A hit TV show rises from the ashes of Spain's crisis

Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:29am EDT
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By Fiona Ortiz

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Every Sunday evening up to 4.3 million people in Spain tune into a quirky but hard-hitting news show that has become an unlikely television success as crisis-plagued Spaniards try to figure out how their country got into the mess it is in.

On "Salvados", which means "Saved" in English, journalist Jordi Evole, 38, asks experts and ordinary people disarmingly simple questions to explain the costly bailout of Spain's banks or the looming hole in the pension system.

The program - with a style similar to the documentaries of U.S. activist filmmaker Michael Moore - has grabbed an audience share as high as 20 percent. It is the most-viewed Spanish television show on Sundays and as high as any other news show on any channel during the week.

Evole's informal approach - he wears a sweater with elbow patches - and willingness to take on tough topics have resonated in a country where a quarter of the workforce is jobless, bankruptcies are at a record high, banks have been bailed out, and the economy has been shrinking or stagnant for five years.

The crash - and drastic state budget cuts - followed a long economic boom in which Spaniards got used to get-rich-quick property investments and massive state spending on airports, highways, culture and arts, sports and stadiums.

"You know when a cartoon character runs into a wall, a big bump appears on his head and stars spin around him. Well, we're at that point in Spain, saying 'what the heck happened to us?'" Evole told Reuters about the inspiration for Salvados.

The Barcelona-based show has been on the air for five years, but its ratings took off last year as word-of-mouth spread.

Beyond the millions that watch the show on Sunday night, many more follow Salvados on the web and on social media. Evole has 911,000 Twitter followers who make sure the show is Spain's top "trending" topic on Twitter every Sunday night.   Continued...

Journalist Jordi Evole from Spain smiles during an interview with Reuters at Sant Just Desvern, near Barcelona April 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino