It's Not A Reality In Russia

"The fundamental premise for most Western reality shows is what people in the industry call ‘aspirational’: someone works hard and is rewarded with a wonderful new life." They have tried reality shows in Russia and things are different.

 The shows celebrate the outstanding individual, the bright extrovert. "In the 1990s and the early Putin years television had largely been a plaything for oligarchs and a vote-winning tool, but now it was about ratings, formats and revenue. Flush with cash from advertising and backed by energy companies, the Russian channels were spending money as fast as they could – their problem was working out which programmes to make. The Russians were convinced that the British knew TV’s magic formula: most of television’s most successful formats had been invented in the UK. Simply saying you were a producer from London got you any meeting you wanted. Potemkin’s plan was to take British shows like The Apprentice, Come Dine with Me and Faking It and remake them with local talent. It seemed so simple."

 "For the Russian version of The Apprentice, Vladimir Potanin, a metals oligarch worth more than $10 billion, was recruited to be the boss choosing between the candidates competing for the dream job. Potanin goaded, teased and tortured the candidates as they went through increasingly difficult challenges. The show looked great, the stories and dramas all worked, but there was a problem: no one in Russia believed in the rules. The usual way to get a job in Russia is not by impressing at an interview, but by what is known as blat – ‘connections’. Russian society isn’t much interested in the hard-working, brilliant young business mind. Everyone knows where that type ends up: in jail like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or in exile like the mobile phone billionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin."

 "The shows that did work were based on a quite different set of principles. By far the biggest success was Posledny Geroi (‘The Last Hero’), a version of Survivor, a show based on humiliation and hardship. This chimed in Russia – a country where being bullied by the authorities is the norm." More

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