Romania Vice: “Comrade Detective” Is a Truly Great Amazon Original

Comrade Detective is must-watch television with or without the satire.

Picking a new show to watch can be a daunting task when there are a gazillion possible options out there. Sometimes, however, a show will stick out and grab your attention. Maybe it features a really strong cast, or it’s from a reputable director. Maybe you just think the main character is hot. Whatever the case may be, some shows just have a way of getting you to watch.

For Comrade Detective, it was actually the premise that got me hooked. It’s a satire of American buddy cop shows and movies from the eighties… but from a Communist perspective (which also means Communist propaganda is satirized by default as well). This is an Amazon Original that goes all out, with a cast and crew that is 99 percent Romanian. The entire show was filmed in Romania, in Romanian, and the English dubbing voice actors were only found after the show was edited. That’s some real commitment to making a quality satire.

Speaking of voice actors, this is a show that not only features Channing Tatum as a voice actor for one of the two buddy cops, but it also uses Tatum as a presenter for the show along with Jon Ronson. Comrade Detective is supposed to be a “lost” show that never aired because it was created right before the fall of the Berlin Wall; it subsequently gets brought to the spotlight after being rediscovered decades later through a rigorous restoration process so the beginning of most of the six episodes features Tatum and Ronson discussing the journey before the show actually starts.

Like I said, this is some next level shit.

For a show like this, it’s important to judge both the satire and the quality of the show itself independent of the satire. I believe a truly successful show should succeed in both categories and I’m very happy to say Comrade Detective is a worthy watch for all interested viewers.

What I really enjoyed about the satire was how layered it is. Some of the satire is clearly inaccurate – a representation of how much of American pop culture either dramatized or dehumanized Eastern Europe and Russia in the eighties – while a good portion of it is shown through the loyal Communists expressing issues with capitalism, religion, and even the mindset of us Western folks.

Maybe it was intentional, or maybe I just eased into the Communist mindset, but I found that the satire is more jarring or noticeable in the beginning of the show, only to evolve into more of a statement against Western ideals rather than more basic, visual approaches like showing Americans as fat pigs who stuff themselves with burgers.

While there are certainly moments in later episodes that are clearly meant to be exaggerated, I found Comrade Detective really settling into itself as a quality program regardless of the satire as time went by. After a certain point, the story takes priority over the satire, to the point where the satire almost becomes irrelevant. Sure, it helps remind us that this show is both a satire of American pop culture and Communist propaganda, but even if you forget, it doesn’t take anything away from the overall experience thanks to the surprisingly engaging plot.

Like the best buddy cop pairings, the duo of Gregor Anghel (Tatum) and Iosif Baciu (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) starts with tragedy. Anghel’s partner gets murdered by a man wearing a Ronald Reagan mask in a drug bust gone wrong. Determined to find out the killer’s identity, Anghel pairs up with a new partner, Baciu, and discovers a truly heinous plot to spread capitalism and religion through Romania (and all of Communist society, naturally) over the course of six incredible episodes.

Like I said, it’s a genuinely interesting storyline that somehow gets more amusing, more serious, and more addicting as time goes by. The climax is kind of predictable if you keep in mind this is a satire yet it is superbly presented and I think there’s a possibility there might be a sequel to this gem.

Also, I want to give kudos to the Romanian actors and actresses who all do a phenomenal job and I wish we could get a version of the show without the English dubbing. It’s perfect acting all the way around and I thought the Western characters were fascinating to observe just because they are supposed to be stereotypes. Much like the best Commie villains from the eighties, the Western baddies in Comrade Detective are portrayed in a one-dimensional, yet surprisingly relatable way.

While I felt mostly neutral about the voice dubbing, there was one positive for sure: playing the always entertaining game of Who’s That Voice? All I’m gonna say is that Comrade Detective has one hell of a cast. Nick Offerman is the police chief, for example – this is extra amusing when you consider his character’s views on government in Parks and Recreation. But there are bigger names lurking within this show and it’s just a delightful cherry on top of the average capitalist pig’s sundae.

This show is perfect for a lot of different demographics. Even if you choose to disregard the excellent satire, this is a strong drama with an interesting plot that gets extra fuel thanks to the passionate work done by the Romanian actors and actresses, the big names providing amusing voiceover work, and production values that walk a fine line between too good and good enough for a Romanian television show from the eighties.

Now be a good Communist and share this valuable information with everyone in your village! It’s what Lenin would do!

Where Will Hannibal Lecter Strike Next?

NBC has canceled Hannibal after three seasons… so what happens now?

On one hand, this comes as a surprise. On the other hand, I always knew in the back of my supple brain that Hannibal was in a league not in of its own necessarily, but certainly out of NBC’s.

While NBC gets credit for sticking with all sorts of artistically unique shows from Seinfeld to Community, Hannibal was a different animal altogether and it was definitely unusual seeing such gory, philosophically complex material from one of the Big Three networks.

From the beginning, Hannibal seemed misplaced, like it should have been on HBO or AMC or even FX, if The Americans is any indication of FX’s ability to support highly intelligent and often highly violent programming.

But I’ll give credit where credit is due, namely in the fact that NBC did stick with Hannibal for three seasons even though ratings were low. It also seems like they pretty much gave absolute freedom to the show’s people, like developer/executive producer Bryan Fuller, who envisioned an interpretation of Hannibal Lecter if it was told through the eyes of someone like David Lynch or even David Cronenberg.

When you watched the show and saw its hauntingly beautiful cinematography that oozed and flowed and splattered, and you heard the dialogue which was arguably deeper and more relevant (and less pretentious – very important) than the ramblings of True Detective‘s Rust Cohle, you knew it was something special.

We all know art is subjective to a certain extent. We also know that Hannibal garnered a lot of critical acclaim, with people generally agreeing that it was consistently one of the top ten shows every year. And while the visual and philosophical aspects were excellent, so was the acting, with Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter being one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.

So the question is where does Hannibal go now?

In today’s era, death is never forever for a television program. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the people at Netflix, Amazon, or even Yahoo! swoop in and give the show a new home. While the content of the show probably wouldn’t change dramatically, thanks to NBC’s hypothetically loose leash while they had Hannibal, it would be in a more lenient position in regards to ratings.

I mean, if Netflix still has Lilyhammer around, I’m sure they would be more than happy to acquire a show people actually watch, even if that number happens to be in the low millions or whatever. As for Yahoo!, I liked what they did with Community, but I feel like there’s still a general “meh” vibe associated with that brand.

Regardless, Hannibal is a show that deserves to live on. While we may say that about a lot of shows, this is one case where it is absolutely true.

Even if it costs an arm and a leg.