Wonder Women of New York 2022: Amy Israel

Amy Israel
Amy Israel (Image credit: John Russo/Showtime)

Showtime has a ton of momentum and is well-poised to keep the mojo rolling as the new year progresses. Dexter: New Blood started in November, giving fans of the original series a look at what Dexter Morgan is up to these days, and bringing in new viewers as well. A week later, Yellowjackets, about a girls’ soccer team involved in a plane crash, premiered. The first season wrapped in mid-January and was by all accounts a smash. 

Overseeing original programming is Amy Israel. She manages the development and production of all scripted series at Showtime, and anticipates the network retaining its hot hand throughout 2022, thanks to the likes of Billions, Three Women, Super Pumped and other bold originals.

Swinging for the Fences

“With every project, we look for shows that feel in some way like they are taking a big swing,” Israel said. “There is a voice and a vision that is undeniable and singular and deeply entertaining.”

That description certainly applies to Yellowjackets, already renewed for a second season. Created and executive produced by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, the dark drama details both the teen girls, getting by in the woods after the horrific crash, and the characters as adults, dealing with the steps they took to survive years after they are reintegrated into society. Lyle and Nickerson came in with a crystal-
clear vision, Israel said, and delivered on a ceaselessly propulsive story.

“It’s a tremendously overwhelming and gratifying experience to see the resounding response,” Israel said. “You love all your babies the same, but it’s really gratifying when one makes that big of an impact.”

With every project, we look for shows that feel in some way like they are taking a big swing.”

— Amy Israel

It’s a busy time for Showtime, which has seven new scripted shows on the schedule for 2022, up from three last year. Among the veteran series, Ray Donovan wrapped with a movie January 14. Season six of Billions began January 23, and Israel said it will make a mark. “There are new characters and new allegiances that will keep everyone on their toes,” she said. “It’s a tremendously exciting season that will continue to be a deeply entertaining, zeitgeisty show that reflects our times.”

Israel comes from the film world, working at New Regency, where she was executive VP, and Paramount Vantage, where she was head of production and acquisition. Before that, she was at Miramax Films and was a film producer. 

She recalled seeing movies getting more dependent on intellectual property, and less so on the audacious visions of auteurs. Television, meanwhile, was heading into its peak period. “I was looking for new challenges,” Israel said, “and felt the film world had lost a little bit of its sparkle.”

Jana Winograde, Showtime president of entertainment, said Israel plays a key role in attracting elite producers, directors and performers to the network, where they know they’ll get full support in realizing their vision. “One of our calling cards is being a place for top talent, and I give Amy a lot of credit for that,” she said.

Persistence Pays Off

Winograde noted Israel’s “persistence,” whether it’s acquiring the rights to a book, luring a producer with a passion project or helping a director get their project to full fruition. “When there’s an artist she wants to work with, or a voice she wants to get out of the artist, she is relentless,” Winograde said. 

Winograde mentioned Israel’s dogged pursuit of the rights to Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women novel, and her work with Brian Koppelman and David Levien on Super Pumped

Three Women, which Showtime calls an “intimate, haunting portrayal of American female desire,” has Shailene Woodley in the cast. Super Pumped is an anthology series, each season exploring a story that rocked the business world. Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber features Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kyle Chandler and Uma Thurman, and premiered February 27. 

Israel, raised in Brooklyn, enjoys time with family, travel and photography when she’s not building Showtime series. She’s an active mentor in the workplace and stays in touch with former assistants, continuing to teach them a few things and answer their questions. “It’s really important to me to help them grow,” she said.

Israel is hopeful a few of the Showtime rookies she has helped grow will break out the way Yellowjackets has. “With every new show,” she said, “we try to make something that goes into new territories that viewers haven’t seen before.” ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.