The mark of a good film (or TV show) is that it holds up well under repeat viewings. The mark of a great one is that you find new ways to appreciate it each time you watch.
Such is the case with Amazon Prime’s ,, a quirky little one-off series from 2017 that fits one of the most narrow niches imaginable.
To fully grasp the humor of the show, you need knowledge of:
- 1970s American cop shows
- European views on such shows
- Communist propaganda about America
- American culture in 1983
- World politics in 1983
- Romania’s place in those politics
I mean, I’m sure you can enjoy it as it is, but there are so many little references to all this stuff that the layers can be overwhelming.
Also, laughing until you weep is a bit distracting.
The trailer does a great job of summarizing the central premise, but as with most things, it’s not the story, but how you tell it that matters.
Comrade Detective uses all the usual cop drama tropes, mixes in a paranoid 70s plot and then has them spelled out by actors with deliberately terrible dubbing. The result is a work of pure genius.
Dallas on the Danube
Cold War Romania was an interesting place. It was the most independent of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact nations, and dictator-for-life Nicolai Ceaucescu was always testing the patience of his masters in Moscow. Part of this was because Ceaucescu was fatally full of himself, and part of it had to do with Romania’s unique status of being the only Latin nation in eastern Europe. The descendants of Roman colonists from the first century A.D., they are linguistically and culturally distinct from the neighboring Slavs.
Fun Fact: Romanian (and most if not all modern Romance languages) has only two genders: male and female. Attempts to create a “Latin-x” is actually cultural imperialism and based on the assumption that Germanic languages are somehow superior because they have a third “neuter” gender. Hmmm, can anyone think of another time people tried to impose “superior” German culture on the rest of the world?
But I digress.
Romania’s national hero remains Vlad Tepes, aka Dracula, which tells you a lot about the people and also the neighborhood where they live.
By the late 1970s, the West was mired in stagflation and the hangover from Vietnam, but the East Bloc was doing even worse. In an effort to entertain his restless people, Ceaucescu came up with the oddball idea of obtaining the broadcast rights to Dallas, one of the great prime-time soap operas. Apparently, he felt that the ruthless business tactics of Texas oilman J.R. Ewing (played by the charmingly devious Larry Hagman) would hammer home the cruelty at the heart of American capitalism.
Comrade Detective is an American buddy cop series create
Not so much. Instead, Romania became almost fanatically devoted to the show, and when it aired, the country came to a standstill as everyone crowded around grainy black and white television sets to find out the latest developments in the power struggle for Ewing Oil.
I mention this because one of the plot points in Comrade Detective involves our heroic Romanian police officers disguising themselves to infiltrate the pro-American underground. I won’t ruin the joke but their choice of attire is perfect.
Wait, Where’s Channing Tatum?
What makes this show truly unique is the fact that it was designed from the start to be dubbed into English using specific voice actors. So if the trailer leaves you puzzled how Channing Tatum managed to disguise himself, he just does the voice. Same with Joseph Gordon Levitt and the rest of the “American” cast.
The opening credits are based on what you would see on Romanian TV but they’re not made up – those the people in Romania doing their thing. The end titles provide the US production team’s information.
I have some Romanian friends and they confirmed that the show is a hoot to them as well, and yes, Communist propaganda was that damn dumb. About the third time someone randomly blurts out “Of course Romania has the best health care in the world,” they lost it and so will you.
A Parable for Our Time
Ceaucescu imagined himself to be immensely popular, and when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, he somehow thought he could ride out the storm. Instead, his people took to the streets, and he ordered a crackdown that backfired badly: instead of firing on the crowds, the army joined in the rebellion and after a brief spell of violence, Ceaucecu and his wife found themselves before a People’s Tribunal and then a firing squad.
I mention this because Woke culture is seeking to have the same level of crippling control over popular entertainment. They clearly believe – as Soviets did before them – that absolute state dominance of the entertainment industry would brainwash people into ignoring the daily truths that surround them.
It worked for a while, but eventually ended quite badly for the people in charge.
Because our currently leaders literally think they are super-smart and also know nothing about history (other than that they are the most moral, ethical and perfect people ever to live), one fully expects there to be a modern remake.
In the meantime, Comrade Detective is an absolute joy to watch.
Bonus Geek Guns Content: The detectives have slick little pocket pistols that are in fact Hungarian PA-63s, likely chambered in 9mm Makarov. The two-tone nature of the finish may make people think they are adding some extra bling but that was how those weapons were built: blued steel slides with polished aluminum frames. These are actually quite affordable and easy to find and they are a joy to shoot. They are also chambered in .32 ACP (aka 7.65mm Browning) and .380 ACP (9mm Short) for those who prefer a capitalist caliber.
Check out the series on Amazon here.