Russian TV gives producer prize test

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The Independent Online
THERE ARE special difficulties in producing a television game show in Russia, where many citizens sell their possessions on the street to raise cash.

'If we gave away real prizes, like washing machines, there would be riots,' Anthony Gruner, the chairman of Fremantle/ Talbot Television, said in London yesterday.

Yet television producers are resourceful when it comes to endowing less fortunate countries with the benefits of western culture. Mr Gruner was unveiling his company's new game show that will make its debut - without significant prizes - on Russia's Channel Two next month, to an anticipated audience of more than 100 million. It is a version of Child's Play, which ran for three years on ITV in the 1980s, in which children are asked their definition of a word, and teams of celebrities and members of the public compete in guessing what the word is.

The deal to produce the show was made in April, after the establishment of a Russian broadcasting organisation. Channel Two is called the Russia channel but its programmes are received elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.

Richard Hearsey, an executive producer with Fremantle/Talbot, went to Moscow to advise how the programme should be made. 'Take your own food,' he was warned, and the advice was sound. 'They had marvellous facilities,' he said, 'but at lunch time there was no lunch and at coffee break no coffee. I spent the day nibbling peanuts I had taken with me.'

Ten episodes have been made, costing under pounds 2,000 each. The Russians trawled schools in and around Moscow and had no difficulty in finding suitable children. The celebrities on the panel are mainly actors, while the public are represented mostly by business people and bureaucrats.

As yet no advertising time has been sold in the shows, which will be shown at peak time on Fridays. The main advertisers on Russian television are overseas-based conglomerates such as British Airways, Procter and Gamble, Pepsi- Cola and the new Cadillac showroom on Gorky Avenue.

The winning team does receive a hamper of food. 'What's in it depends on what's in the shops,' Mr Hearsey said. 'When I was there it was mostly bananas.'