The program, called "Dig," is an archeological thriller about an American FBI agent in Jerusalem. In an impressive new notch for Israeli television, it is the first-ever Israeli-made drama to be sold directly to series for U.S. audiences. It is also the first project commitment from NBC Universal Cable production head Jeff Wachtel since he was tapped for the role in September.
"Dig" was developed by Keshet, the mega Israeli media company behind "Homeland" and its Hebrew-language predecessor "Prisoners of War," in collaboration with BermanBraun. Keshet Media Group CEO Avi Nir and Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein of BermanBraun also serve as executive producers
The deal with USA Network was brokered by WME's Rick Rosen, a longtime friend of Nir's, along with Kring, last week for INTV, Keshet's annual confab on innovation in television.
"Dig" returns to Raff's trademark formula of suspense, Middle Eastern intrigue and razor-sharp plot twists. The program will follow a U.S. agent named Peter stationed in Jerusalem. While investigating the murder of a woman, he stumbles into a 2,000-year-old conspiracy embedded in the archeological mysteries of the ancient city.
The program, which doesn't have any specific actors attached yet, will be filmed entirely on location in Jerusalem's Old City. Access the city's historical treasures is being granted by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who has been at the forefront of a drive to lure film and television production to the city with a series of tax breaks and other incentives.
"When Hollywood and the Holy City meet, the sky is the limit," said Barkat.
The idea for the program came from Nir, who realized during Keshet retreat at the ancient tunnels in Jerusalem's City of David that the scene was the ideal setting for a thriller. He took his idea to Raff, and together they selected Kring to serve as the script's American partner.
"Jerusalem is a city of great drama - religious drama, archeological drama, even the mere fact that the city is divided among Christians, Muslims, Jews and Armenians," Nir told Variety. "And I realized that this drama of archeology, it had never been dealt with before."
Lensing will start in about six months, and the series is set to premiere in late 2014.
Related storiesFilm Review: 'The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers'NBC Ent.'s Bob Greenblatt Tapped for Keshet's INTV KeynoteRihanna and Other Artists Who Play Israel Feel the Pressure 2013 Variety Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLCCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun