Now You Can Watch the Show that Launched Volodymyr Zelensky’s Presidency
Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky has emerged on the global stage as his country grapples with a hostile Russian invasion. And though the 44-year-old politician’s past as a successful comedian and actor has been well known, it’s easier than ever for Americans to see the project that launched his unlikely political career. Netflix is now streaming Servant of the People, the satirical TV show that helped him become a household name in Ukraine.
Servant of the People aired from 2015 through 2019, and starred Zelensky as Vasily Petrovych Goloborodko, a high school history teacher who–you guessed it–winds up becoming the president. The show begins with Goloborodko delivering an impassioned speech against government corruption that goes viral and springboards him into the national political conscience. After winning the election at the start of the first season, the show focuses on Goloborodko’s efforts to do things like pass tax reform, whip votes from the Ukrainian house of representatives, and deal with the country’s malevolent oligarchs who seek to undermine him.
According to the show’s distributor, Eccho Rights, Servant has seen an increase in licensing since the war began, with channels in the U.K., Middle East, and across Europe negotiating deals to run the show. The Daily Beast likened it to “a hybrid of Dave, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Thick of It and Veep,” and others have highlighted its darkly comic tone. But some critics have noted that it’s a difficult watch in light of the violence and devastation being inflicted by Russian forces, and that at times the line blurs between Zelensky’s character and his own actions as president. Case in point: The political party that Zelensky ran under is actually named after Servant of the People, and was created in late 2017. (The party itself did not hold any parliament seats, which has created unique challenges for the Zelensky regime.)
Beside being able to see the show that became a pedestal for Zelensky’s political future, you can watch Servant of the People’s Oleg Karpenko will appear in a Stars in the House telethon on March 26 to raise money for Ukrainian humanitarian relief.