Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Watching Russia Closely (Or "Putin The Telly On")

To say Russia has been in the news a lot recently would be something something funny joke about this being an obvious thing because of truth. Yes, there was all the things linking them with Trump and his newly ruined role but most importantly for many people - they leaked an episode of "Oh That Sherlock!" before BBC One had put in on the telly proper and you could download it and everything and it ruined it (for some reason)!!!!

Bah! What do the Russians even know about telly anyway? I bet all they show is 23 hours of Putin's face and an hour of recipes involving beetroot. Well, maybe before the fall of the Soviet Union but looking into (and indeed looking at via streaming sites) TV from the top Russian networks finds...well, much the same as the rest of the world. Police procedurals, Saturday night shiny floor entertainment shows, medical dramas and talk shows all appear on a daily basis in prime time. But is it really so normal under the surface? Or is Old Ian Putin secretly broadcasting the word "OBEY" under the programming like that Rowdy Roddy Piper film*?????? (*Hell Comes To Frogtown)

I'm going to don my best Шерлок Холмс deerstalker and investigate an average day on Russia's biggest TV channel. I wondered what strange and enchanting new thing from another world would be the first thing I see when I turned on the channel. What new delights would be offered. What exotic...


...um, oh. Right. Moving on...

The most successful channel for audience share right now is Channel One Russia, an entertainment station in the vein of ITV1 which is co-owned by a mixture of Government divisions, private conglomerates and yes, of course, Roman Abramovich.

"Hello I'm Ian Suit and its FUCKING SNOWING!"

Daytime TV starts with "Good Morning!", which follows the pattern of our own morning tv programmes with a mix of rolling news, "real people" and celebrity bollocks presented by whatever these two below are meant to be. I'm sure there was some powerful and hard hitting news in there but the most I got seemed to be "Fuck! There's fucking loads of snow! Look!"

Dana and A Boo Radley - together at then! 

9:50am finds the desperate sounding "Life Is Great!" although "Live Healthy" is probably a more accurate translation as a group of cheery looking medical individuals drag people out of the audience into the insanely bright set to be lectured on all matters health with the help of comedy oversized props. There was also a lengthy cooking slot where they seemed to be making grey food.

"This is of course your stopcock..."

Next up is "Fashion Sentence", a makeover programme that reminded me of a very short lived BBC1 series called "Style Trial" in the early 90s. And nobody needs reminding of that. Looking at the show's page on the channel website, the makeovers seem to be one step short of threats with previous episodes featuring the descriptions "Colleague accuses a colleague that she breaks the cardinal rule of female stunt - look feminine.", "My husband has threatened to drive his wife out of the house if she did not get rid of Balakhonov (big baggy clothes traditionally worn by pregnant women) in the wardrobe", "The man blames his civil wife in that it does not correspond to his ideal and a brighter future" and perhaps most alarmingly, "The point about why special girl dreams of becoming normal". Normal? We've marched for less...

A typically low key Russian TV set today.

The panellists make their choice for what that episode's poor unfortunate should wear whilst attempting to please their master - Bobby Moynihan pretending to be Cyril Fletcher as the Devil.

Less Drunk Uncle and more Funk Uncle. As in "funking hell, thats a lot of red!"

After some news, "Alone With All" which is less the bleak call to self-harm it seems, rather a one on one talk show with notable Russian celebrities. The talk continues with the surprisingly hard news-led "Time Will Tell", a programme which is sadly not one of David Bowie's few good singles of the late 80s but a forum "to discuss what matters to all of us, citizens of Russia in the discussion attended by experts - politicians, political scientists, journalists, businessmen and simply indifferent Russians". Which is a nice way of saying ignorant bastards I suppose.

At 4pm its a triple bill of "Mind The Baby Mr Bean" and...oh no, wait...apparently its "Male / Female", another chat show although with a slightly more Jeremy Kyle edge this time. Followed at 5pm by "Lets Get Married" which is less "Blind Date" and more "Desperate Meat Market" as a contestant is given three potential partners which they must whittle down with the help of family and friends. Today "restaurateur with rich experience 38-year-old Artem is looking for a woman with a good education, bright eyes and a beautiful posture." I bet they give him an illiterate bozz-eyed one with a hump!!!!!

I'll choose "HEALTH & HAPPINESS", computer...

6pm is "First Studio" time and guess what - its more political debate! Imagine if Question Time took away the chairs, added some IKEA furniture, more shouting and stuck it on the set of every Channel 4 programme from 1982-1992 ever. And yes that is the Zapruder film playing happily in the background at teatime...

Not pictured: a bear. But I bet they've thought about it. 

A change of mood at 8pm with...oh come on, another bloody talk show - "Let Them Talk" - which looks bloody identical to "Male / Female" earlier only with a host that appears to be played by Patrick Barlow in the 80s.

Good game. The game it is good. 

I'm tired now, tell me what you're supposed to be already...

"ABOUT THE PROJECT: They say that "the word will not help", but the program "Let Them Talk" is refuted. The real, true stories of people hurt more than the pretentious reasoning on general topics, because, introducing the discussion of private individual problem, a separate family, we talk about what excites everyone. Contact the program can be edited in the mail: 1tv.pustgovorat@gmail.com"

Wogan 2000 EXTREEM

So they've hacked the world's elections but still use gmail for their prime time television shows. Smashing.

Translation: "Pondfallers"

After some more lovely news, its finally time for some scripted television and Russia likes to strip their programmes Monday-Thursday so all this week at 9:35pm is "Greek". Not the American teen drama series but more "Howards Way done in some unfinished offices". According to the guide, it is a "melodrama about an unequal marriage, willpower and overcome. History of a simple girl from the provinces, to prove their right to be part of a wealthy family of the capital, will not leave anyone indifferent. The more melodramatic series in doing stunt they had to portray the paralyzed man and Why participate in the filming of the stud dog came up with a woman's name". Look, Google translate doesn't always make sense, alright?


At the same time as this, Channel One's chief rivals seemed to be showing something that looked almost identical with the same stark lighting and blueish tint, only one was set in a hospital and the other in some more unfurnished offices. Only this one has a flag.

Cunk on Romanian Diplomacy will not be shown due to boring.

After some more smashing news, the TV schedule gave me the following information...

"City Slickers." Premiere. "The Bureau". 6th Series"

They made City Slickers into a series? And they opened up a bureau!?? Well, no. I've no idea where the hell the title of Billy Crystal's fourth most alright movie fits in but this is a dub of French political thriller The Bureau. Which has so far had two series so we'll assume this is instead the sixth episode. Other imported TV programmes shown by Channel One include Lost (Translated title: "To Stay Alive"), Boardwalk Empire ("The Underground Empire") and Ray Donovan ("Ray Donovan") Oh and Sherlock which is absolutely everywhere on their official website. Its almost like they want you to know something...

And that's a day of TV from Russia's most popular station. Little changes at the weekend with Friday replacing "Let Them Talk" with the trouser-moisteningly exciting sounding "Man and Law with Alexei Pimanovym" and "Field Of Dreams", their version of Wheel of Fortune but with more singing. Oh and every episode is themed, such as...um...

Saturday has fun for all the family with favourites such as "Play, Accordion favorite!" and child intelligence game "Good and Clever" mixing with much the same as we get over here, including cookery with "Gusto" (This week: "the singer and the composer Dmitry Malikov with daughter Stephanie will share their favorite family recipes, including "Devil's paste" and "Not steamed chicken"), house renovations in "A Perfect Repair" and "10 Years Younger" which is um.."10 Years Younger" off of Channel 4. The imported formats continue with identical looking versions of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "The Voice".

Bet they still managed to pay their tax, mind...  

So maybe we aren't so different when you get down to it. We still eat, we still sleep and we still have a load of old shite on the telly.  Yes, I think things are going to be alright after all....

The horse, ironically, is named Barack Obama The Horse.
We're doomed.

BONUS: In 2012, myself and my friend Phil Catterall recorded a podcast where we went through that month's most popular Russian TV programmes. Here is a reduced edit of that show:


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