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Netflix brings back the TV comedy show starring Ukraine’s leader that made him famous

By Tribune News Service

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  • Servant of the People stars the leader, who was a comedian before entering politics, as a high school teacher who is unexpectedly elected president.
  • In the face of Russia’s invasion, Zelensky’s tenacity and social media savvy have earned him fans and renewed interest in his background as an entertainer.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky takes a selfie at the first congress of his political party, Servant of the People, in Kyiv’s botanical garden on June 9, 2019.(Zoya Shu / Associated Press)

Netflix is giving its US subscribers what they want – and apparently that’s more of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

After popular demand, the streaming giant announced Wednesday that it will bring Zelensky’s 2015 comedy television series, Servant of the People, back to its service.

“You asked and it’s back!” Netflix said in a tweet. “Servant of the People is once again available on Netflix in The US.”

The satirical show was originally available in the Netflix library from 2017 to 2021. It stars Zelensky, who was a comedian before he entered politics, as a Ukrainian high-school teacher who unexpectedly becomes president after a video of him complaining about corruption goes viral.

Of course, life imitated art and Zelensky was elected to Ukraine’s highest office in 2019 and he named his real political party Servant of the People.

The Russian-language series, whose 23-episode first season began streaming Wednesday, is available to US audiences with English subtitles. It also starred Natalya Sumskaya, Viktor Saraykin, Stanislav Boklan and Ekaterina Kisten.

It’s unclear when or if Netflix will stream the subsequent seasons and the film adaptation it spawned in 2016.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has renewed interest in Zelenskyy’s background as an entertainer (he also voiced Paddington bear in the Ukrainian version of the live-action animated film).

His grit as a leader and his social media savvy have fascinated broadcasters and allies alike – rallying many behind Ukraine and simultaneously fuelling demand for Servant of the People.

The three-season show (and its subsequent film) is being licensed by Swedish television group Eccho Rights, according to the Hollywood Reporter, with buyers including Netflix in the US, the UK’s Channel 4, MBC in the Middle East, ANT 1 in Greece and PRO TV.

“The series is a comedy but also an important document of where Zelensky comes from,” said Eccho managing partner Nicola Soderlund.

“His fictional president is a normal man who grows into his role as a heroic and adored leader. While the real-world scenario facing Zelensky and the Ukrainian people is far more grim and appalling than the comedy of the series, there are obvious parallels with the real-world situation, and Servant of the People is a fascinating, important and historic piece of television.”

The series was broadcast in the UK for the first time on Sunday, with 100,000 people tuning in, according to the BBC.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader appeared virtually in front of US lawmakers for an emotional address that invoked the pivotal American tragedies, Pearl Harbour and the September 11 attacks.

Zelensky requested an urgent round of financial support, more weaponry and pleaded with Congress for a no-fly zone to help his country stave off the Russian invasion.

Hours after Zelensky’s congressional appearance, President Joe Biden announced that the US will send an additional US$800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including more anti-aircraft, anti-armour weapons and drones.

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