A Broken Reality: Where is The Greatest Show’s Nik Russian now?

Who Is Nik Russian?

‘New reality TV show seeks contestants. One year, £100,000. Apply if you’re characterful, resourceful and energetic.’

This was a small advert printed in the British weekly newspaper The Stage by the then 25-year-old Nik Russian in 2002. He had an idea for a great new reality show that could become the next big thing.

But as it turns out, Nik had no experience in reality TV or television broadcasting. He worked part-time at a London branch of Waterstones, unbeknownst to the participants who took part in his show. 

Nik Russian wasn’t actually the aspiring producer’s real name. He was born Keith Anthony Gillard to middle-class parents in Feltham, Surrey. After legally changing his name to Jack Lister in his early twenties due to undisclosed traumatic events in his teenage years, he then altered his name again to Nikita Russian. 


What did Nik Russian do?

Nik gathered three teams together to make £100,000 in a year. He asked them to film themselves making that money with the promise that the cash prize would be shared amongst them. 

Two teams dropped out as they distrusted Nik but 6 wannabe stars stuck with the show, giving up their lives back home as a consequence. 

The handsome, floppy-haired Nik visited the contestants occasionally but mostly remained a shadowy figure, leaving them to figure things out on their own. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the know-how to make a TV show work. He had hired a childhood friend to help him out and a professional director, but they dropped out of his project when they realized his plan was destined to fail. 

The participants on the show realized the show was in trouble when Nik turned up at the flat where they were collectively staying. He was homeless and struggling to survive and when he asked to stay in the flat, they knew they had made a big mistake trusting him with their lives. 

The contestants called a news crew to inform them about the failed show they were a part of. They then kept Nik in the flat, effectively holding him captive, until the news crew arrived and shamed him on air. 

“We managed to hoist him by his own petard and hang him out to dry on the medium he so wished to be a part of,” said Tim Eagle, who had been hired to document the lives of the hopeful wannabes.

While Tim and the others were right to be angry with Nik, it’s fair to say that Nik/Keith wasn’t the bad guy they made him out to be. Like the people who answered his advert, he was a dreamer with hopes of a broadcaster buying the rights to the programme he had made. 

But Nik’s dreams were shattered, as were the dreams of the unlucky few who were picked to be a part of the show.


Where is Nik Russian now?

After his show fell to pieces, Nik became homeless and he lived on the streets for several years. He turned to drink and became a broken shell of a man and ended up moving to the South of France for ‘isolation.’

But 20 years after the reality show debacle, Nik Russian is now a changed man. He even has a new name – Nick Quentin Woolf – and lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife and two children. 

He is the author of the novel ‘The Death of a Poet’ which is about “trauma and the consequences of bad decisions” and also hosts a literary podcast titled ‘The Wireless Reader.’ More information can be found here

When speaking to The Times about his failed show, he said: 

“I had an idea, a bit like The Apprentice in embryo. Teams of people pulling together, making money [and] everybody ends up hopefully with a nest egg. People who wanted to be in camerawork could get some camera experience. And people who wanted to be a presenter could be a presenter.

‘I thought: ‘I’ve really come up with a genius idea.’ The problem was I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes [in TV]. There was no funding. I was somewhat seduced by the DIY thing and wrongly so. I was overreaching and naive.”

Naive he may have been but he seems to have learned from his mistakes. Here’s hoping Nick and the members of his ‘greatest show’ continue to live happily, despite the trauma of their past experiences. 

 

Read More: The Greatest Show Never Made Review


Have you watched The Greatest Show Never Made? What did you think of the documentary? Let us know in the comments below!

 

2 thoughts on “A Broken Reality: Where is The Greatest Show’s Nik Russian now?”

  1. This show was absolutely fantastic on so many levels. So many twists snd turns-stranger than fiction. The ending really warmed my heart.

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