The beloved Israeli drama Shtisel has dominated 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 the soap opera about the fictional ultra-Orthodox family living in Jerusalem is enjoying.
What is “Shtisel” about?
The addictive threesome 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 initially tuned in to the soap opera out of curiosity: how good can a show about ultra-Orthodox Jewish life be? But it is not so much the gentleness with which the drama weaves through the everyday lives of the Haredis that has retained its loyal fans as the skillful treatment of the universal themes of love, hope and loss.
Why is “Shtisel” so popular?
One of the stars of the drama, Dova Glickman, who portrays the patriarch of the Shtisel family, Shulem, gave his opinion on why the program appeals to so many viewers, and not just those from a Jewish background.
“I say to myself: Shtisel can make peace with the world,” he told The Globe and Mail in 2019. “I was sitting in a restaurant in Paris and three LIBanese women came up 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.”
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Glickman explained that it was at that moment that he realized the impact the program was having.
“I asked them, ‘Are you watching 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 that you bring it to viewers inside their homes and into their souls.”
Marta Kauffman is co-creator of ‘Friends’ and wants to make ‘Shtisel’ American
It is that same universal appeal of Shtisel that co-creator of Friends Marta Kauffman wants to bring to North American shores.
Kauffman said it was her daughter Hannah K.S. Canter who brought the show to her attention. Once she saw it, she too was sold and saw a promising future for the redesigned American program.
“She was haunted by it,” Kauffman told Variety of Canter’s love for Shtisel. Kauffman’s daughter is in her mother’s industry herself, working as a producer on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.
“She fell in love with it, and the same thing happened to me,” the Friends co-creator said. “It sticks with you. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy sell, but we all felt so passionate about it.”
Kauffman’s new version is titled Emmis. This American version is set in Brooklyn, New York City, and, like Shtisel, will focus on an ultra-orthodox (in this case, Jewish-American) family.
Her goal for this anticipated program is “to make sure that the stories, and the universality of those stories, are what people come to. The rest is just background.”
As of 2019, a version of Emsis has been sold to Amazon, according to The New York Times.