The TV Show That Won a Presidential Election

American moms have long been notorious for the old "TV rots your brain" argument. (Mine is guilty, anyway.) But obviously moms don't know about the ways TV can really change the world. In Russia, for example, a TV show was largely responsible for electing a president:

As Russians were gearing up to go to the polls in July 1996, Boris Yeltsin was nervous about his job. The weather gave him additional reason to panic. With the sun shining and the temperatures pleasant, Yeltsin fretted that his city-dwelling supporters would decamp to their dachas, or country cottages, instead of staying home and voting. Russia’s president needed a way to keep his base from traveling.

His solution: a cunning use of soap opera. No show was more popular in Russia than the Brazilian morality soap Tropikanka, which regularly drew 25 million viewers to the state-owned network ORT. With the election looming, ORT made a surprise announcement: The show’s finale would air as a special triple episode on election day between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

More amazing was the fact that the scheme actually worked. Because most dachas didn’t have televisions, viewers stayed in the city, glued to their sets. When the episode ended, it was too late to trek out of town, but voters still had time to get to the polling station. Yeltsin’s soap opera strategy helped him prevail by more than 10 million votes. Meanwhile, The Young and the Restless can’t even sway a lousy Senate race.

This is just one of the 25 Most Powerful TV Shows of the Last 25 Years, as selected by Mental Floss. Check out the rest, including the shows that rewired kids' brains and boosted the national pregnancy rate. Link


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