The New York Times released a list Friday of the 30 best international television shows of the decade and put the Israeli series 'Prisoners of War' in the top spot. The series, produced by the Keshet network, was remade in the US as Homeland in 2011.
The series has a clever premise, with built-in suspense: Two Israeli POWs return home after 17 years in captivity, bringing the remains of a third soldier. As they work to integrate themselves back into their families and society, a military psychiatrist begins to suspect they are hiding something and launches an investigation.
Mike Hale of The New York Times, who compiled the list, wrote: “The show that inspired Homeland turned out to be something quite different: tense but in a quiet, leisurely, realistic style; a taut and intelligent political thriller that was above all a melancholy, at times heartbreaking character study of soldiers and families damaged by war.”
Explaining the selection criteria, Hale wrote: “The requirements for my list: scripted series produced outside the United States (though some were American-financed), which were commercially available to American audiences, and which premiered in 2010 or later. I cheated on the dates for one show, the 2009 Prisoners of War, which didn’t appear in America until 2012 and was just too good to leave out.”
Prisoners of War debuted in Israel in 2009 and its second season was broadcast here 2012. Following the success of Homeland, it became available in the US on streaming platforms, such as Hulu. It is currently available in Israel on Netflix.
The series, which won six awards of the Israeli television academy, was created by Gideon Raff. Raff has gone on to make The Spy, a series about Eli Cohen, the Mossad agent in Damascus, and the movie The Red Sea Diving Resort, the story of Israeli agents rescuing Ethiopian Jews by pretending to run a resort in Sudan, both of which are now on Netflix.
Fauda, the hit series about an Israeli counterterrorism unit and its Palestinian adversaries, was named in eighth place on the New York Times list. The third season of the show will begin showing on the Israeli cable network, YES, on December 26 and will stream on Netflix in 2020.
Two Israeli series received honorable mentions on the list: Our Boys, the HBO/Keshet series that generated controversy last summer over the fact that it concentrated on an Arab terrorist victim rather than Jewish victims and inspired Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for a boycott of Keshet; and Shtisel, a series from YES about a young ultra-Orthodox man who wants to be an artist rather than a Torah scholar.
Among the other series that made the list that have been popular in Israel were The Crown at number six from Britain, The Bridge from Denmark and Sweden at number 14, and Money Heist from Spain at number 21.