In Treatment (2008–2010) was the first Israeli series to be remade for US television, and its largely positive critical reception established a reputation for Israel as a home for quality drama – setting the stage for the remake of Hatufim (Prisoners of War, 2009–2012) into Homeland (2011–). This article takes up the case of In Treatment to examine how the process of transnational television remaking can illuminate the concept of US quality television in the millennial era. Arguing that the aesthetic and industrial brand of ‘quality’ is defined by the theme and device of transformation, the article analyses how the American remake gradually diverges from the original series Be’Tipul (2005–2008) to accentuate this concept in its stories and narrative style. The resulting text presents the quintessential contemporary example of what I call the television ‘treatment’ genre: a mode of programming that operates by centripetal narrative complexity to present ‘serial selves,’ or characters whose time in therapy produces progressive or regressive modifications in their emotional state. When read against the more halting and circular narratives of Be’Tipul, this format demonstrates a clear socio-cultural remapping of its topic: where therapeutic culture in America is presented as a site that is underpinned by contested neoliberal ideologies on the government of subjectivity.
The Israeli series Prisoners of War (Hatufim, Keshet, Israel, Gideon Raff, 2009–2011) and Homeland (Showtime, US 2011–2013; developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa based on the Israeli series with Gideon Raff as one of the producers) is a special case of hypertextuality (Genette 1982). Both serial dramas revolve around prisoners of war who have returned home and their families, intelligence agency operatives and terror organizations operating behind the scenes. In these serializations of the thriller genre, narratives of paranoia and conspiracy render invisible terror visible on the screen. The focalization of the various plots and sub-plots as well as their reception spaces are different however. Prisoners of War tells the story of three soldiers who are kidnapped, held captive for 17 years and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder on their return home. The series was broadcast at a time when intensive negotiations were underway for the release of three IDF soldiers who had been kidnapped. Homeland, on the other hand, places centre stage a female CIA operative (Claire Danes) who suffers from bipolar disorder. The first season was broadcast in post-9/11 America while American soldiers were still fighting in Iraq. Both series therefore directly address their audiences and relate to the public sphere outside the studio. The reception of these texts incorporates their meaning as reconstructed by their publics. Thus, while both series involve a ritual of scapegoating as a means of resolving conflict, each reflects and produces its own repertoire of reality (‘realemes’). Interestingly, a traumatic excess is inscribed on both male and female bodies as each series rewrites its own society’s myth: the binding of Isaac in the Israeli Prisoners of War and Joan of Arc in the American Homeland.