Members of the Popadić family.
|Created by||Mihajlo Vukobratović|
|Country of origin||SFR Yugoslavia|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||82|
|Executive producer(s)||Nenad Romano|
|Running time||40 minutes|
|Original channel||TV Belgrade|
|Original run||January 6, 1987. – May 5, 1991.|
Bolji život (Serbian Cyrillic: Бољи живот, English: A Better Life) is a Yugoslav TV series with mixed elements of soap opera, comedy and drama that aired from 1987 to 1991. Created by the Radiotelevision Belgrade (RTB) it is considered to be the most successful TV show ever produced in Yugoslavia.
Written by Siniša Pavić, most prolific Serbian screenwriter, the series helped jump start cinematic careers for many of its protagonists, most notably Dragan Bjelogrlić who went on to become successful actor, director, and producer.
Bolji život began airing on Radio Television of Belgrade on Saturday, 10 January 1987, opening with the theme song named "Bolji život" ("Ja hoću život") written by Ljubiša Bačić, composed by Voki Kostić and sung by Dado Topić that soon became extremely popular.
Early into its run, the series became a massive hit all over SFR Yugoslavia. The first season's final episode that aired 6 June 1987 featuring a bit of a cliffhanger with Giga leaving the household, brought in huge ratings. A total of 22 episodes were shot and aired in the first season.
The story revolves around the Popadić family and works through their struggles and adaptation to the rapid political and economic changes taking place in the post-Tito SFR Yugoslavia during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The family patriarch Dragiša Popadić aka Giga Moravac is an impulsive outburst-prone administrator in his fifties who works as mid-level manager at a state-owned company's legal department. A member of the Communist League (SKJ), he moved to Belgrade from Pomoravlje to study at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Law and stayed in the city after graduating and getting married. His cultured and delicate wife Emilija Konstantinović who comes from an affluent family teaches Latin at a high school. They have three grownup children together all of whom still live with their parents.
As the series starts, the oldest son Saša, a law school graduate, is unemployed, attractive daughter Violeta is trying to jump start a stage acting career, while the younger son Boba is about to graduate high school though that's anything but certain as his grades are horrible. Meanwhile, Giga's and Ema's marriage is in turmoil as the couple constantly fights and bickers over anything and everything and she soon serves him with divorce papers. This comes as terrible blow to Giga, weeks after his older sister Jovanka died. Her will is revealed, stipulating that her brother's kids each stand to get substantial sums of money under specific conditions: Saša has to find a job, Violeta has to get married and celebrate a one-year anniversary, while Boba has to complete his final year of high school with at least a 4 (very good) grade average.
During one of their first court dates, on judge's advice, Giga and Ema agree to put the legal divorce proceedings on hold for three months, giving themselves more time to attempt reconciliation.
In parallel, the kids are trying to meet the conditions of aunt Jovanka's testament. Viki seems to be in the best position to collect the money as her longtime boyfriend, architect Filip, is very much intent on getting married. He's got an apartment lined up through his company, though his patience with her is not endless and he's very much against her decision to give theater acting yet another shot.
Saša is in a three-year relationship with bookish medical doctor Branka, but his job prospects are bleak. It's been a year since he graduated law school with average grades and he still hasn't been able to land a job. Numerous rejections are starting to affect his self-confidence and he's beginning to feel inadequate in front of Branka who graduated medicine with top marks the same year he did, but unlike him found a job right away that she's now excelling at. Furthermore, Branka's parents, especially mother, rarely miss an opportunity to tell him about it. At the unemployment bureau counter, he meets a flirty and mouthy clerk Koka who chats him up. For his part, he seems very receptive to her relaxed, direct, slightly low-brow, and provocative approach as she seems a polar opposite of his straight-laced girlfriend Branka. While out with Branka one day at a bar, Koka bumps into two of them, saying a flirty hello to Saša followed by a testy chat with Branka who is completely rattled by this encounter.
Meanwhile, Boba's task of graduating with a 4 (very good) average seems monumental as he currently has 1s (insufficient) in four of his subjects. His atrocious performance in school brings both Giga and Ema, on separate occasions to discuss matters and work out a game plan with Boba's home room professor Dušan "Terminator" Marković. During one of these visits Ema and Terminator realize they know each other vaguely from years ago, and, though they're both now married, take an obvious shine to one another.
Viki surprisingly manages to pass her theater audition, though it's obvious the reason for the sudden success is jury member Baron being taken with her attractive looks. Though she's ecstatic, Filip is not thrilled with the development and is especially unhappy about the celebrated theater actor and multiple divorcee Baron now wooing his girlfriend, with Viki even welcoming the aging lothario's smooth advances. Frustrated, Filip even contacts Ema hoping to receive some help getting through to Viki whose head is high in the clouds. For the moment at least, Giga and Ema manage to impart some rationality to their daughter, and she seems ready to take the sensible option and make nice with Filip. In parallel, in order to sweeten his case with Viki, Baron arranges for her, a complete novice, to get the demanding role of Juliet in the theater's latest production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, while Baron plays Romeo. He tells her the big news by showing up unannounced at the apartment just as she's getting ready to go out to meet Filip for a date. The news sends her on cloud nine and she immediately puts Filip and the marriage on the back-burner while Filip's frustration grows. Soon, Baron manages to bed Viki who thus becomes his latest conquest. Though he's not aware of the gory details yet, Filip has seen enough to send him over the edge and, overcome with jealousy, he constantly interrupts their rehearsals. It all culminates in an act of madness as he breaks into Baron's apartment with a gun, threatening to kill him, but the verbose actor talks him out of it using a combination of pointed eloquence and dramatic flair.
Based on their few run-ins, Saša is sufficiently intrigued with Koka that he tracks her down and ends up sleeping with her in her apartment. Afterwards, he informs her that he doesn't want to pursue things further, which she takes in stride to his face, passing it all off as a light fling, but looks visibly shaken after he leaves. He decides to stay with Branka and is soon informed by her that she's pregnant so the parents quickly set about organizing a wedding. Meanwhile, Giga decides to call on his Pomoravlje paisano connections in order to find Saša a job. He wants to track down his old friend Jataganac who's now a powerful politically connected party-installed business manager. Though he manages to get Jataganac's attention after much wrangling, the whole thing eventually goes pear-shaped when Giga refuses to swallow his pride when Jataganac shows up 4 hours late to the dinner at Popadić's house.
Boba's grades gradually begin improving while Ema starts seeing Terminator regularly as they seem to be in the beginning stages of an affair. Giga who doesn't suspect much yet starts getting close to his secretary Dara and ends up sleeping with her one day.
Preparations for Saša's and Branka's wedding are anything but smooth as the in-laws are unable to agree on who picks up the tab. Finally, everything is ironed out and the civil ceremony takes place in front of the two sets of families, including Giga and Ema, Viki and Baron (now an official item), and drunken Boba. However, there's a scandal when Branka sees Koka who unknowingly got brought along to the wedding party by her half-sister who is visiting from Switzerland and knows Branka's father.
Viki's theater goes to Vrnjačka Banja for a pre-premiere of Romeo and Juliet. Though the production is largely shambolic, she catches the eye of an amorous Italian director who begins showering her with attention, praise, and vague promises right in front of jealous Baron. Unbeknownst to her, Filip has also followed her down to Vrnjačka Banja in a desperate attempt to get her back, so three of her suitors are now fighting over her. Intrigued by the Italian, she runs off with him leaving two jilted lovers in her wake.
Some episodes are especially interesting and display these social changes. An example are would be when all the women go on strike in a company because they are not happy with the rights they get within their union while the male director of the company frantically tries to solve the situation and realises he can do nothing without these women.
The show also focuses on family relations, affairs and teen immaturity. The comedy often is created by the teen character Slobodan "Boba" Popadić (played by Dragan Bjelogrlić). The show can be described as a real life drama mixed with humorous adventures.
- Dragiša "Giga-Moravac" Popadić (played by Marko Nikolić)
- Emilija "Ema" Popadić née Konstantinović (played by Svetlana Bojković)
- Aleksandar "Saša-Guza" Popadić (played by Boris Komnenić)
- Violeta "Viki" Popadić (played by Lidija Vukićević)
- Slobodan "Boba" Popadić (played by Dragan Bjelogrlić)
- Kosta Pavlović (played by Predrag Laković), Ema's maternal uncle
- Branka Pavlović (played by Ljiljana Blagojević), Saša's girlfriend who becomes his wife, gets pregnant with his baby, miscarries, and goes to France for specialization
- Mirko Pavlović (played by Miroslav Bijelić)
- Duda Pavlović (played by Ljiljana Sedlar)
- Vlastimir Đorđević, MSc (played by Vlasta Velisavljević)
- Savka "Buba" Radović-Đorđević (played by Olivera Marković)
- Lela Marković (played by Ljiljana Lašić)
- Dušan "Terminator" Marković (played by Voja Brajović), Lela's husband and Boba's math and physics professor who has a fling with Ema
- Koviljka "Koka" Stanković (played by Jelica Sretenović), chatty and flirtatious girl who works at the unemployment bureau before becoming a secretary at Zavod za usklađivanje and eventually ending up at Balkanpromet. She has a son out of wedlock with Saša Popadić
- Božidar "Jataganac" Soldatović (played by Josif Tatić), powerful politically connected CEO
- Stevan "Stevica" Kurčubić (played by Ivan Bekjarev), corrupt top-level manager at various state-owned enterprises including crumbling export-import company Balkanpromet
- Biberović (played by Mirko Bulović), top-level manager at Popadić's company after Kurčubić left, he ends up marrying Dara after her fling with Popadić
- Jezdimir Uskoković (sometimes Branković) (played by Dušan Poček), Koka's co-worker at Zavod and later landlord
- Ivo Lukšić (played by Aljoša Vučković), medical doctor who becomes Viki's husband, then divorcee, and finally after a short fling with Lela ends up going to Zimbabwe with Viki
- Lujo Lukšić (played by Boris Dvornik), Ivo's father from Split
- Živadinka "Žarka" Žikić (sometimes Šijaković) (played by Radmila Savićević), Giga Popadić's secretary after Dara left
- Darinka "Dara" Zavišić (played by Gorica Popović), Giga Popadić's secretary with whom he has a short affair
- Ljuba Zavišić (played by Ljubiša Samardžić), Dara's ex-husband
- Ljubiša Branković (played by Miodrag Petrović Čkalja), driver at Giga Popadić's company
- Nina Andrejević (played by Snežana Savić), well-known folk singer, she's object of Boba's affection, Kurčubić's mistress, and later Jataganac's short-time trophy wife
- Aleksandar "Macola" Kostić (played by Bata Živojinović), tombstone maker, later owner of fast food kiosks, at one point interested in buying Balkanpromet and turning it into an exclusive restaurant
- Andrija "Kamenjar" Kostić, Boba's high school classmate and Macola's son
- Radujković (played by Petar Kralj), Giga's lawyer
- Dušanka "Buba" Majković (sometimes Eleonora Majković) aka Spečena (played by Ljiljana Stjepanović),
- Đoka Ciganović (played by Mihajlo Viktorović), timid employee at Balkanpromet
- (played by Eva Ras), Ciganović's wife
- Seka Sekulović (played by Seka Sablić), employee at Balkanpromet
- Božidar Majković (played by Taško Načić), employee at Balkanpromet
- Maja "Ortak" Magdić (played by Branka Katić), Boba's high school classmate
- Filip (played by Čedomir Petrović), Viki's architect boyfriend who wants to marry her but she's apprehensive due to wanting to pursue her acting career
- Svetislav "Baron" Baronov (played by Miloš Žutić), pompous theater actor and Viki's suitor
- Giancarlo Marotti (played by Milan Gutović), Italian film director and Viki's suitor
- Finka Pašalić (played by Mira Furlan), an employee at Giga's company who gets him in trouble at the customs
- Đorđe Pašalić (played by Dragan Nikolić), Finka's explosive and abusive husband
- Dejan Milićević (played by Milan Štrljić), lawyer who represents Viki in her divorce proceedings as well as Đorđe Pašalić in his lawsuit against Giga Popadić
- Sanja Marinković (played by Dubravka Mijatović), problematic teenager who's a student of Ema's
- Ružica (played by Rozalija Levai), Jataganac's loyal secretary whom he eventually impregnates and promises to marry
- Bogdan Bekčić (played by Boro Stjepanović), gastarbeiter who came back to Yugoslavia and is interested in buying and reorganizing Balkanpromet
- Ivona (played by Milica Milša), Saša Popadić's secretary and soon fiancee
- Rapajić (played by Predrag Milinković), Jataganac's politically connected ally
- Miroljub "Rile Pas" Ristić (played by Aleksandar Hrnjaković), Giga's paisano from Veliko Pomoravlje
- Veselin "Mile Pile" Milić (played by Milorad Mandić), Boba's business partner after he collects the will money
- Đukan Vukotić (played by Darko Tomović), Boba's Montenegrin friend from JNA
- Štef (played by Nikola Kojo), Boba's Croatian friend from JNA
Reruns and ratings
The show's reruns brought in huge ratings for the network during its dark days of the 1990s. In February 2007 the series' rerun was the third most watched show on television. 23.3% of the public tuned in to watch the repeats of the show.
Numerous reruns of the show, led to resurgence of popularity for some of the actors. In fall 2011, twenty years after Bolji život stopped airing, the recognizability of Marko Nikolić and Svetlana Bojković, the actors who portrayed the main Popadić couple, was still such that supermarket chain Idea (Serbian arm of Croatian Konzum company) hired them for a television commercial, which they did in character as Giga Moravac and Ema and partly shot in the original apartment where the series was taped. In December 2011, the two appeared as guests for an entire episode of Veče sa Ivanom Ivanovićem, the most watched television talk-show in Serbia, where they mostly discussed Bolji život. The television commercial proved popular so they did another one, again in character, in February 2012.
Croatian television network Doma TV bought the entire run of Bolji život (82 episodes) in fall 2012. On 5 November 2012, it started rerunning it to record ratings in the country despite airing in the same time slot opposite Turkish first-run soap opera Muhteşem Yüzyıl about Suleyman the Magnificent on the rival RTL Televizija.
On 16 January 2013, twenty six years after the series' original run, RTS began the ninth rerun cycle of Bolji život.
- Popadići ponovo zajedno na televiziji; Blic, 5 October 2011
- "Idea 1". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- Popadići u novoj reklami; Blic, 4 February 2012
- "Idea 2". Youtube.com. 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- Nakon dvadeset godina na male ekrane stiže 'Bolji život': Problemi korupcije na duhovit i kritički način; Jutarnji list, 23 October 2012
- "Bolji život" na hrvatskom kanalu "Doma TV"; Blic, 23 October 2012
- Dilema pred gledateljima: Večer s turskim sultanom ili s obitelji Popadić? Jutarnji list, 7 November 2012
- Hrvati više vole Gigu Moravca od Sulejmana?;Puls, 10 November 2012
- Jubilarno 10. emitovanje serije "Bolji život" počelo sinoć; Blic, 17 January 2013