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Ukrainian president Zelenskyy's show 'Servant of the People' bought by broadcasters around the world

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'Servant of the People' the show that made Zelenskyy famous is being sought after around the world after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia
'Servant of the People' the show that made Zelenskyy famous is being sought after around the world after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia   -   Copyright  Efrem Lukatsky/AP
By Tim Gallagher  with AP

Country’s from around the world are vying for the rights to the comedy series which brought Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to fame.

‘Servant of the People,’ which starred president Zelenskyy as…the Ukrainian President, was first aired in 2015 in Ukraine.

In the series, the actor and comedian played Vasiliy Petrovich Goloborodko, a high school teacher propelled to the presidency after a student's video of him denouncing official corruption in Ukraine goes viral.

Goloborodko sets about running the country while eschewing the perks of being leader by keeping hold of his normal life.

The series was a hit in Ukraine, where it ran for three seasons and a spin-off movie. Since Zelenskyy has become the face of Ukrainian defiance against the Russian invasion, interest in the show has peaked abroad as well.

Eccho Rights has distributed the program, made by Zelenskyy's Studio Kvartel 95, since it launched. The company's managing partner, Nicola Söderlund, said sales have increased dramatically in the last few days, calling interest in the programme "remarkable."

"It's quite an old show already," he explains. "But, of course, given the circumstances, it's become very, very, very interesting for everybody."

What countries are showing ‘Servant of the People?’

Channel 4 has announced it has the rights to ‘Servant of the People’ in the UK and plans to broadcast an episode on Sunday, alongside a current affairs show about Zelenskyy.

Eccho Rights also reported deals with MBC in the Middle East, Greece's ANT 1 and PRO TV in Romania, as well as broadcasters in Bulgaria, Moldova, Estonia, France, Finland and Georgia. It was not immediately clear who, if anyone, had rights in the US.

AP Photo
Zelenskyy's addresses to the world and the Ukrainian people have earned him global admiration and respectAP Photo

"People get surprised that a comedian can be a politician, but he was," says Söderlund. "His skills in getting compelling messages to the people, which is what to do if you're a TV host, has helped him a lot becoming a politician."

Zelenskyy's profile has skyrocketed during the invasion as he tirelessly advocates for Ukraine, appearing with countrymen and on near-constant video addresses.

Turning down an offer to escape the country and instead pleading for help has made him a hero to many watching.

Eccho Rights has donated €50,000 to the Ukrainian Red Cross, which Söderlund says should offset the money they've made from selling the show. The company has also removed any Russian or Russian-produced TV shows from its catalogue.

Söderlund met Zelenskyy in 2012 when they distributed one of his comedy shows called ‘Crack Them Up,’ where ordinary people have to make comedians laugh. The premise of ‘Servant of the People’ appealed to him right away.

Zelenskyy mined the humour of an ordinary man in a corrupt society riding his bike to the presidential palace, forgoing a pay raise and living at home with his mother. "That was kind of the idea," Söderlund said, "and I loved it."

‘Servant of the People’ won the best feature series award at the Teletriumph Awards in Ukraine and also the Gold Remi Award for Television Comedy at the 2016 WorldFest in Houston.

Video editor • Theo Farrant