Israeli Reality Show 'Living in La La Land' Crowns Winner, Awards Recording Contract
With Hollywood's recent successes translating Israeli films and programs into American TV gold -- HBO’s In Treatment and Showtime’s Homeland are just two examples -- musicians from the Holy Land are also trying to capitalize on the trend.
Blending the two worlds is Israeli reality show Living in La La Land, which this week ended its second season and declared diva powerhouse balladeer Maya Buskila its winner. The prize: a record produced by veteran A&R executive and producer Ron Fair.
The premise is simple: take six Israeli singers trying to make it in the U.S. and bring them to Los Angeles. The twist? Both seasons featured several popular Israeli artists. The contestants share a house in Sherman Oaks with cameras documenting their every move, as they participate in vocal sessions with various producers and perform in front of a changing judging panel for weekly evaluations. For comic relief they also get production-orchestrated glimpses into Hollywood, from launching a fashion collection to auditioning as extras on TV or movie sets -- branching out as a "brand" being the operative excuse.
Fair, who just recently was named chief creative officer and EVP of Virgin Records, has a small yet significant part. Originally drawn to participate in the show following the death of his longtime friend and production partner Tal Herzberg , he only appears on a couple of occasions throughout the season, but his presence is almost god-like. After all, he's the ultimate decider.
And rightfully so -- having paved the way for such acts as Christina Aguilera, Black Eyed Peas and Vanessa Carlton, Fair’s reality TV resume already includes former judging stints on The CW’s Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious and the short-lived Cover Me Canada in 2011. He came to collaborate with Living in La La Land creators Kuperman Productions in late 2010 during initial production stages.
Fair gets feedback after every session and evaluation, while the singers fantasize about the possibility of having him work their future single. For his part, just before his arrival in Tel Aviv for the live finale, local satellite television provider Yes, which airs Living in La La Land, released a viral teaser Tuesday of Fair name-dropping Grammy-winning songwriter Diane Warren, announcing she penned one of the suggested songs for the winner.
"Living in La La Land has extraordinary potential as an international tv format," Fair tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It combines elements of The Beverly Hillbillies with The Real World set against a competition show of established music stars. How clever is that? It's a runaway smash hit for the Yes network, and recently won the Israeli Emmy. My congratulations to season two's beautiful and talented winner, Maya Buskila."
But while he's known for pop fare, Living in La La Land prominently featured ethnic-pop singers, the dominant and most profitable music genre in Israel for the past decade. However both winners are being primed for a crossover attempt. Season one rapper Alon De Loco's Ron Fair produced club track “Go Loco”, which was recorded hours after the finale in Israel back in September 2011, failed to break. The song featured teen girl Wild Orchid alum Stefanie Ridel, who happens to be Mrs. Ron Fair. Unlike De Loco, Buskila is a more established performer and was the odds on favorite to win all along. So maybe this time a true Israeli singer will be able to become a crossover artist, and not just a Fair weather reality star.