Entertainment

Netflix showing the comedy that made Ukraine’s president famous


Netflix is giving its Canadian and U.S. subscribers what they want — and apparently that’s more of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

After popular demand, the streaming giant announced Wednesday that it will bring Zelenskyy’s 2015 comedy TV series, “Servant of the People,” back to its service.

“You asked and it’s back!” Netflix said in a tweet. “Servant of the People is once again available on Netflix in The US.”

The satirical show was originally available in the Netflix library from 2017 to 2021. It stars Zelenskyy, who was a comedian before he entered politics, as a Ukrainian high school teacher who unexpectedly becomes president after a video of him complaining about corruption goes viral.

Of course, life imitated art and Zelenskyy was elected to Ukraine’s highest office in 2019 and he named his real political party Servant of the People.

The Russian-language series, whose 23-episode first season began streaming Wednesday, is available to Canadian and U.S. audiences with English subtitles. It also starred Natalya Sumskaya, Viktor Saraykin, Stanislav Boklan and Ekaterina Kisten.

It’s unclear when or if Netflix will stream the subsequent seasons and the film adaptation it spawned in 2016. A representative for the company did not respond to the Los Angeles Times’s request for comment.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has renewed interest in Zelenskyy’s background as an entertainer (he also voiced Paddington bear in the Ukrainian version of the live-action animated film). His grit as a leader and his social media savvy have fascinated broadcasters and allies alike — rallying many behind Ukraine and simultaneously fuelling demand for “Servant of the People.”

The three-season show (and its subsequent film) is being licensed by Swedish television group Eccho Rights, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with buyers including Netflix in the U.S., the U.K.’s Channel 4, MBC in the Middle East, ANT 1 in Greece and PRO TV.

“The series is a comedy but also an important document of where Zelenskyy comes from,” said Eccho managing partner Nicola Soderlund. “His fictional president is a normal man who grows into his role as a heroic and adored leader. While the real-world scenario facing Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people is far more grim and appalling than the comedy of the series, there are obvious parallels with the real-world situation, and ‘Servant of the People’ is a fascinating, important and historic piece of television.”

The series was broadcast in the U.K. for the first time on Sunday, with 100,000 people tuning in, according to the BBC.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader appeared virtually in front of U.S. lawmakers for an emotional address that invoked the pivotal American tragedies 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Zelenskyy requested an urgent round of financial support, more weaponry and pleaded with Congress for a no-fly zone to help his country stave off the Russian invasion.

Hours after Zelenskyy’s congressional appearance, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will send an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including more anti-aircraft, antiarmor weapons and drones.

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