Friday, September 7, 2018

FREE VODKA ALERT(durak doesn't need much to be happy): 'Reader, it is glorious': watching Vladimir Putin's own TV show / Even bears respect boss, says new Russian TV show

Get drunk and watch boss on his adventure journeys.

ell, it looks like I have to tear up my list of the year’s best TV shows. Until now, the list had been populated by all the usual suspects – agonisingly self-conscious dramas, single-camera comedies that don’t have any jokes in them, that sort of thing – but now they are all in the bin, because I have just watched the first episode of the new Russian series Moscow. Kremlin. Putin. And, let me tell you, it is something else.
Airing weekly on state-run Rossiya 1, Moscow. Kremlin. Putin is billed as a programme devoted to Vladimir Putin’s activities. Wherever he goes, the cameras follow, although it is often hard to see him thanks to all the fawning aides hurling themselves at his feet like a human carpet.

You might have heard about Moscow. Kremlin. Putin before. You might have read, in this publication, how it’s been compared to a “Soviet-era personality cult”. You may have heard about the segment in which we see Putin on holiday in Siberia, where a Kremlin spokesperson claims that all bears are frightened of him. You might have even got curious and clicked around on Google Translate, finding Russian-language articles that call the show “brainwashing” and claim that it only exists as a desperate attempt to counter Putin’s plummeting approval ratings.

But I have actually watched it. I tracked it down on YouTube and sat through an entire hour of it, despite not being able to speak any Russian. Reader, it is glorious.

The first thing to note is that The Day Today never aired in Russia. Over here, the relentless macho bombast of that show’s title sequence permanently altered how news is presented here, forcing the BBC to scale back its giant self-important statues of ice eagles to something deliberately softer and warmer.

But this lack of corrective means Russian news never had to back down, which makes Moscow. Kremlin. Putin’s titles flat-out incredible. There are ice birds and ice palaces and a noise that sounds like an industrial consignment of drums fighting for their life inside an exploding firework factory. But better yet is the entrance of host Vladimir Solovyov, who scowlingly marches out into a vast hangar-sized studio wearing the sort of all-black kung fu formalwear favoured by late-era Steven Seagal.

He is exclusively alpha. He is every father of every girl you ever went out with as a teenager. He – and this is made perfectly clear by every atom of his appearance and demeanour – wants to beat the absolute snot out of you with his bare hands as soon as he is able to.

Weirdly, the bristling aggression of the presentation – three minutes in, in one of the most phallic television segments I have ever witnessed, a reporter swoons aside a gargantuan dump truck – is nowhere to be seen when the focus turns to Putin himself.

We see Putin patting babies. We see him sniffing mushrooms. We see him bobbing about inside a hilariously tiny boat. We see him smiling and giggling in front of a teenage audience. At one point we see him gazing impassively as a quarry is blown up before his eyes. He looks, to all the world, like a total pussycat. If he is a Bond villain, Moscow. Kremlin. Putin wants to make it clear that he is one of the nice ones, who probably has a National Trust membership. It takes work to make one man look this toothless, so credit where it's due to Moscow. Kremlin. Putin for putting the hours in.

Obviously, Moscow. Kremlin. Putin could be better. The overwhelming majority of it is comprised of Solovyov standing at a Perspex lectern, yelling at a succession of men who look exactly like him, standing behind their own lecterns. This feels like an error. People watch Moscow. Kremlin. Putin to see Putin pad around Russia like a pussycat. More of that next week, please.

Let’s have a segment where he pulls a thorn from the paw of a wounded antelope. Let’s have a segment where he visits a hospital and heals the sick with his hands. Let’s, for the love of God, have a segment where he sits down and makes a macrame cushion cover for the infirm. Give the people what they want, Rossiya 1.

And BBC One, what the hell are you playing at? Where’s London. Westminster. May? Where’s our state-sanctioned hour of uncritical leader worship? If this country was worth anything at all, we would have a weekly programme dedicated to nothing but what a graceful and elegant dancer Theresa May is. But no. Apparently we can’t even stretch to that.

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