Globally, television was booming in the 1970s and 1980s, as it became an industry that entertained and often pushed certain political agendas. Similar to the Soviet film culture that historically challenged the values of the Soviet Union, TV shows had the opportunity to weekly immerse viewers in anti-communist satire, and the “signal reached roughly 70% of Soviet territory by 1970″ (KVN Canceled). The Soviet game show that was first broadcast in 1961, Club of the Merry and Resourceful (also known as KVN), was an attempt to combine elements of sport, youthful rebellion, and political satire into a form of entertainment that would attract an audience and challenge the norms of a state still conscious of public opinion. The premise focused on a two-team competition between groups of students that challenged improvisational skills, humor, and basic knowledge. As one could foresee, the unfiltered minds of youth and the show’s encouragement of uncensored improvisation brought impending criticism from the state. The program became more and more popular throughout the Soviet Union, and “in the 1970s, the show was cancelled for ideological reasons: the student teams too frequently made fun of Soviet life and ideology” (Tagangaeva, 2013, p. 11). However, some of the reasons for its end were practical.
Beyond the political censorship, the common complaints were that the natural unscripted characteristics of the show became compromised as popularity and money corrupted the writers and producers. As time progressed, the show went from being shot live to being filmed in advance due to increasing censorship of its unpredictable contestants. For better or worse, “KVN delivered a neat and useful package by design: ‘the thinking person on the screen’ (a male figure marked universal) as a model for Soviet viewers” (Crowley and Reid, 2010, p. 163). However, the ideas the show promoted were criticized for conflicting with the politically correct society of the Soviet 1960s. The Jewish humor that was instrumental in the start of the show came under attack in the 1970s, as Sergei Lapin, the chairman of the State Committee for Television and Radiobroadcasting, pursued a personal vendetta against Jewish television hosts and contestants throughout his reign. Ultimately, in 1972, KVN was canceled for overstepping its artistic and political boundary, but it highlighted the continued power of media in the Soviet Union. After a long hiatus, KVN returned in 1986 in the wake of Gorbachev’s policy reforms, and it continues to flourish in modern day Russia.
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