10 Years of Nova

This weekend, TV Nova officially celebrated its 10-year-anniversary with – what else – a Cavalcade of Stars or “estrada” program, with lots of lip-syncing, cheezy jokes and general all around back-slapping.

It really doesn’t seem that long ago that TV Nova was just coming out of its test broadcast pattern, which consisted of famous Czechs – many of them living abroad – giving their best wishes to the new TV station. Much was made about the fact that Nova’s jingles were done by Jan Hammer (“He’s Czech, you know.”)

At that point it really wasn’t clear whether Nova would be a success or not; I don’t think anybody expected that it’d be one of the biggest moneymakers in post-Communist history.

On Saturday, I was at Kojak’s in Vinohrady, and got to sit in on an interesting debate about Nova. There are few issues in this country that can cause more sharply-divided opinions. On one hand, half the table was arguing that Nova was the worst thing to happen to the country ever, at least culturally. On the other side of the table, the argument was that Nova was simply giving Czechs what they wanted, and more power to them for being successful.

One thing I’ve learned to do as an expat is to try to avoid airing my own strong opinions; it’s happened too many times that I’ve ended up on the “wrong” side of an argument, which inevitably gets turned to the hackneyed and completely useless “Oh yeah? You think your country’s any better?” discussion.

So when I was drawn into this debate about Nova, I really didn’t know what to say. “I don’t think Nova invented the ‘estrada’ format. That was done by shows under normalization like ‘Televariete.’ But Nova is kind of like a virus; it keeps mutating to give viewers what they want, instead of what they really should have. So today’s ‘estradas’ are definitely over-the-top. Of course they are. But I don’t know. Maybe that’s what they’re really clamoring for in the panelaks of Hradec králové.”

“Then again,” I said, if it was a Friday night, and I as a viewer had a choice between ‘Katovna’ on ČT2 [a pretty dull critics’ roundtable] and ‘Peříčko’ on Nova [meta-porno], I think it’d be pretty clear which one I’d watch.”

What I took away from that conversation was that your opinion on TV Nova tends to say a lot about your opinion on the changes after the revolution. Some are satisfied, some are thrilled, some are angry, and many are disappointed.

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