Russia Television and Radio Taps into Post-Pandemic Preference for Hope

Though the world is beginning to open up after more than 18 months of Covid-19 lockdowns, the many variants of the virus have continued to cancel events and affect plans. Viewers have continued to turn to drama programming for entertainment during this time, but after living through a worldwide health crisis, their preferences have altered. Now, viewers have an eye for programming that centers on strength and hope, according to Julia Matyash, director of Sovtelexport, the sales arm of Russia Television and Radio.

“Subjects shifted from overcoming loneliness and otherness to fighting insuperable social disasters and surviving,” she says, pointing to the popularity of Russia Television and Radio’s To the Lake. Centering on a family living in a global pandemic, the series focuses on the family drama that results from being forced to live under one roof and sees the characters learn not only to survive but also to forgive. Though the series debuted in Russia before the pandemic, Netflix acquired and debuted it internationally in October 2020. Its global appeal highlighted that, though the viewers were living through a real pandemic of their own, they wanted a program that showed its characters in similar circumstances finding hope in a challenging situation.

Audiences are not just interested in dramas portraying the survival of major global events, as Matyash notes that Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes has proven popular as well. After the titular character’s abusive husband is killed for hiding grain, and she is arrested and forced into exile in Siberia, she discovers her inner strength and builds a new life for herself. Stories like this demonstrate to viewers that they can find their own strength and make the best of whatever situation they are in, whether it be a harsh journey to Siberia or a global pandemic.

Also soaring in popularity are period dramas. “Costume dramas, screen adaptations of classics and simply touching human stories [are] still very strong,” Matyash says.

She believes that period dramas will maintain their appeal as long as we believe that history repeats itself and “keep looking for answers to the most difficult and important questions of today in the events and figures of the past.”

Russia Television and Radio’s The Terrible follows the life of the most controversial Russian ruler, Ivan IV, as he loses himself in plots and intrigues to become the tyrant Ivan the Terrible. Viewers may look to programs like this as the world is plagued with tragedies and extremist groups rise, searching for solutions for “the most insoluble modern conflicts and problems,” Matyash says.

Aside from the answers to life’s problems that viewers may derive from period dramas, the large-scale productions, gripping plots and extravagant costumes keep them coming back for more. These aspects fulfill “viewers’ desire to escape from reality,” Matyash notes.

Ultimately, “people are exhausted by overcoming and defeating the cruel circumstances,” she says. “They will keep seeking answers to how to find the strength to live a full life after all those irreparable losses, horrors and catastrophes; where to get the power to continue their journey; where the magical thread is that will lead them out of this labyrinth of hopelessness and dread.”

And given the ongoing nature of the pandemic and Covid-19’s many variants, survival stories and period dramas that offer hope will remain popular for years to come.