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!

Canadian Ugly: “Trailer Park Boys” Jumped the Shark Years Ago

After ten seasons and three feature films, when do we finally admit it’s time to say goodbye?

Most TV shows peak between their third and fifth season. That is a fact. After that fifth season, things start to go downhill little by little. Premises get weaker and weaker, fresh ideas start to dry up, important cast members leave, and the whole thing just becomes old news.

Some shows handle the inevitable downfall with grace. Breaking Bad left the game with its head held high, while Parks and Recreation more or less managed to do the same. Rather, it’s the opposite that’s more common – when a show struggles and fights and doesn’t know when to stay down. Think about what happened with The X-Files. Or Scrubs. Or The Office. Hell, it’s happening right now with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which has been inexplicably renewed for two more seasons.

It can be painful to watch, right, when we see a show that was formerly excellent huffing and puffing after seven, eight, nine seasons. Some people are able to take a step back and say, “You know what, I love this show, and because of that, I recognize it is a shell of what it used to be. It needs to end. Now.”

Others have a harder time letting go. We can rationalize a show’s prolonged existence. We say things like, “Oh, I know it’s not as good as it used to be, but I just enjoy watching the characters I like living their little fictional lives.”

That’s the sort of mentality I’ve had for years with It’s Always Sunny – a show that is fueled by nostalgia, passable viewer ratings, and the occasional good episode here and there at this point – and it’s also how I used to feel about Trailer Park Boys, the cult hit from our neighbors up north.

After watching the most recent season after it premiered on Netflix in late March, however, I’ve just about had enough. From the beginning, Trailer Park Boys only had one legitimate story arc up its sleeve – three pals living in a shitty trailer park try to get rich while an alcoholic park supervisor and his tubby assistant try to foil the boys’ plans. Yes it’s a funny one, but not after watching it get recycled over and over again for over a decade.

It’s time for the show to end. There are no new ideas to explore (nor did the show do much exploring to begin with).

Celebrities make a big cameo here in the form of Snoop Dogg, Tom Arnold, and Doug Benson. While it’s sweet to see Snoop and Bubbles – the fan favorite with the coke bottle glasses – bond like family, there’s not a celebrity in the world who could show up and make this season any better than the last few. It seems like Netflix’s acquisition of the show’s rights has coincided with a real downturn in quality.

Maybe it’s a good thing Netflix didn’t get Hannibal after all.

The interesting thing is that on the surface, not much has changed about the show. I would argue it’s one of the most consistent series out there, and its dedication to a very specific formula was its greatest strength and now its greatest weakness. What made the show so amazing is now ruining it for everyone.

I’m more than willing to admit that describing the tangibles of this phenomenon are difficult. It’s just a feeling in my gut – and maybe the fact that I don’t laugh or really feel any joy from watching the show anymore. All the storylines in the show are the same every single season and the kicker is that it used to be okay. We didn’t care because it was so fucking funny.

And yet, experience something amazing long enough and the novelty starts to wear off. Experience it for a decade and the effect is a little more severe. Shows should surprise us. They don’t have to do it a lot. But do it enough and it’s easier to stay on top.

It’s Always Sunny has its share of flaws, but one thing it manages to do is keep it fresh at least a little bit. Remember “Charlie Work” from the tenth season? The one that was filmed in one continuous shot? That was an exceptional work of art.

Trailer Park Boys will never do that, nor should they. But their success is their downfall and it’s time we admit it. The boys had a good run. Now it’s time for them to retire permanently. It’s time for Ricky to settle down with Lucy and the kids. It’s time for Bubbles to keep looking after cats and being the best buddy someone could ask for.

As for Julian… well, his situation is uncertain.