In A Nutshell
Vitali Dyomochka is not just a Russian mobster. He’s also the writer, producer, director, and star of a Russian TV show called Spets. According to Dyomochka, Spets is an accurate portrayal of the gangster lifestyle. The series starred actual criminals who did their own stunts and was extremely popular with Russian audiences.
The Whole Bushel
From The Untouchables to Boardwalk Empire, TV has always been full of gangsters. Audiences love watching mobsters like Al Capone and Tony Soprano make deals and go to the mattresses, but they’re really just watching actors, none of whom have ever gunned down a rival or garroted a traitor. Except, that is, the cast of Spets.
Airing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Spets was a Russian TV show depicting the day-to-day dealings of the Podstava gang. Only these crooks were played by real-life Russian mobsters, members of the actual Podstava, a gang that specializes in extortion. (They intentionally crash their cars into other vehicles and threaten the drivers into paying exorbitant amounts for the damages.) When filming finished, 10 of the “actors” were actually arrested for criminal acts, and another was killed by an enemy gang.
The Orson Welles behind the series was Vitali Dyomochka. Not only was Dyomochka the show’s writer, producer, director and star (playing the eponymous Spets), he’s also the actual don of Podstava and has served time behind bars for a handful of crimes including shooting a rival mobster. Irritated by popular gangster shows, Dyomochka decided to make a series that portrayed mobster accurately and funded the project with his own cash. His men memorized lines, performed their own stunts such as fist fights and car crashes, acted out various crimes a la blackmail and murder and engaged in unsimulated sex acts. (It’s a realistic show.) They even destroyed a casino and nightclub.
Needless to say, the police weren’t exactly pleased with Spets. When asked to act in the show, the cops refused and instead regularly questioned Dyomochka during the shooting. But Russian audiences were thrilled with the crazy mafiya drama, and the show had a 100 percent rating. It just goes to prove that people love shows about bad guys, especially when they’re real.