On the Mark has returned to Russia. This is the second in an ongoing series of posts.
Babes and coffee. Watching television in Russia is an interesting experience. At the major hotels in Moscow and St. Petersburg you can get English-language programs, such as CNN International. But in the outskirts, it's nearly impossible to find an English-language program. There are some Western programs, but they're dubbed in Russian. Here's what I saw:
o The beer commercials are very boring. No sweating bottles with sexual innuendos. No Playboy-type models wrestling in the rain and mud. No bouncing breasts on the beach. Just basically a bottle and a voice over, as if you were being pitched to buy a roll of tape.
o Coffee commercials, on the other hand, well that's a whole different matter. Here you'll see young, gorgeous women fighting over their man and his coffee, but very properly. You don't see a lot of cleavage or cat fights. And the man is almost always a cosmonaut. I got the feeling after a while that if you're a cosmonaut in Russia, you're walking on water.
o All of television is tame as it relates to visuals. Even in a comedy show the two comedians were dressed in suits. I would have done anything to hear their jokes because the audience and the Russians in the room with me were laughing absolutely non-stop, and I mean gut splitting. I was laughing hard only because I couldn't resist. These two comedians, both of whom looked to be approaching 50 years old, interchanged every two minutes or so (reading from scripts in their hands) and the program went on for over an hour without commercials. And it was non-stop laughter. There was no set up for the big laugh like you'd see on Letterman or Leno. It was like a sitcom laugh track that got stuck.
o Then one night I was flipping channels in my apartment and I came across a XXX porno channel. And I mean everything and anything. This isn't cable, mind you. It's regular television like before the days of cable for us. So I have to admit I was floored because of the tame television I had seen for the few days earlier in the week.
o There were also a lot of candy commercials for kids, including a product called candy spray where you spray it into your mouth for the flavor (but not the calories presumably). Does that kind of product exist here in the USA?
o There are no fade-ins or fade-outs. No promos. No teasers. No "News at 11" announcements. Programming abruptly goes from show to commercial and commercial to show.
o There is a feature on an international all-news channel -- EuroNews -- that I really like. It's called, "No Comment." It lasts about three minutes and it features amateur and professional video footage only (such as the tsunami damage) without voice-over or commentary. Basically a photo essay. It's a nice contrast and something I think CNN should adopt here.