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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In the Spotlight: "Infomania"

This week, CTC promised that it would “change television forever” with a news show called “Infomania.” The makers call it an “information blockbuster,” and it had a punchy trailer in spoof Hollywood style, with people running along a street and looking up at the sky.

What is different about the show is that it doesn’t have any hosts, the makers say, although the trailer makes much of the fact that it’s created by a famous host, Tina Kandelaki. Bizarrely, the other creators are former footballer Alexander Mostovoi and Mikhail Turetsky, who runs a male choir.

The weekly show is billed as choosing news not on the boring old basis of what actually happened during the day, but according to what is getting the most hits on the Internet. On Wednesday, the show covered topics including the Bolivian who was allowed to stay in Britain by immigration officials because he had a cat (reported by The Sun on Oct. 19) and Roman Abramovich’s plan to equip his yacht with a laser to dazzle paparazzi (reported by Bloomberg on Oct. 7).

To spice up these stories, which are illustrated with stock footage of Big Ben or Abramovich’s yacht, the show also has famous people to act as “columnists.” In the first show, rapper Timati commented on an Orthodox rap group — “Why not, I think it’s a big plus” — while showing off his tattoos and it-girl Ksenia Sobchak talked about how famous people give up their right to privacy for an item on the most expensive paparazzi photos.

The show has a lot of graphics and charts to illustrate vital statistics, such as that workers in 44 percent of Russian offices “often” use swearwords on the job, and that Barack Obama has 755,000 friends on Facebook (actually, he has more than 6 million). But each item on the half-hour show is so short that it feels pretty unsatisfying.

It looks a lot like an NTV show from last year called “Crazy Day” that ran cheap-looking YouTube videos before the proper news broadcast in the evening — forcing viewers to stay up an extra 20 minutes to see the real evening news. The show was later dropped, although NTV has since pushed its nightly news show 15 minutes later to 11:15 p.m.

To be fair, CTC doesn’t run a news show, so this isn’t really a case of narrowing of democratic freedoms. But the show could have taken more risks. According to Yandex blogs, the most discussed topics on the Internet in the last few days were somewhat more interesting. A brilliant Vedomosti story on Monday printed photographs of Russian politicians wearing watches and listed how much they cost, revealing that one of Moscow’s deputy mayors wears a watch worth more than $1 million. There was also the strange story of Russia’s most famous dwarf, Vladimir Shket, who died this week after carving out a show business career that saw him becoming a television host on NTV, albeit in a pretty exploitative show.

The show doesn’t credit its sources until the final credits, which mention Russian web sites and, which are both entertainment sites that collect news stories from elsewhere.

The most edgy item on the show was one about Kommersant printing a photograph of Medvedev’s teenage son, Ilya, whose life is almost completely hidden from the public. Kommersant ran a photograph in its “Weekend” section of Svetlana Medvedeva with a teenage boy at the May 9 parade in 2008, but the photograph then disappeared from its web site.

Sadly though, the show didn’t dare to show the controversial photograph, although anyone interested can find it on the Internet.