Prime-time patter on Israel’s The Voice

December 29, 2012 - 7:10 PM by

voiceDespite the superficial similarities between Israel and the US, there are times when you’re jolted into the realization that no…. this is not America.

Take prime time TV, for instance – and specifically the non-existence restrictions on Israeli TV for American forbidden fruits like swearing and nudity.

I only have to go back a couple weeks for a prime example of one of the country’s biggest performers – Yuval Banai of the supergroup Mashina – shouting that biggest international curse word out there – “motherf****” on prime time TV during one of the country’s most popular shows – The Voice. And in this bizarre case, it wasn’t an insult, but a compliment.

The Voice, as most of you know, is the reality singing competition that’s gone global since being created in Holland a few years ago. Its premise is slightly different from the other popular singing competition shows like American Idol and The X-Factor in that four celebrity judges/coaches hear a blind audition and have the length of the performance to hit their bell and vie for that contestant during the coaching phase.

The hugely successful US version, entering in its fourth season, features mentors Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton. Shakira and Usher are replacing Aguilera and Green for the fourth season.

The Israeli version debuted last year with singing staples Shlom Shabat, Aviv Geffen, Sarit Hadad and Rami Kleinstein. The first episode was watched by an incredible 1.6 million viewers – almost 25% of the country! The competition was won by Canadian-born immigrant Kathleen Reiter, who is currently recording her first album.

When the second season debuted earlier this month, Kleinstein had been replaced by the duo of Banai, Mashina’s singer, and Shlomi Bracha, the band’s guitarist. Representing the more ‘rocky’ side of the music scene, Banai has brought some edginess to the show, especially his particularly playful repartee with Geffen, once considered the bad boy of Israeli rock.

Maybe that’s why Banai had to prove his outlaw credentials, when one of the contestants – an immigrant from Los Angeles – proved worthy enough for both Banai and Geffen to compete for his favors and choose them as his mentor. Banai, perhaps, wanting to impress the contestant with his English – especially after Geffen had told the tryout how much he loved LA, he understood the music scene there, etc.. – that he blurted out how great the audition was. “Mother f******!” he yelled, in the supreme compliment for someone knocking it out of the park.

No bleep, no gasps, just laughter and cheers from the audience and the other judges.
I laughed too, wondering what would have happened if Steven Tyler had tried that – probably one of his favorite words – to describe one of the contestants on American Idol. It would have been front page news the next day. I kind of prefer our response – we have bigger things to worry about.

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