Today I Discovered The Russian TV Show Where Contestants Had To Steal Cars

I believe it was Boney M who coined the term “oh, those Russians.”

In 1997, the Russians took ‘reality television’ to heights that surely only Russian TV can go.

Known as ‘The Intercept’ or ‘Perehvat’ in Russia, the idea of the TV show was that participants would have to ‘steal’ a car and then evade police capture for 35 minutes. They weren’t actually required to break-in and hotwire the thing though, they were given the keys and then had to get through the Moscow streets without police capture.

The police were real traffic cops and the ‘contestants’ had to obey all the traffic laws. If they could manage to stay away from the fuzz then they would ‘win’ the car that they stole.

Though it seems that the show was marketed as a reality type TV show, it was definitely all about big production. Apparently, in one episode the stolen cars were hidden inside a truck and then had their license plates changed on the fly. These ‘contestants’ were professionals.

The idea of the show wasn’t to condone thievery though or even to promote the Nicolas Cage classic ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’. Nope, it was to make the Russian traffic police look better. In 24 episodes, just three criminals were successful. This was a show meant to display the superiority and skill of the traffic cops during a time they weren’t all that respected.

In a 1998 interview, the show’s producer said that “most Muskovites think of the [traffic cops] as drunken, corrupt pigs” and that “in reality, their life is very hard, trying to survive on $150 a month.” It was his intention to give the police a much better image – one that shows they can catch the baddies.

I spent an hour searching for episodes of Perehvat online this morning but to no avail. I desperately want to see this show. Instead, I will have to include this melodic metal cover of the Boney M classic ‘Rasputin’ as compensation to our dear readers.

Oh, those Russians.

[Christian Science Monitor]

Today I Discovered is a daily dose of fact for Lifehacker readers – the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. Most of the time, it’s just mind-blowing. Let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!

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