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Eastern Europeans Tune In to Communist Nostalgia on TV

HBO and others try Eastern Europe programming with a Soviet-era vibe
Jump in pay-TV subscribers in Eastern Europe from 2005 to 2010: 16 percent
Jump in pay-TV subscribers in Eastern Europe from 2005 to 2010: 16 percentTV illustration by Patric Sandri

Much as Americans two decades ago tuned in to The Wonder Years for a glimpse at simpler times, Russians are waxing nostalgic for the late communist period with The Eighties, a coming-of-age comedy that pokes fun at banned Western music, cabbage soup, and the need to boil laundry. “For those who lived in communism, you can see and remember the crazy stuff that happened,” says Maria Smirnova, general manager at Sony Pictures TV Productions Russia and the show’s executive producer. “Kids who didn’t grow up then can see what it was like.”

The Eighties, which has also been sold to broadcasters in Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia, is one of a growing number of shows being made behind the old Iron Curtain and also aimed at export markets. As the purchasing power of Eastern Europeans grows, TV series producers, including Sony, Amsterdam-based Endemol, and Time Warner’s HBO, are creating more original programming in Eastern Europe to give locals an alternative to their standard fare of imported cop shows and soaps. And the new programs can be sold to pay-TV operators and broadcasters in other European countries and even exported to the U.S.