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Russia’s first ever television drama shot on location in London launched to top ratings Monday on the country’s leading entertainment network CTC.
Initial audience figures from Moscow show that 20.9 per cent of target 10-45 audience tuned in and 27.5 percent of 11-34. CTC’s overall audience share for the 10pm screening slot was 14.4 percent.
Londongrad – scheduled to run for 28 episodes over two seasons before the end of the year – casts the British capital as the playground of wealthy Russians and profitable lair for an agency that specializes in ‘solving problems’ without recourse to the police or courts.
Written by two Americans with Russian roots and directed by Dmitry Kiselev, who directed Russian comedy Yolki (Christmas Tree) and was second unit DoP on Timur Bekmambetov’s Hollywood hit Wanted, the show is not short on talent.
CTC, which pioneered Russian adaptations of US sitcoms such as Voroniny (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Ne Rodis Krasivoy (Ugly Betty), says 80 percent of the 48-minutes long episodes were shot on location in London. Other locations were found in Moscow, where British architects and designers built extensively in the early 20th century.
Russian viewers may see nothing unusual in the show’s three key characters – Misha, a mathematical genius and Oxford University drop-out who sets up the Londongrad agency to help rich Russians out of scrapes for hefty fees, sexy Alisa, an oligarch’s daughter on the run from her obsessive father, and Stepan, an affable taxi driver from Ryazan who barely speaks a word of English and drives a battered old Russian Lada – though British viewers might be surprised at the ease with which they bribe police officers, drive around town without their seat-belts on and break other laws with apparent impunity.
It is a world seen through an exotic lens, admits writer Michael Idov, who was born in Latvia but moved to New York when he was 16.
“This is a heightened, post-modernist version of London, seen here as a city of con men. It is about as realistic as the Las Vegas of ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, although we did aim for accuracy with costumes, accents and little details of British life.”
Even the battered Lada is true to life, Idov, a former editor of GQ Russia magazine adds, insisting that right-hand drive export versions of the trusty Soviet-designed workhorse are commercially available in the U.K.
Much of the dialogue is in English and the Russian actors all (with the exception of Stepan’s character) speak English. In some episodes as much as half the dialogue is in English, though Russian viewers will be be unaware of that as the show is dubbed for broadcast in Russia.
International audiences may have a chance to see the new drama – CTC plans to offer it to buyers at MIPCOM, the network says.
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