“When Heroes Fly,” the Israeli drama that won Best Series at the inaugural Canneseries festival, is to be adapted into English for the U.S. market by Keshet International, the global production and distribution arm of Israeli media giant Keshet, Variety has learned.
The American version will be developed, produced and packaged through Keshet Studios, KI’s L.A.-based subsidiary. Its greenlighting comes as the original Hebrew-language series continues to shatter records at home in Israel.
“When Heroes Fly” was created, written and directed by Omri Givron, co-creator of famed Israeli series “Hostages,” and follows a former Israeli military commando who reunites with his former army buddies in the Colombian jungle on a quest to rescue the love of his life. The series, which tackles questions of mortality and the long-term repercussions of split-second trauma, is packed with themes that should translate for an American audience, said Peter Traugott, Keshet Studios’ head of scripted.
“This show immediately jumped out to us as something that could be fairly easily redeveloped because, ultimately, it’s a story about friendship — a love story about friendship,” he said. “It’s got all those classic elements, and the journey [these friends] take is a very classic plot that is easily reimagined for the U.S. market.”
Because the majority of the action is set in Colombia rather than in Israel, and the underlying military experience of the main characters exists mostly as exposition, Traugott said the show should be easier to adapt than “Prisoners of War,” which became “Homeland,” Keshet’s best-known adaptation.
“Obviously, Howard Gordon and the [“Homeland’] team were able to figure out ‘Prisoners of War’ and make it into an American story, but they had to reinvent it in a way,” Traugott said. “This story, starting in a place with more universal themes, has a plot that can work fairly easily here.”
Fresh off its win at Canneseries in April, “When Heroes Fly” is proving to be a ratings Goliath at home, one that is reshaping Israel’s content market. The show is Keshet’s highest-rated scripted launch since the company and fellow concessionaire Reshet dissolved their shared channel in Israel last November to create their own round-the-clock channels. “When Heroes Fly” has added viewers every week, and Episodes 4 and 5 outperformed “Big Brother,” Israel’s most popular program – the first time in nearly a decade that any show has achieved that feat.
For a drama to beat a reality program was unheard of; the Israeli version of “Big Brother” is the most successful in the global format’s history. But since Reshet (in which Endemol Shine owns a 33% stake) and Keshet gained their own dedicated channels last fall – Channels 11 and 12, respectively – Keshet has steadily been gaining dominance across all genres, not just in scripted but in nearly all of its programming.
“When Heroes Fly” is also driving unprecedented traffic to Keshet’s digital platform, MAKO. It’s the most-viewed show of any genre on MAKO this year and brought in 244,000 online viewers in the first two days after launch, equivalent to an additional nine ratings points among the coveted 18-35 young adult demographic.
Encouraged by its reception at home, Keshet is also shopping a subtitled version of the original Hebrew-language “When Heroes Fly.”
“When we look at TV, we always get most excited about ideas that are localized but can be reimagined here,” Traugott said. “I can’t imagine ‘Fauda’ in any other language, but you can imagine, with this show, a variety of versions.”