Santa Monica, CA via Moscow, Russia — Comedy knows no bounds. Like Love, it knows no Rank nor River Bank. Comedy travels.
American Television influences the World, but the rest of the World has some catching up to do. So, Hollywood’s latest export is not only hit television series but also the Veteran Television Showrunner to show the world just how to make Good TV.
Case in point: Writer/Producer David Nichols, a Hollywood veteran (Grace Under Fire, Hearts Afire, Evening Shade) who has spent several months working in Moscow courtesy of Sony International.
Russian TV is exploring the Sitcom and looking to the American model as a guidepost. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, Comrade.
In Moscow, the hit series Roseanne becomes the upstart Katya. Everybody Loves Raymond transforms into The Voronins.
Who’s The Boss? is still Who’s The Boss? though.
The notion of a Writers Room is new to Russian Television. In a typical American Writers Room, the Showrunner manages a team of other writers who sit and brainstorm together a season’s worth of episodes, pitching storylines and jokes. Episodes are assigned, writers create a draft and the showrunners polish the draft.
The Russian tradition of making television is very much in the vein of producing Theatre: One voice. One writer. But when making 20 episodes, that workload is not possible in the time frame necessary to produce such a big order.
So, where does Sony International come in?
Sony exports lots of American sitcoms: Everybody Loves Raymond, Roseanne, ad infinitum. It sells the re-make rights of these series to foreign territories
Nichols, in fact, is helping Russian writers and producers develop a local version of Roseanne, entitled, Katya, a blue collar ensemble comedy grounded by a working Mom.
There’s more to Moscow than making Television, though. This is an Eastern European Manhattan that the Rest of The World has yet to fully experience.
Moscow is very Cosmopolitan. Everyone has an I-phone. Models run amok. However, there is a very distinct rhythm to Life in Moscow. One cannot be rushed, Comrade.
In order to work effectively, Nichols is provided a full-time Driver and an Interpreter even though he can drive and many Moscovites speak/understand English. Cultures tend to clash though when re-making American television for a Russian audience.
Work is challenging enough, but there is also the Adjustment to Life in Moscow which Nichols sometimes found frustrating, hair-raising, and downright mysterious. Americans have a hard time getting on “Moscow Time,” so-to-speak.
But in the end…
Slow down. Listen to the Bolshoi orchestra playing Shostakovich. Drink some homemade vodka with the students in the park.
These are the Moscow Rules.