I first heard about Comrade Detective a few months ago when they were just beginning to publicize. A TV show set in 1983 Communist Romania? That sounded so cool. I am a fan of anything that puts Romania into the national consciousness of America (the Count from Sesame Street, Dracula, the Winter Soldier/Avengers, etc). After I saw the trailer, I was very interested with how they were going to portray both countries because the producers of the show said they took advantage of the “bad commie” trope for the sake of humor. You know, the one where all Russians are bad just because they are communist. Except, because it was supposedly made by the Communists as propaganda, the roles are reversed. The Americans are the “Capitalist Pigs”.
The premise is that Comrade Detective is an undiscovered show (made by the government for propaganda purposes) from Communist Romania and that it was sent to Channing Tatum after being restored. He had the show dubbed in English so it could be enjoyed in the States.
I wish this was true. I would love to see an actual TV show from this time period. I’m thinking there weren’t many. I learned from the documentary Chuck Norris vs. Communism that owning a TV was a tremendous luxury reserved for only the privileged few. Other than a few government owned TV stations, people smuggled in American movies that were dubbed in Romanian by the now (almost) mythical Irina Nistor.
After learning that the entire series was made in Romania by a Romanian cast and crew, I decided to give it a watch and see, and maybe try to reserve my judgement a bit. I actually took notes while I was watching because I had a lot of reactions. I’m an American, but I love Romania. I live in Romania. So, I’m glad they had Romanians actually make the series and then the Americans added their comedy spin afterwards.
[side note: for those of you who don’t know, Romania is actually a popular filming location for many movies. If you’ve seen Cold Mountain, the TV mini-series Hatfields & McCoys, Borat, A Princess for Christmas (Outlander fans, Jamie is the prince), The Brothers Bloom, some Nicolas Cage film where he rides a motorcycle and skull head, etc. then you have seen Romania on the big screen. Personally, I love that they used Zarnesti as a stand-in for North Carolina in Cold Mountain. It’s beautiful near Piatra Craiului and that natural beauty really translates well to film.]
Okay, so on to the actual first episode of Comrade Detective. I tried to time stamp a lot of my reactions. Stop here if you don’t want to read my stream-of-consciousness review of the first episode.
The opening credits are great. All fake names, including the director Bebelus Pisicuta (Baby Kitty in English). I actually laughed really hard. I’m thinking the credits will be a joke that only Romanian speakers will get.
I love the filming locations. Everything looks like of drab and dreary. Sadly, a lot of Bucharest still looks like this.
Thought: This show already reminds me of the movie Hot Rod . A Romanian flavored Hot Rod.
@6:45 The Detroit scene is where the obvious “propaganda” element begins. They have a nice reference to the brutality of the American police. Rugs are on the fence, nice touch. If you go outside our apartment block, there are special rug beating places that look vaguely like children’s playground equipment. I guess in 1983 in the city, you had to settle for the fence.
@ 8:43 – I am POSITIVE we have that exact same stove. In fact, our kitchen looks almost identical to the one in Nikita’s apartment. I laughed SO hard at this. I have nicknamed our stove “Char-cescu” because it was probably made by Ceausescu himself. The “char” is because I can’t set an actual temperature on it and I end up burning our food 😛
@9:01 – Carpet beater sighting. You can buy these at Auchan for pretty cheap, and I don’t think they’ve changed much since the 1800s, just that now they’re plastic.
@10:40 – Obvious joke about the impossibility of corrupt Romanian cops
@13:55 – More propaganda jokes: “A neighbor was trying to redistribute Nikita’s wealth”
@15:35 – Cringe-worthy conversation about goat-f***ers. This comes back up a few more times in the show. I asked Claudiu if in Romania they have jokes about people who come from the country. They do, but not so many because a lot of people actually come from the country. A lot of Romania is still “the country”.
Claudiu did interject at this point and said that they got the costuming right for this series. The wealthy Romanians wore leather jackets. I laughed so hard because now EVERYONE wears leather jackets. It’s a thing.
@17:30 – The “fist” scene from the trailer. It was so stupid funny. They just chant “fist, fist, fist” – the jokes in this show are hilariously awful.
At this point, Claudiu interrupts sadly (a bit disappointed), “Goddammit. At least they tried. Don’t they get credit for trying, maybe?” which is better than his earlier statement of, “I wouldn’t watch this show if you paid me.” I tease him about being a secret Communist because he’s always talking about the “Civic Spirit”.
@20:00 Jordache. OMG. “Jor-dack-eh”. I died. This reminds me of how Romanians sometimes pronounce WiFi as “wee-fee”.
@20:35 Subtle jabs at American culture at the US Embassy. I love the background voices as they enter. “You’re fired!” – a nod to Trump?
I stopped writing here because the action picked up a bit – and I won’t tell you what happens. I will comment that they used a Lada (Russian car) instead of a Dacia (Romanian car) and that hurt my feelings a bit. I love Dacia.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad first episode, and I think I’ll watch the second. I wouldn’t say I’m really into the story or anything, but I enjoyed the setting. The meta humor was probably the best thing about the entire show.
Tatum teased in an article that they would release the show without the English dubs and I really look forward to watching that if it happens. However, as far as I know, not too many Romanians subscribe to Amazon Prime since Amazon doesn’t have much a presence here (yet).
Did you watch Comrade Detective? What did you think?