Apple is in advanced talks to buy rights to a gritty Israeli TV show called "Nevelot" (English translation: "Bastards") and adapt it for the U.S., beating out bids from competitors including Showtime, FX and Amazon, according to several people with knowledge of the deal. The show's plot involves two military veterans who go on a youth-focused killing spree because they believe today's kids don't understand the sacrifices of their generation.
While the details are still being worked out, show-runners Howard Gordon and Warren Leight are in negotiations to reformat it for the American market, perhaps under a different name, according to people familiar. Both have had critical success as TV show-runners, with Gordon co-helming "24" and "Homeland" and Leight behind "In Treatment," "Law and Order: SVU" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent."
Richard Gere is also in talks to star in the series. Apple and 21st Century Fox will be co-producing. The project was previously in development at HBO.
All sides are still talking, and the deal is not yet finalized. It could fall though, the people said, if certain agreements were not reached, including budget.
Apple, Gordon and Gere declined to comment. Leight did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fox said no deal is done and declined to discuss details.
The purchase of a violent show seems in contrast to Apple's traditionally prudish standards for apps it sells in the App Store. In that vein, the Wall Street Journal reported in September that Apple did not want shows that included violence, politics or rude language.
But multiple people who have spoken to Apple and have knowledge of their thinking in recent months say that's simply not true, and TV-MA content is fair game.
Apple's heads of programming, Zach Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who started in June, have been working overtime to dispel the myth that Apple is interested only in family-friendly material.
In general, Apple wants high-impact content based on things people have heard of, like books, franchises or ideas that have resonance, according to people who have spoken to the company. It's not wedded to existing formats that need commercial breaks, emphasizing unusual formats like anthologies and content that doesn't fit within the traditional 30-minute and 60-minute time slots. The company is emphasizing it's looking for "different" content, as long as it has substance and isn't gratuitous.
The push is pitting them directly against deep-pocketed distributors like Netflix and Amazon, who also are hungry for content that is likely to get acclaim. Apple has indicated it is willing to pay premium prices for shows that have awards potential.