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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Further Proof of How Much More Erudite and Cultured Russians are Compared to Americans

The Moscow Times reports that Russians, while claiming to be more erudite and cultured than Americans, are not only copying American sitcoms but adding another whole new layer of vapid exploitation to the mix.

The heroine of CTC's new sitcom "All of a Sudden" is a champion figure skater who reinvents herself as a pop singer in a sexy girl group drooled over by the male half of the nation. Then she ditches the sequins and goes into acting, swiftly bagging the lead role in a primetime show. Actually that's not the plot -- although it should be -- but the career path of the show's lead actress, the former ice dancer and former Blestyashchiye singer Anna Semyonovich. And I haven't even mentioned the breasts.

So formidable are the above assets that the scriptwriters have been forced to make them a central feature of the show, which is a copy of a sitcom that aired in the United States, "Suddenly Susan." That show starred Brooke Shields, and I haven't seen it, but still feel pretty sure her cleavage didn't loom over the proceedings in the same way. Perhaps there were eyebrow jokes. Anyway, the first episodes of the Russian version this week showed a male character clinging to Semyonovich's embonpoint and a female character summing her up with an Italian-style hand gesture.

The show certainly must be an answer to the prayers of Russia's teenage boy demographic. Although what is the etiquette on actresses' breasts? I know "Baywatch" had a set number of shots of Pamela Anderson's swimsuit per episode, but it still did the gentlemanly thing and had characters talking to her face. Possibly Semyonovich's experiences as a singer in Blestyashchiye, a group that leaves you humming the cup sizes, has made her inured to cameras zooming around at chest level. It's a little hard to tell on screen, since she only seems to have two expressions: smiling and pouting. Still, that's understandable -- figure skating and lip-synching haven't stretched her dramatic range yet, and half the viewers won't notice anyway.

The plot of the show is that Suddenly Sasha runs away from her wedding with a wealthy older man and returns to her job at a glossy magazine, which just happens to be edited by the brother-in-law of her rejected fiance. Unexpectedly, he doesn't fire her, but instead gives her the chance to write her own girl-about-town column. This gives her the chance to meet new quirky characters each episode and also hang out with a permanent cast of bitchy journalists and photographers, whose male representatives all more or less secretly fancy her. That's not far off, although unlike Sasha I never resorted to buying people sandwiches to cement my popularity.

In the first episodes, each of which seemed to last about five minutes due to CTC's generous attitude to commercial breaks, Semyonovich's character sparred with her sarcastic editor, who barked at her, "If I don't like your very first column, I will fire you." She also went to a bar with a female colleague, who was disgruntled at being ignored by all the men in favor of the luscious Sasha. Finally, she researched her column by shadowing a sleazy assertiveness trainer called Doctor No.

The show has been localized to Russia to some extent -- even if the fiancees of oligarchs don't usually seem to work at lowly magazine jobs. At one point, the editor moaned that magazines couldn't compete with television. "They have the latest news and we have last week's gossip; they have Ksenia Sobchak and we have ... Ksenia Sobchak," he joked, referring to the blonde TNT presenter who rarely sees a party invitation she doesn't like. According to Semyonovich's web site, the It-Girl was one of the candidates to play Sasha, but the other actress just had something extra to bring to the role. Never mind, I'm sure Ksyusha took it on the chest.

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