I am not sure why people are not raving about this half-hour sitcom from Ukraine, made just a few short years before Russia invaded. First, it is hilariously funny. Second, it is fiction that could not be truer. Third, it is a prescient tale of our times. It is funny, yes; true, yes; and absolutely foreboding, double yes.
My wife the Beautiful AP and I laugh uproariously at situations in the show and then our eyes widen, we look at each other and say, “This is amazing,” unable to find the words to express what we feel. We are watching history unfold before it actually unfolded.
Servant of the People is the story of a dedicated teacher—a smart, insightful, plain young divorcee—who lives with his parents, sister, and niece in a rundown apartment in Kiev (Kyiv). After a video of him ranting goes viral, he finds himself voted in as the President of his country.
He is elected overwhelming, at about 63 percent of the vote, to end corruption and to break the grip of Russian gangsters who control just about everyone powerful and everything worth controlling in Ukraine.
The writing is crisp; the situations are satiric, plausible, and disturbing. The characters at once outrageous and recognizable. They transcend the locale and could be Americans, Canadians, Europeans—folks from any of the democratic countries suffering from corruption’s byproduct: decay. The characters could be members of your family. They could be you.
The star of the show is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that’s right, the current real-life President of the Ukraine. He stumbles into the presidency on the show, although in real life he actually ran for President in a party called Servant of the People! (Yes, named after his television show.)
In Zelenskyy’s political life, he championed the right of Russians to have their works published and performed in Ukraine. Sadly, and ironically, his works were often banned in both Russia and Ukraine!
He aspired to heal the rift between his and Putin’s territories and finally end the tension between Ukraine and Russia.
However, Vladimir Putin is determined to get rid of this annoying democratic president and his free state of Ukraine, conveniently situated on Russia’s border. He just had to wait for the Winter Olympics in China to be over.
It took Putin only a short inhale to invade Ukraine. He expects to exhale his victory.
Putin is referred to many times on the show. The Russians are portrayed as a menacing element, loyal to their power, pocketbooks, and motherland.
President Zelenskyy has a law degree, although his true loves were acting and comedy. Still, politics called him. Interestingly enough, he did better in the real election than he did on his show, garnering 73.23 percent of the Ukrainian vote.
Watching this wonderful show and seeing how it conjoins with what is currently happening in the real world of Ukraine puts the viewer in a time warp. The President of the show is the real President of Ukraine and the problems he faces on the show are the problems he now faces in reality—in a wartime reality, not a comic reality.
On the show Zelenskyy is portrayed as a short man, almost never taller than anyone else in a room or a meeting. He has to reason, cajole, or fight to get his points across. Everything is uphill. But his character never stops trying to do the right thing by his people.
At 5’7” Zelenskyy is a relatively short man. But on the world stage he is a giant.
Pundits compare him to Winston Churchill, the premier who helped save England during World War II. Indeed, could be the modern-day Churchill.
Putin’s height is estimated between 5’2” and 5’7” and he rankles when he is on stage with anyone taller. On the world stage, Putin is a puny man.
I don’t know if Ukraine can survive the brutal onslaught of Putin’s armed forces. One can hope.
Watch Servant of the People. It’s on Netflix.