Every Monday night at 10 o'clock, Iranians by the millions tune into Channel One to watch the most expensive show ever aired on the Islamic republic's state-owned television. Its elaborate 1940s costumes and European locations are a far cry from the typical Iranian TV fare of scarf-clad women and gray-suited men.The article goes on to explain that the perhaps odd programming choice, from a country that routinely demands that Israel be wiped from the face of the earth, may in part be an attempt by the Iranian government (through their state-run television) to emphasize that while they demand the extermination of Israel, they believe they treat native Iranian Jews (of which there are roughly 25,000 still in Iran) fairly. That may be small comfort of Israeli's as the possibility of an all-out confrontation betweel Israel and Iran over Iran's nuclear program becomes more likely, but the TV show is an interesting phenominon nonetheless.
But the most surprising thing about the wildly popular show is that it is a heart-wrenching tale of European Jews during World War II.
The hour-long drama, "Zero Degree Turn," centers on a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman. Over the course of the 22 episodes, the hero saves his love from Nazi detention camps, and Iranian diplomats in France forge passports for the woman and her family to sneak on to airplanes carrying Iranian Jews to their homeland.... [full article -- registration may be required]
The creation of the show explained that, "he came up with the idea for "Zero Degree Turn" four years ago as he was reading books about World War II and stumbled across literature about charge d'affaires at the Iranian embassy in Paris. Abdol Hussein Sardari saved over a thousand European Jews by forging Iranian passports and claiming they belonged to an Iranian tribe."
It sounds like in some ways the show is indeed managing to put a human face on the plight of European Jews in the Holocause, which the Iranian president is on the record as denying the existence of. However, it sounds like they also couldn't help getting their political digs in:
The message appears to be grabbing the public. Sara Khatibi, a 35-year-old mother and chemist in Tehran, says she and her husband never miss an episode. "All we ever hear about Jews is rants from the government about Israel," she says. "This is the first time we are seeing another side of the story and learning about their plight."
The show also pushes Iran's political line regarding the legitimacy of Israel: The Jewish state was conceived in modern times by Western powers rather than as part of a centuries-old desire of Jews for a return to their ancestral homeland. In one scene, a rabbi declares it a bad idea for Jews to resettle in Arab lands. In another, the French Jewish protagonist refuses a marriage offer by a cousin, who is advocating the creation of Israel.