Netflix has brought back Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s satirical political comedy series “Servant of the People” and viewers will gain valuable insight into a man thrust in a mind-bending collision of art of real-world politics onto a global stage.
Reminiscent of the 1993 Kevin Kline/Ivan Reitman American political comedy Dave – in which a small-town employment agency owner is plucked from anonymity to impersonate a stricken American president – Servant stars Zelenskyy as a history teacher who ascends to the presidency of Ukraine after a video of him complaining about corruption goes viral.
The series, which ran from 2015-19, stars Zelenskyy as a wildly patriotic citizen who wants the best for his country but who finds his best efforts blunted by internal politics, corruption, a secret cabal of oligarchs and even his own family as he tries to carry out the will of the people.
Zelenskyy, 44, is a former actor and comedian who turned to entertainment after getting a law degree from Kyiv Economic University. He was elected president of Ukraine in 2019 in a huge landslide and, well, most Americans know what happened next.
Interest in the show spiked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Zelenskyy, dressed in fatigues and moving wounded countrymen to tears with his visits to local hospitals, found himself in a real-life role and face to face in a shooting war with Vladimir Putin.
Prior to his role as national hero, Zelenskyy provided the voice of “Paddington Bear” in Ukrainian versions of that film series and won Ukraine’s “Dancing With the Stars.” He created, produced and starred in “Servant of the People” which ran for three seasons. Before the series ended, he formed a political party of the same name and announced his run for president on Dec. 31, 2018.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Stream it. Perhaps difficult to follow for many Americans, we found it a self-deprecating and humorous look at local politics in a country sharing a border with the Russian Bear.
WHY WE LIKED IT: Zelenskyy is a tightly wound bundle of energy with a flair for comedic timing and nuance. Often, the joke isn’t what’s being said by the primary protagonists but what’s happening on screen behind them. If you’re from this part of the world, speak Russian, and know the back story it must be a satirical Ukrainian laugh riot. A bit of a learning curve for the rest of us, it’s still entertaining.
Available on Netflix.