Following the global success of the Damian Lewis-led Sunday-night hit Homeland – which was based on an obscure Israeli series Hatufim – thrillers are fast approaching Jaffa oranges as Israel’s most high-profile export.
Hatufim, which made its debut on Israeli TV four years ago, was drawn from the deeply troubled emotional issues at the core of the Palestine conflict. But it came to global attention when it was remade impressively by American TV to become a global smash, not least here where it’s kept us gripped for three series on Channel 4.
Now, following the first rule of US television, Homeland has spawned its first imitator. Hostages is an American remake of another little-known Israeli show called Bnei Aruba, also drawn from the deeply troubled emotional issues at the core of the Palestine conflict etc...
But while Hatufim debuted on Israel’s Channel 2 in March 2010, it wasn’t remade as Homeland until a year later. Bnei Aruba, on the other hand, was sold to CBS by Israel’s Channel 10 while the show was still in development. The US version even hit the screens first.
On paper Hostages doesn’t sound that similar to Homeland. A surgeon is due to operate on the President of the United States (the Prime Minister of Israel in Bnei Aruba). The day before, her family is kidnapped by a rogue FBI agent who tells her: slip the big guy an untraceable poison so he dies on the operating table and your family go free. Refuse and it’s curtains for the kiddies. And the husband.
But look closer at the characters and a distinct pattern begins to emerge.
According to Hostages co-creator Alon Aranya the deal for the US remake was signed two days after Homeland won four Emmys. “Just as Homeland opened the door for us, we hope Hostages will open the door for other Israeli suspense series.”
And in many ways it has. Although it may have gone too far. US cable channel TNT recently bought the format for the drama series President X (Hitorerut in Israel) based on former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who, following a stroke in 2006, is still in a coma... It’s hard to know what to say.
THE NEW CARRIE
A fragile female genius whose decisions will dictate the fate of America... Dr Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is like Carrie Mathison.
In Hostages, Dr Ellen Sanders is a top-of-her-field surgeon hand-picked by the president as the best woman for a tough job. And announced at a press conference to woo women voters. It’s a shame her home life is so shaky — and ultimately proves her Achilles heel. She’s a little like Homeland’s Carrie Mathison, Claire Danes’s top-of-her-field intelligence officer who’s shaky mental health ultimately proves her Achilles heel. Sanders battles Duncan Carlisle...
THE NEW BRODY
Tortured male turncoat with steely eye and attractive chin... Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) is like Nicholas Brody
In Hostages, Duncan Carlisle is a rugged FBI hero whose loyalties have been twisted and who now leads a plot to kill the leader of the free world. Somewhat akin to Homeland’s Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, a rugged US marines hero who was tortured and turned by al-Qaeda and returned home to kill the vice-president of the free world. Has fraught buddy relationship with Archer Petit...
THE BEST BUDDY
Devoted but conflicted best-friend tough guy... Archer petit (Billy Brown) is like Mike Faber
In Hostages, Carlisle is helped by his old comrade-in-arms Archer Petit. The character is not unlike Homeland’s Mike Faber (played by Diego Klattenhoff), Brody’s best friend and fellow marine, who assumed Brody was dead so started romancing his wife. Which brings us to...
THE UNFAITHFUL SPOUSE
Unfaithful spouse with collapsing moral code... Brian Sanders (tate Donovan) is like Jessica Brody
Tate Donovan excels as slimy real estate bigwig Brian Sanders who’s having an affair with his assistant, being held captive and agonising over everything. A gender switcheroo version of Jessica Brody (Morena Baccarin). So where’s our stability in this noisy moral storm? Why it’s...
THE VETERAN SPOOK
Industrious but weary intelligence guy... Stan Hoffman (Paul Calderon) is like David Estes
Paul Calderon delivers as Hoffman — a hard-working family man assigned to the joint FBI/Secret Service taskforce investigating the threat on the President’s life. Performs much the same role as David Estes, David Harewood’s director of the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center.
Hostages starts on Saturday at 9:00pm on Channel 4.