Picks and Pans Main: Tube

updated 04/06/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/06/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The SCTV comedy show once satirized Russian TV in a skit that featured John Candy co-starring with a talking tractor in front of a "Soviet minicam." which was about the size of a Volkswagen. As satire, the skit wasn't far removed from reality. Though the few Russians familiar with U.S. television justifiably criticize it as often violent, corrupting and trivial, to an American eye TV in the U.S.S.R. is ponderous, amateurish, propagandistic—and sometimes almost surrealistically loony. Production values and techniques are generally poor. Frequent "documentaries" on the Great Patriotic War keep the memory of World War II fresh, though only the U.S.S.R. seems to have had a role in defeating Hitler. Still the general Soviet TV mood of earnest provincialism can have its moments. Where else could you see a studio audience passionately discussing a film clip of a 1953 weight-lifting contest, or young women on a game show competing in both vacuuming and reindeer roping? There are 90 million TVs in the U.S.S.R. (nearly a quarter are color sets) and two national channels (Muscovites get five). There are no TV ads (except public service spots) and no cable, though there is a sort of rudimentary prime time. Here are a few of the nationally broadcast shows Soviets like the most:

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