Israeli Hit Drama ‘Shtisel’ Heads To US

The co-creator of the hit ’90s sitcom “Friends” is transposing an Israeli drama about an ultra-Orthodox family to a religious neighborhood in Brooklyn, for an adaptation to be named “Emmis.”

Marta Kauffman got the idea from her producer daughter, Hannah KS Canter, who saw snippets of the Israeli show “Shtisel” at an event of the National Association of Television Program Executives.

“She fell in love with it, and the same thing happened with me. It stays with you. We knew it wouldn’t be easy to sell, but we all felt so passionately about it,” Kauffman told Variety.

The Israeli drama, which includes some Yiddish dialogue, explores universal themes such as unrequited love, extramarital attractions and feelings of underachievement, against the backdrop of life in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Geula neighborhood.

Characters include patriarch and Torah scholar Shulem Shtisel, his strict wife, Giti, and son Akiva, an artist drawn to unavailable women.

The US version will be shown on Amazon Prime and will closely resemble its Israeli parent, but will do more to explain Orthodox ritual to non-Jewish viewers.

Kauffman told Variety her show had two goals: to produce the drama with affection, and to “make sure the stories, and the universality of those stories, is what people take in.

“The rest is just background,” she said.

Kauffman added that after “Friends,” she only wanted to work on projects about which she felt “really passionate… And this is one of them.”

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