Sky, the latest Israeli tween show, has just been released on the Teen Nick channels on Hot and Yes, where it runs every weekday at 3:30 p.m. It’s also available on the Israeli Nickelodeon website and YouTube channels.
The series, which the whole family can watch together, is an inventive mix of sci-fi, adventure, suspense, teen romance and revenge-of-the-nerds comedy, very much in the spirit of such shows as Netflix’s Stranger Things. It was created by Noa Pnini (The Neighborhood) and Giora Chamizer, who made both the Netflix series Greenhouse Academy and the Israeli show Ha-Hamama, on which Greenhouse was based. Sky was produced by Ananey Communications for TeenNick Israel. Osnat Saraga, Ananey’s senior vice president of development and productions, oversaw the development of the show, and Sky’s creators are hoping it will be the next Israeli show sold to international television or streaming, either in its Hebrew version or in remakes in other languages – or both.
Sky tells the story of an assertive alien girl who crash lands in a small Israeli town. Until she can figure out how to get home, she hides in plain sight with the support of several nerdy friends by morphing into the most popular girl in school, Mili (Ravid Ronen), a classic mean girl who is traveling to Alaska with her family. Sky, also played by Ronen, who identifies with the Earthling nerds, pretends that Mili has stayed behind and has to act as if she’s in love with Mili’s jock boyfriend. Meanwhile, one of the nerds falls for Sky in her alien guise, and has to hide his feelings in public when she is pretending to be Mili.
If Sky makes you think a version of E.T. if the beloved alien from Steven Spielberg’s classic were to go to high school, you’re right on the money, because this is just what Pnini and Chamizer had in mind.
“It’s an homage to E.T.,” said Chamizer, who spoke alongside Pnini in a Zoom interview. “We initially had the idea 10 years ago about an alien that enters the body of a teen girl and Noa and I started to work on it.... Every viewer over 40 will know the E.T. reference.”
IT’S IMPORTANT to this duo to create a series that is entertaining for the whole family so they can watch together.
“What we loved in E.T. is the message it gives, of love and hope across every boundary,” he said.
The twist with Sky is that the series uses the alien taking refuge in an Earth teen’s body as a metaphor for how adolescence affects teenagers and tweens.
“Teens feel like aliens when they are going through adolescence,” said Pnini. “Your body feels weird, it changes. You feel like you don’t fit in... and all the emotions you experience also make you feel alienated. You feel like no one understands you, just like Sky is terrified of the humans at first and feels they won’t understand her.”
Chamizer added, “And it’s interesting to see how the alien fits into a world where she has to pretend to be a bitch. Adolescence is a time where you try out different personas, you try to fit in in different ways.”
Pnini and Chamizer acknowledged that adults are more likely to respond to this subtext about the nature of adolescence but said they hoped younger viewers would simply identify with the characters.
But just as filming was starting, an issue arose that seemed almost like science fiction itself: the pandemic.
“The coronavirus helped us and hurt us,” said Pnini. They had just started filming in March 2020 and had to stop work during some of the shutdowns, prolonging the schedule. This gave the actors more time to bond and get into their roles.
“They really became a close group,” said Chamizer. “They’re not just acting it.”
In addition to Ronen in the challenging dual roles of Sky and Mili, the cast includes Shahar Tavoch, who was the breakout star of Valley of Tears last year, Ido Tako, Maayan Rahima, Ofek Pesach, Dolev Sela, Bar Miniely, Daniel Gad and Dana Fried.
For Ronen in particular, the series was a welcome opportunity “to go really deeply into her characters. She worked very hard to get them both right,” said Chamizer.
“There is definitely a theme of girl’s empowerment in the show,” said Pnini. But, referencing the trio of adolescent nerds, she noted, “It’s also a show about boys, about all adolescents and staying true to yourself through that crazy time.”