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.
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.
On the surface, the message of the lavish, state-funded production appears sharply at odds with that sent out by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called the Holocaust a myth.
In fact, the government's spending on the show underscores the subtle and often sophisticated way in which the Iranian state uses its TV empire to send out political messages. The aim of the show, according to many inside and outside the country, is to draw a clear distinction between the government's views about Judaism -- which is accepted across Iranian society -- and its stance on Israel -- which the leadership denounces every chance it gets.