Prague - American TV soap operas have long been a staple in local television audience's diet. The time has now come for TV viewers overseas to get a taste of contemporary Czech private TV production.
First 84 episodes of a local TV series called The Airport (Letiště), which has been running on Czech private television Prima since September 2006, will be broadcast in prime time on Fridays on the Czech American OnlineTV.
"We will consider buying more episodes based on the reactions of our audience," says Jiří Pavelka from OnlineTV, the Czech language TV station, currently broadcasting for Czech and Slovak Chicago residents.
Expansion in sight
And it may not end with The Airport as the Chicago-based channel is reportedly planning to expand its broadcast time and might therefore consider purchasing more Czech TV production.
- OnlineTV is one of the Czech language stations broadcasting in the US. The station distributes its analog and digital signal from the antenna on the tallest American building - Sears Tower in Chicago, covering the Great Chicago area with a population of 12 million people. Its signal can be also accessed via cable TV Comcast that has around 2.3 millions of households connected. Chicago is one of the centers of Czech community in the US that has considerably grown in the course of the 1990's.
- Other Czech TV that caters to the same audience is CATV, broadcasting from Illinois and offering its viewers TV series about Czech traditions, Czech community as well as the overseas life of the Czech Republic. It attracts about 90 000 viewers across the US every month.
Mr. Pavelka however does not reveal any details: "We are starting out, I cannot tell you more."
TV Prima is not saying much more: "This was the first contract of its kind. We might consider further cooperation if this one works out well," Ladislav Pavlín, TV Prima' s spokesperson, told Aktuálně.cz.
OnlineTV, known mostly for its flagship program Czechoslovak Hour among the Czechs and Slovaks living in the Chicago area, is in the process of broadening its scope. Documents about Czechs and Slovaks in the US will be joined by the contemporary Czech TV series in the beginning of 2008.
In the meantime The Airport will end its run in the Czech Republic, where more than 700 000 viewers watched it, with the last one out of the 118 episodes scheduled to air on Wednesday, December 19.
One of many, but different
The Airport is one of many new TV series that appeared on Czech television stations in the last two years, finding reasonable success with the audience, both on the private TV stations as well as on the Czech public service television, which did all it could to match the private competitors.
Series from various walks of life popped out recently, set in such different settings as a small town police station in the 1930s, a modern day gynaecological ambulance or a troubled rich Czech family.
The Airport offers a healthy dose of complicated relations and destinies of crew members of a small private airline. With its fast pace plot, serious topics can immediately give way to comedy.
And those who miss one episode with a massive plane crash, might not hear about it in the next episode any more.
Conflicts get resolved faster than the audience is accustomed to from similar shows. However, only time will tell how the American viewers respond.
As part of the promotion efforts, OnlineTV brought one of the show's leading actresses, Zuzana Norisová, to Chicago. Her creation of a dull stewardess is considered to be one of the most popular in the whole set.