The first episode of "Servant of the People", a Ukrainian television comedy, sets up the basic premise: a middle class history teacher, Vasily Horobdoko, is elected president of Ukraine after a viral campaign. The first episode showcases everything from the physical comedy of the nebbish Vasily, to the astute political satire of whether populism can really change things, to the sheer absurdity of a lower middle-class teacher trying to go about his day after he is elected president.
And also, very obviously, all the humor and absurdity of the series, including the first episode, is overshadowed by the fact that the actor who played Vasily, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was later, in a repeat of the events of this show, elected president of Ukraine, and has been a successful political and military leader after Ukraine was invaded by a neighboring entity.
But back to our show, how this all started: Vasily is trying to get ready for an important day at school, because there is a staff meeting, and he is late. He frenetically triapses around the house, trying to make tea and iron his clothing at the same time, and then, while he is on the toilet, there is a knock on the door. "They have come for you" his mother tells him, and we find out, in a great bait and switch, that he has also been elected president. The story then switches to a flashback, of the normally shy Vasilly making a rant in front of his class about the state of corruption in Ukraine. A student records it, and the rant goes viral, prompting a spontaneous campaign to elect him president. The show then switches between flashbacks of his growing campaign, and the present, where he is being fitted and prepared to be president by his handler. A group of faceless oligarchs discusses the developments, wondering which one of them has created this populist character. The naive Vasily visits a bank and his school, wondering why everyone is suddenly being so nice to him. At a news conference, he admits that he doesn't know the answers to all the technical questions. Vasily is half a bumbler and half a pugnacious fighter, and it gets him through the episode, even as the oligarchs watching him comment about how the "people like their easy populist". The show simulataneously has an ebullient message about how suddenly changes can happen, and a more cautionary tale about how shallow that change might be. All tied together by Zelenskky's wide-eyed clowning.
Obviously the most interesting thing here is Zelenskyy. And significantly, a lot of the ways that Zelenskyy portrayed Vasily are things that have been very effective for him as President of Ukraine. He mixes a sweetness and honesty with a streak of rage and cynicism, which is exactly how he has rallied most of the world to his side. Despite the overall insightful nature of the comedy, the historical effect of Zelenskyy's performance, and how it relates to him as a real-world leader, is the main draw here.