Monday, March 28, 2022

Servant of the People Season One

Volodymyr Zelanskyy is the man of the hour.  Very few of us have been tested like him.  An unscrupulous tyrant is willing to kill him in order to fulfill a fantasy.  At the moment the tyrant is cornered and we all fear what he might do.

 We have been told that Zelenskyy was a comedian and it meant his election was a farce.  He was in the news awhile back when Donald Trump tried to force him to give damaging information of a presidential rival in exchange for critical military equipment.  It led to an impeachment effort that Trump was able to squirm out of.   

As with everyone else, Zelanskyy is a hero of mine and it seemed appropriate to check out this comedian's tv series when Netflix offered the opportunity.  A comedian is not expected to understand politics and be smart enough to get anything done.  Jon Stewart is a clever politician with strong ideas, however Zelanskyy was a Ukrainian and everyone knew they had a corrupt government.

Zelenskyy had done a number of tv shows before, but what had been overlooked was that he had actually earned a law degree.  After he graduated he became involved with television forming a production company, Kartal 95.  He did movies in Ukraine, Russia and even the United States. He produced, acted, directed and wrote.  He was the creator and producer of the show "Servant of the People," but is not listed as one of its writers.

Having said all that, what about the show?  It is entertaining with the main emphasis on satire.  The main character is a high school history teacher.  On an occasion where he was ranting about how corrupt and incompetent the government was a student videotaped it on a phone.  The tape went viral and supposedly with little effort from the teacher, he won the election and became the president.

He is smart, but a little naive and the prime minister strings him along.  Among the multitudinous staff there is a double as a security person.  Corruption is overwhelming and incompetence follows.  The incumbent wanted to re-do the election or a recount or an amendment, but the new president remembering how he persuaded an old teacher to resign was able to avoid a long procedure.  Being inexperienced the president accepts scripted questions and answers before casting them aside.  He avoids making promises he can't keep.

The country is in debt, but seems to borrow money which is funneled mostly to insiders causing the national debt to spiral.  Our hero although wanting to do the right thing gets sidetracked occasionally with alcohol and seductive women.  He hires his ex wife (but fires his sister) as she is trustworthy and they get along, except they both and their son thought they would argue too much if remarried.  His parents try to take advantage of their new prestige and complain when he has austere measures legislated.  He rejects most of pomp of his office, still living at home with his parents and sister.  At first he takes a bus to work, until convinced that a security chief he fired needed a job and became his driver/guard.

The episodes are short and hi-lite various problems and attempted solutions.  It would be hard not to laugh.  The corruption is over whelming.  In one episode, #17 in a drunken state Zelenskyy demonstrates why he won some dance contests.  As sidelines there are little sketches (only visible to the president and the audience) involving such historical figures as Abraham Lincoln, Che Guevara and Ivan the Terrible.  Louis XVI is brought in to explain how he tried to reform the tax code and do a rational budget but was met with the guillotine.

Naively I thought the language would be Ukrainian, but it is listed as Russian.  I remember that Russian is Zelenskyy's first language and that most of his films are in Russian, although he is fluent in Ukrainian and English.  Until 2014 kZelenskyy's production company had an office in Moscow and his films were broadcast in Russia.  For myself I was actually married in Ukrainian, but didn't understand any of that part and neither did my wife.  Ukrainian and Russian sound the same, but there are distinct.

They had to stop the show, because the fantasy had become a reality.  Zelenskyy announced his candidacy for president on December 31, 2018, preempting the incumbent president Poroshenko's New Year's Eve speech.  Adopted the name of the show for his newly formed party.  He easily won the first round of votes and with the second round garnered over 73% of the votes.   

He made several efforts to improve relations between Russian and Ukrainian speakers and tried to negotiate with Putin, but to no avail.  He started to clean up corruption and soon had to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic.  Oh yes, he had to deal with Donald Trump.

On February 24th, after the Winter Olympics, Putin officially started an invasion.  Zelinksyy had been offered asylum, but elected to stay in Kyiv.  A number of assassination attempts have been made, but he is still defiant.  He has made direct appeals to various government bodes.  To Canada and the United States he drew analogies to familiar landmarks.  To the British he used Churchillian phrases.  He is very articulate and has got the sympathy of the western world (and parts of Asia).  There is a fear if NATO escalates too much the invasion will become an international nuclear disaster.  It is a very delicate matter and one assumes Putin is using that fear to scare away as much interference as possible.

Nobody can be sure what will happen.  Many of us think what President Joe Biden said regarding Vladimir Putin is very appropriate, but by itself it could have consequences.  The world has a long way to go for justice to prevail.  I hope that Netflix makes the two following seasons available as I believe they will help us better appreciate Zelenskyy and be entertaining at the same time.

From from what I have been able to learn an apt comparison might be with Jon Stewart.  Jon was noted for biting satire.  

Check out the IMDB page including a trailer.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6235122/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0 I would look forward to seeing the last two seasons when Netflix makes them available.

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