New TV series puts a unique twist on time-honored family sitcom
TBS show is based on Israel's most popular comedy.
In some respects, TBS’ new comedy series “Your Family or Mine” is quite familiar: it’s a traditional multi-camera sitcom with a large ensemble cast full of famous faces, including Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr., JoBeth Williams and Cynthia Stevenson. Centered on young, married parents (Kyle Howard, Kat Foster) who spend alternate weekends with his quirky family or hers, the Tuesday night series is the kind of tried and true family series everyone can relate to. But there’s something different about it as well: it’s based on the most popular sitcom ever to air in Israel.
Ruby Doaniass, who co-created the series, attributes its success to the alternating-family format and the universality of its themes. “Our stories all around the planet are alike, and when you marry someone, you marry their entire family.” So far, 82 episodes have been shown in Israel, and 40 more are being edited for broadcast. “When people hear that I wrote it they automatically invite me to dinner with their family,” offers Doaniass. “They say, ‘Come and meet my family. Then you’ll have enough stories for five seasons!’ It seems we all have similar stories.”
Like the dramas “Homeland” and “Dig,” and singing competition “Rising Star,” the series is from Keshet International, which has successfully exported a growing roster of programs for the world and U.S. market. The original has dominated the airwaves since its debut. “It’s the most popular Israeli sitcom of all time. Its first season averaged a 39% audience share and its second 35% on our channel Keshet Broadcasting. Throughout both seasons, the show has been the clear slot leader,” says Ran Telem, Keshet’s senior vice president of content, noting that it’s a rising hit in Greece as well. “The family gathering is a very relatable, international and humorous subject matter.”
Executive producer Jamie Tarses thought the show was just the sort of “very rich, relatable concept” that would work on American TV.
“Everyone knows that you don't just marry your spouse, you marry their whole extended family,” Tarses echoes Doaniass’ comment. Some of the original’s scripts and stories have been retained, including the premiere’s storyline about watching a live nanny cam to spy on a misbehaving babysitter.
For a series like this, “casting is always key,” Tarses points out, but bringing Richard Dreyfus back to TV for the first time in years wasn’t the reason “Your Family or Mine” got the green light. “It was wonderful to have Dreyfuss, but he wasn't responsible for the show getting ordered. We had already cast other roles before he came on board,” she says, noting that it was a fun challenge “to service such a large ensemble.”
Although Tarses and Greg Malin oversee the day-to-day production of “Your Family or Mine,” the Israeli producers remain involved. “I was on set for the first two episodes, I would have liked to have been there for more, but I was shooting the third season of the Israeli show at the same time,” Doaniass explains.
Ran Telem focuses on developing programming for Keshet to export. “The key is to retain the gem of the idea that made the original show a success, but allow it to evolve organically in a way that suits the local audience,” he says, describing the company’s recipe for success. It also involves “recognizing great talent and great concepts, along with being a good partner to work with,” he adds. He expects “substantial growth in the U.S.” going forward, but is keeping the details a secret for now.
Meanwhile, Tarses is confident that “Your Family or Mine’ will resonate with viewers “because anyone anywhere that is married is familiar with the idea that while you get to choose your spouse, you do not get to choose their family,” she says. “Oftentimes these relationships pose a challenge and they are never going away.”
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