Dallas: Back in the USSR

Studio 360

For our nextAmerican Icon, Studio 360 is headed to Southfork Ranch...via Estonia!

After the premiere ofnine new storiesthis fall, our second series of American Icons episodes is nearly complete. There's just one more show left to make -- yours! Throughout the broadcasts, we've been asking listeners tonominate their own Icons. We got some great ideas, but none impressed us more thanLaura Detre's suggestionof the television seriesDallas, which ran from 1979 - 1991 on CBS.

Laura says Dallaspresented an alluring, glamorous vision of capitalism that may have had an even larger impact abroad than here at home. Especially in the old Eastern Bloc.

Movie still from "Disco and Atomic War" - courtesy of Icarus Films

How much impact could one American soap opera have? A lot, according to Jaak Kilmi a film director who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Tallinn, Estonia in the 1970s and 80s. At one point during the Cold War, Tallinn began receiving Western television programs from a giant transmitter in nearby Finland. Kilmi told us no television program was more loved or influential than Dallas: "It was a substitute for a nice life that we didn't have. We wanted to believe that people live in skyscrapers and have beautiful cars."

Jaak had even more to say about Dallas and the fall of Communism. We'll share that when our American Icons story is broadcast in the spring. In the meantime, Jaak's movie about American soft power in Soviet Estonia (including David Hasselhoff's modest contribution) is out now in limited release. It's called Disco and Atomic War, and it recently won Best Documentary prize at the Warsaw International Film Festival.

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