The project “Serious Men” was launched by Andrey Knyshev with the support of sponsors in the mid-90s, after a period of his work on foreign TV, as a continuation of the program “Funny Guys” at a new stage of development of television technologies and the evolution of audience perception, during the formation of a market economy in the country. And with a possible focus on an international audience.
Filming and editing took place in 1994-1995. The program was conceived as a thematic video film that continued and developed the style of “Funny Guys” — with video clips, special effects, satirical sketches, inventive animations, parodies, music videos, interviews, etc. Some of the episodes were shot on film” Kodak”, which was exotic for television at that time in Russia. Also, for the first time, the TV program was filmed, mounted and voiced on the latest equipment, specially purchased by the sponsor for the project with complex and not fully mastered software (HAL, Silicon Graphics, AVID, ProTools, digital voice acting, modern TV cameras and media). Many things had to be mastered for the first time.
From the very beginning, a high professional level was set. At the initial stage of work, the co-Director of A. Knyshev was a talented native of the “Funny Guys” Andrey Stolyarov (“Montazh”, “Antimony”, and many others.) The Director of Photography was Sergey Mokritskiy, now a well-known film Director (“the Battle for Sevastopol”, “Draft”/“Chernovik” by S. Lukyanenko, etc.) the Artist and designer of a number of episodes was Marat Kim (“Wolfhound/ Volkodav”, “Stilyagi”, “Kamenskaya”), who also worked with Andrey Konchalovsky as a storyboard artist on the films “the Nutcracker”, “Odyssey”. The costume designer was Alexander Osipov (two-time winner of the Nika award).
The team of participants also promised to be “Olympic”. Among the cast were both “veterans” and participants of “Funny guys” (Leonid Sergeev, Igor Tarashchansky, Sergey Shustitsky, Alexander Bagdasarov, Alexey Lysenkov, Eugene Voskresensky, etc.), and new, but already loved by the audience talents – Yulia Rutberg, Alexey Kortnev, Igor Zolotovitsky, Mikhail Efremov, Marina Golub, Andrey Urgant, Andrey Maximkov, Yuri Vasiliev, Elena Bushueva, Boris Shuvalov, etc. Negotiations were underway with Renata Litvinova, Ilse Liepa, and Maxim Sukhanov. One of the episodes starred the now famous writer Yevgeny Klyuyev.
Such a serious approach to the fun genre of “Serious Men” (and women), of course, required not only new technical and artistic expressive means, but also different budgets and understanding on the part of investors, producers, and television workers.
Due to an acute shortage of funds in an unstable market economy, the sponsor had to completely stop funding the project. And over the next few years, multiple attempts were made to find new sponsors or get the support of TV channels. However, the format of a complex collage-trick video for those years was too progressive and unaccustomed, and did not fit into the usual budget and genre framework.
The story of the “Funny Guys” was repeated, with some essential difference. In the conditions of the Soviet reality of the 80s it was necessary to overcome the ideological censorship, but the socialist television production system still allowed the program, although with difficulties, to be brought to the air. But one decade later such a “product” could not get through the new economic censorship at that time.
The project “Serious Men”, like “Funny Guys”, was again ahead of its time, and the Author and Director A. Knyshev switched to new books, did other one-time TV projects, composed music, and traveled a lot.
Thus, the partially filmed and fragmentally voiced “Serious Men” material was actually “frozen”, and was shown either to TV professionals, unwittingly enlightening and possibly inspiring them to make something new, or was shown to the public, mainly at creative evenings of the Author and his colleagues; fragments, sketches and gags sometimes accompanied TV interviews with A. Knyshev.
Today, the episodes shot a quarter of a century ago, which surprisingly have not lost their relevance and originality, have become a unique document of time, a kind of TV diary of the difficult and stormy times of the “dashing 90’s”, capturing “in the background” the realities and problems of those years and the young faces of future People’s artists, venerable producers, “stars” of Russian TV, theatre and cinema.
As the slogan in one of the program’s animated video read, where on the screen a rubber pear plucked from a croaking horn turned into a farting enema: “The Serious Men. AT THE RIGHT TIME – IN THE RIGHT PLACE!”
And if there is a problem with the right time, then you can never go wrong with the right place for a good cause.