Comrade Detective: "There's no such thing as a crooked cop in Romania!"
August 10, 2017 1:22 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

What is Comrade Detective? Is it a spoof of American cop dramas/anti-Communist propaganda? Perhaps it's someone's worst idea ever.

Amazon bills it as "In the 1980s, millions of Romanians tuned in to Comrade Detective, a gritty, sexy, communist buddy cop show that has now been digitally remastered and dubbed into English for the first time".

Ostensibly it's about "Detectives Gregor Anghel and Iosef Baciu investigating the murder of fellow officer Nikita Ionesco and, in the process, unraveling a subversive plot to destroy their country that is fueled by—what else—the greatest enemy: capitalism."

Whatever it is, it's certainly surreal. Filmed last year, it was produced in Romania, with a Romania cast and crew, then dubbed into English by the likes of Nick Offerman, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levett, Jenny Slate and Chloë Sevigny. The acting is quite good, while the dubbing is earnest and, strangely, not played for laughs.

From the Vulture: "Comrade Detective isn't a satire of anything
Vice: The Weirdest Show of 2017
Apparently QC agrees.

Available streaming on Amazon.
posted by fiercekitten (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I said in the FanFare talk page it's probably funniest to people that have read The Communist Manifesto or know Romanians. I worked with about a dozen of them back in the early Aughts and found some of the lines hilarious. I also watched WAY too much Monty Python as a child, so I'm probably skewed from that.

I'm pretty sure that Channing Tatum is the world's hottest nerd, title previously held by Karl Urban.
posted by fiercekitten at 1:26 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

FWIW: brainwane made a S01 E05 first watch post, and this is the second post on the show. I think an episode-by-episode discussion can exist beside a full season post.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:32 PM on August 10, 2017

I have Romanian friends. How amused/insulted will they be if I share this with them?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:10 PM on August 10, 2017

My wife is Romanian and was pleased to see the actors, locales, etc were all authentically Romanian. She was a little bummed those voices had to be taken in dubbed over.

Most of her complaints though were about the way that the sendups of US cop show cliches produced wildly out-of-tune moments. Professionals swearing in the workplace during Romanian communism? HA. No. A plays-by-his-own-rules cop? He's make it an afternoon before Securitate had their way with him. Absolutely no one seems ill-at-ease or perpetually paranoid. Etc. This isn't to say she actually expected it to feel like the Romania of that era. She got the concept and all. It's just that the collision of elements was jarring for someone who knew more or less exactly what the unaltered version of one set of those elements looked and sounded like.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:38 AM on August 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm on episode 3. I wish I had a better sense of what parts are authentic reflections of what you might see on a Romanian show of the time, and how Romanians thought of the TV they were watching at the time, and what's an American idea of 1980s Romanian television. And of course, how much of this, if any reflects life for Romanians living in that time frame.

DirtyOldTown, thanks for sharing your wife's thoughts above. Would love to hear more!
posted by bunderful at 3:43 PM on August 13, 2017

I thought it was going to be sort of a longform SNL skit. And then I thought it was going to be kind of a nostalgic buddy cop show with a few jokey swipes at Cold War anti-American propaganda. And now I think the show might be trying to do something much more interesting, but isn't necessarily succeeding.

It's useful to me to think of Comrade Detective as having four audiences (1 & 2 being Watsonian and 3 & 4 being Doylist):

1. the in-universe Romanian political censors
2. the in-universe Romanian citizenry (purportedly the main audience for the show)
3. the actual main audience, mostly middle-class US residents
4. Amazon corporate & media critics

Audiences 2 & 3, plus some of 1, are reasons that people do or say things in Comrade Detective (e.g., claiming that the Romanian healthcare system is the best in the world, or arguing that health care is more of a fundamental human right than freedom of religion); audiences 1 & 4 are reasons people don't.

The pro-union message in the last episode (framing all competition among workers as a Saw-esque display of entertainment for the owner class) and the speeches (like the reframing of Uncle Pavel's American immigrant success story as a story of lonely greed) feel interesting the way certain enemies' speeches in Star Trek sound interesting, as ways of looking at my values and customs through a different lens. I'm trying to think of what plot elements or bits of dialogue they could include that would satisfy audiences 1 and 2 but not 3 or 4 -- maybe suggesting that it is actively harmful for US citizens to vote in elections?
posted by brainwane at 10:20 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would listening to the 1984 Olympics on the radio (Nadia Comaneci's gymnastics routine, to be exact) fulfill 1 and 2 but not 3 and 4? Or maybe it's all 4? It's very meta - how do you listen to a gymnastics routine?
posted by fiercekitten at 3:37 PM on August 17, 2017

I'm still disappointed about how easily the best police force in the world fell for such obvious frame-ups. Would've been nice if it included at least a throwaway bit afterwards:
"Our plan worked perfectly."
"Of course, subversives believe anyone can be as easily fooled as themselves."
posted by ckape at 4:12 PM on September 7, 2017

Professionals swearing in the workplace during Romanian communism? HA. No.

I lived in Romania from 1994-1995. I went to the movies all the time but didn't get to watch a lot of television. I literally saw one Romanian made movie during that time and it looked a lot like this in some ways (the way the US ambassador dressed was immediately familiar). I LOVED to see all the locales that were intimately familiar (I know all Romanian apartments don't look the same but my god so many of these apartments were MY apartment) but I also had a few of those little moments of "Wow I recognize that!". People in Romania when I were there would never have been swearing like that, and everyone's Dacia would have been full of cabbage and all the private homes would have had eight people living in them. Anyhow, just saw the first episode and figured I'd come over to FF to see what people had to say about it. Will be watching the rest of it for sure.
posted by jessamyn at 8:34 AM on July 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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