chapter  12
Coy Utopia: Politics in the First Hungarian TV Soap
Pages 19

Increasing globalization in world television in the 1980s brought not only such genre-setting television series, soap operas and shows as Miami Vice, Dallas or M.A.S.H. (Smith 1998) and the fi rst stream of international scholarly refl ections on these products (Ang 1985; Katz and Liebes 1993) but also an array of genuinely developed formats and adaptations that contributed to the contours of national media cultures around the world (Allen 1995; Curran and Park 2000). Television in the Eastern Bloc from the very beginning had developed a deeply ambivalent attitude to spreading international (mostly Eastern) television formats. While Western media had been largely treated by offi cialdom as mere instruments of the political leadership in capitalist constitutional democracies, the fame and prestige associated with certain Western media outlets had been utilized frequently for a range of political purposes. For instance, Hungarian party leader János Kádár gave long interviews to Western papers, such as Le Monde in 1982, which portrayed him as an increasingly independent voice in Eastern Bloc politics (Schreiber 2008) or to Time magazine presenting him as a seasoned political orchestrator of the Hungarian thaw (“An Interview” 1986). When in the mid-1980s Hungarian Television decided to produce a soap opera focusing on the lives of everyday people in a realist genre format, the BBC’s EastEnders had been utilized successfully as a model that legitimized the producers’ decision (Vadas 1989).