they recognized me; they said ‘Are you from Israel? Are you Shtisel?’ I said, ‘Yes, but how did you recognize me?’ They said it was my voice. They told me they were on vacation.”
Glickman stated that he realized at that moment what kind of impact the program was having.
“I asked them, ‘Do you watch Shtisel in Lebanon?,’” he recalled. “And they said, ‘Of course, as Muslims we are so similar and it touches us so much with the family.’ What makes Shtisel popular is because you bring the audience inside the home and inside their souls.”
Marta Kauffman is co-creator of ‘Friends’ and wants to Americanize ‘Shtisel’
It’s that same universal appeal of Shtisel‘s that co-creator of Friends Marta Kauffman wants to bring to North American shores.
Kauffman said it was her daughter Hannah K.S. Canter that brought the show to her attention. Once she watched it, she was hooked, too, and saw a promising future for it reimagined as a U.S. program.
“She was haunted by it,” Kauffman told Variety of Canter’s love for Shtisel. Kauffman’s daughter herself is also in her mother’s industry, serving as a producer on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.
“She fell in love with it, and the same thing happened with me,” the Friends co-creator said. “It stays with you. We knew it wouldn’t be easy to sell, but we all felt so passionately about it.”
Kauffman’s remake will be titled Emmis. Set in New York City’s Brooklyn, this American version will, like Shtisel, focus on an ultra-Orthodox (in this case, Jewish-American) family.
Her goal for this anticipated program is to “make sure the stories, and the universality of those stories, is what people take in. The rest is just background.”
As of 2019, a version of Emmis was sold to Amazon according to The New York Times.
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