For much of its length, The World According to Vladimir Putin plays out like an episode of Clive James on TV, the Saturday night show which, in the pre-YouTube 1980s, introduced viewers to the very best of the absolute worst from the most outlandish corners of international television.
xcept it’s far, far crazier and more surreal — and more sinister, too. Instead of chortling over clips of Japanese salarymen putting themselves through extreme physical torture on demented gameshow Endurance, we’re looking at clip after clip from Russian television news shows.
To enter the bizarre world of Russian state TV is to be sucked down the rabbit hole and into an alternate universe where Putin is lord and master, idol and sex symbol.
He’s everywhere. The TV news programmes, which are blatant propaganda, devote hours to cataloguing everything the little big man does, no matter how mundane.
There’s Putin skiing, Putin fishing (shirtless, inevitably), Putin flying a microlight, Putin swimming, Putin playing ice hockey and scoring loads of goals (though the bit where he slips and goes out on his snot is cut out of the broadcast Russian viewers see) and Putin riding a horse.
“Did he (the horse) know who was riding him?” asks one idiot. “I think he did,” says another idiot. We see him (Putin, not the horse) hiking up a hill to pick cranberries.
Bears roam the area, but a flunkey scoffs at the suggestion that Putin might be in danger. No bear would be dumb enough to lay a paw on him. Yes, Putin really is that tough.
It’s ludicrous stuff. And as if all this wasn’t Vlad enough, there’s a weekly show called Moscow, Kremlin, Putin, which features nothing other than Putin, Putin, Putin. Even when he’s not there.
An excited reporter shows viewers the empty room Putin will be using a few hours later. There’s a whole item devoted to the “call secretary” button on his desk: “We don’t know if he pushes it and on what occasions.”
The second most important man on TV after Putin is Dmitry Kiselev, who’s Putin’s man in charge of news and the host of the biggest show on television, which is entirely devoted to trashing the West, slandering its leaders and spreading fake news.
In Kiselev’s version, Theresa May is a drunk who doesn’t know how to hold a wine glass properly, the Skripal poisonings were a British false flag operation and the annexation of Crimea was a triumphant act of reunification.
The most important woman on TV, meanwhile, is flame-haired Anna Chapman, the former KGB spy. At this point, the documentary turns into what could be a lost episode of Chris Morris’s Brass Eye.
Chapman’s show, one of the most popular on Russian television, opens with Bond movie-style titles featuring her dancing in silhouette and pointing a gun at the camera. It’s devoted to batshit crazy conspiracy theories.
“Who’s hiding the truth about carrots?” she thunders in an exposé revealing that Donald Trump has banned the orange root vegetable from White House meals because they have the power to show people that their rulers are really bug-eyed aliens.
There are also items claiming World War III has already begun, but the news is being kept from the public, and, jaw-droppingly, that Barack Obama practised voodoo while in office.
It’s easy for us to laugh at all this, because it’s so patently ridiculous. But the documentary’s largely tongue-in-cheek tone shifts near the end to convey the true, toxic intent of the garbage being pumped out 24/7.
The real enemy is not Trump, who Russia regards as a buffoon (nothing new there), but the EU, whose member states are portrayed as hell bent on promoting homosexuality (which is blatantly and disgustingly conflated with paedophilia), migration, multiculturalism, miscegenation and other “evils”.
The real evil is that 72pc of Russians still get their news exclusively from state television.
The World According to Vladimir Putin, Channel 4.