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Romania’s ready for ‘Treatment’

HBO CE will also bow Czech and Polish versions

HBO Central Europe is ramping up production with three local versions of “In Treatment” in the works.

First up is HBO Romania’s “In deriva,” set to go on air Dec. 6. Czech and Polish versions of the popular format, based on Israeli TV series “Be-tipul,” are now being shot for a 2011 release.

Although HBO Romania declined to specify production costs, executive producer Aurelian Nica called the budget “considerable for the Romanian market.”

He underscores HBO CE’s determination to use this format to forge a path into homegrown drama in highly populated markets like Romania, which has 21.5 million residents in an area slightly smaller than Oregon.

“In deriva’s” producers admit much is riding on the series, which will air 45 episodes Monday to Friday ending Feb. 9.

“It’s kind of a road test,” says Nica.

But it’s a test HBO expects to ace.

“This is only the beginning,” says series’ co-executive producer Andrei Cretulescu.

“If ‘In deriva’ is as successful as we think it will be, we plan a second season,” he says.

“Our focus eventually will be to produce a truly original mini-series or series, something we will create from scratch.”

Adrian Sitaru, one of two directors for the series, says he had HBO’s full support for the project.

“We got everything we wanted from a technical point of view,” he says. “No compromises were made.”

To pump up “In deriva’s” appeal, HBO cast Marcel Iures, one of Romania’s most bankable actors, to play the therapist limned by Gabriel Byrne in the U.S. Iures has an extensive Hollywood background, including roles in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Hart’s War.”

He says this experience gave him the confidence to play a role already personified by Byrne and Israel’s Assi Dayan.

Lures told Variety this also enabled him to create a path for the character into the Romanian market, which — 20 years after the overthrow and execution of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and the demise of his dysfunctional regime — may be well suited for a series that explores loneliness, confusion and anger.

“In deriva” may ultimately be therapeutic in Romania, influencing the domestic TV industry in the same way “The Soprano’s” changed the tube in the U.S. a decade ago.

“We made ‘In deriva’ not to make money,” says Cretulescu. “We did it to make something with quality. We did it to make something almost nobody in Romania has done before.”

HBO Romania is riding high after winning an Intl. Emmy for Alexander Nanau’s feature-length documentary “The World According to Ion B” on Nov. 22.

Docu is about a 60-year-old homeless man who is recognized as an artist after decades of working in obscurity.

In a statement, HBO said it was the first time a production from HBO’s Central European channels had won an Emmy.

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