The show that pokes fun at, well, everyone

Turning the lens on ‘Eretz Nehederet,’ the show that knows no bounds.

Eretz Nehederet521 (photo credit: Eyal Landsman)
Eretz Nehederet521
(photo credit: Eyal Landsman)
There can’t be many things more potentially damaging for the image of a definitively leftfield satirical show than to be embraced by the mainstream, but Eyal Kitzis says he does not have a problem with that.
“I was initially very surprised by the idea of the exhibition, but all sorts of unexpected things have happened in connection the TV show over the years. I mean, we made a movie [This is Sodom, which was a blockbuster in 2009]. What TV show makes a movie? So I am sort of used to being surprised at what this show comes up with. Let’s say that I am always surprised, but a little less each time.”
The TV show in question is the long-running Eretz Nehederet, which first came on the air in 2003 and has poked fun at our political hierarchy, social issues and practically every aspect of life here ever since. While members of the cast have come and gone, Kitzis has been ever-present as the anchor character, seemingly trying to maintain an even keel while the other “guests” occasionally overstep the bounds of acceptable behavior. The latest mark of across-the-board acceptance is the opening of an exhibition of photographs taken during the first decade of Eretz Nehederet, titled Yesh Lanu Eretz (We Have a Country), which opened at the Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv last week and will run for two weeks.
The exhibition comprises impressive prints taken by some of the professional photographers who have over the years documented some of the show’s behind-thescenes goings-on and also produced some of its promotional materials. Chief among them is Eldad Rafaeli, who was the first photographer on the scene – and the only one for the first four years of the show’s existence.
Rafaeli curated the exhibition, which includes shows by his professional colleagues, as well as some off-the-cuff snaps taken by members of the TV crew, arranged at the museum in an extensive collage.
Rafaeli says his main aim in assembling the exhibition was to provide as wide a coverage as possible of what has happened during the evolution of Eretz Nehederet.
“I often had to ask myself whether my own photographs were more appropriate than someone else’s. I wasn’t looking to put my stuff in the spotlight.”
There are, however, a couple of starring Rafaeli contributions to Yesh Lanu Eretz. One is an enormous print, measuring 2.4 x 3.6 meters, featuring the largely naked bodies of some of the cast members daubed in various shades of paint. “That was a promotional shot I did before the new season three years ago,” Rafaeli explains.
“You can see the comfort and intimacy between all of them – even Alma [Zack], who was new to the show then. It was a fun thing to do.”
Another Rafaeli print, of less gargantuan proportions but of a highly comical and somewhat cheeky nature, shows Kitzis in the close-to-birthday-suit attire he donned for the promotional shot looking down towards his nether regions, while an impeccable Yair Lapid, currently finance minister, standing not too far away, also looks downward. “That was when Yair was the newsreader for Channel 2 [anchorman for Friday Studio],” explains Rafaeli, “a long time before he got into politics.”
THE CURATOR says he likes the amateur items in the exhibition just as much as the mostly staged professional photographs. “Here’s one taken by makeup artist Michal Efrati,” he says, indicating a snap of Zack with a skin-color addendum to her cheek with a pencil inserted.
“Michal came up with a solution for the director’s crazy idea, of how to make it look like there was something shoved through the cheek. I think it’s a nice idea to have a shot of how the makeup artist came up with her answer, taken by the artist herself.”
Mind you, that did not mean that anything and everything was acceptable. “I went through around 12,000 photographs for the exhibition,” Rafaeli explains. “Some simply weren’t good enough quality and others weren’t topical, but there were loads of amateur shots taken with iPhones and other cell phones – which were great, and it was hard to weed them out.”
There were a lot of dynamics to be taken into consideration in documenting the show over the years. “It’s like documenting something which documents something else,” says the curator. “I, and the others, took pictures of something being shot for television, and it is quite a complicated matter to capture the important moments in the process.”
That includes the off-camera stuff. “There are dozens of people who work on Eretz Nehederet, so here you have a picture of a meeting of the cast and the scriptwriters devising the content of the show. It was important for me to show the aspect too.”
Kitzis says he is happy with the exhibition, but as far as he is concerned, he is just delighted that the TV show is still up and running, and so wildly popular. “I never dreamt it would be still be around a whole decade on,” he declares. “We started out with a 14-show first season, as an experimental run. To begin with, we thought there was nothing more natural than to take a slew of top actors and make a satirical show like this, but it was a great risk. The idea was to make only a handful of programs, to see how it went.” That sounds somewhat reminiscent of one of the inspirations, of Kitzis and the rest of the cast, the now fabled Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which first aired on the BBC in 1969.
Unlike the British satirical gang, however, Eretz Nehederet found success almost from the word go. “It was a hit right from the first season,” Kitzis recalls. “I think we got something right with the material, and the timing. I think the secret to success behind our show, and shows like [popular 1990s sketch comedy] The Cameri Quintet and [legendary 1970s satirical show] Nikui Rosh, is to try to aim for the common denominator but also to maintain high standards of presentation. That doesn’t always go hand in hand.”
That, for Kitzis, also often entails venturing into uncharted territory and taking risks. “You can touch on painful areas too, but you are always taking risks. The shows that target the safer, more acceptable fields generally get higher ratings, and the ones that go for the leftfield stuff get slightly lower ratings.” Surprisingly, hasn’t been the case with Eretz Nehederet, which manages to challenge its audience and still reels in the viewers.
Rafaeli notes that the show has made waves across the pond as well. “When [US President Barack] Obama was here he said that the drama between him and Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] would provide new material for Eretz Nehederet. That indicates how much detail Obama demands from his team, but also how central the TV show is to providing a reflection of real life here.”
Rafaeli said he was curious to see how the cast members would react to the items he chose for the exhibition.
“There is a lot of intimacy here, which exists in the show, between the actors, but here it isn’t part of the dynamics that take place on the set and in the studio.
Here you get shots of the show context, but out of context.”
That intimacy does come through, as well as the fun the cast members seem to have in creating a show that stops at very little. ■
For more information about the Yesh Lanu Eretz exhibition: (03) 641-5244 and