Next year will mark the fortieth anniversary of the popular Czechoslovak television series, “Rozpaky kuchaře Svatopluka” (The Chef Svatopluk’s Dilemmas), which allowed viewers to influence the development of the string through voting. In 1984, millions of Czechoslovak citizens tuned in each month to watch their favorite chef, Sváťa Kuře, whose character’s actions could be determined by viewers’ votes. However, this was not done through the internet or SMS messages but by turning their home lights on or off.
Initially, voting was done only by the 65 viewers in the studio, but the show’s popularity led to a new phenomenon that had never been seen before. Soon, practically anyone who sat in front of a television could vote on the protagonist’s decisions. During voting on how Svatopluk Kuřátko would handle a particular situation, viewers could decide by turning their lights on or off in their homes. The energy dispatch center monitored electricity consumption and selected the option that aligned with the chosen decision by viewers, which determined the main character’s action.
Despite the show’s popularity, the voting was ultimately a fraud. The energy dispatch center could not detect the small and short-term deviations light vote could cause. Thus, only a few citizens decided on the show’s outcome. Several cameras in the Bohemian housing estate monitored the lighting and shutting off of lights in residents’ windows.
Only many years after the show aired, the public became aware of the scam, and the Czechoslovak and later Czech television should have addressed it more. It was a trick that the public broadcaster used to entertain viewers forty years ago, and such a thing would not pass muster today.
In summary, “Rozpaky kuchaře Svatopluka” was a popular Czechoslovak television series that allowed viewers to influence the show’s development through voting. This was done by turning their lights on or off, and despite the show’s popularity, the voting was ultimately a fraud. While this may have been exciting for viewers in the 80s, it would not be acceptable today.