by Rick Bretz
While listening to a music list from your mobile phone, any streaming service, terrestrial or satellite radio, a familiar tune can suddenly transport you back to an earlier time.
It can happen to you with a television series too and all the while including the music for the time. Two are streaming right now that put the viewer back in the 1980s during the time of President Ronald Reagan and the Cold War. It’s a period in history when Eastern Bloc governments looked over the Iron Curtain, across the border, to the Western capitalistic democracies. And as the Eastern bureaucrats observed with suspicion all of those Western politicians, the Eastern powers asked one important question, “What are the decadent westerners up to today?” But in the case of both shows, and with most propaganda, nothing is as it seems, and you shouldn’t believe everything you see, hear or read. Everyone can be manipulated.
The Amazon streaming program “Comrade Detective” is a parody of a Romanian detective show from the 1980s but was produced in 2017. The over dubbing is done by actors Channing Tatum, Jenny Slate, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and others but uses Romanian actors.
It’s a hyper critical, smirking Romanian show from the Cold War days so the propaganda drenches the show in all its communist glory. The jabs are not subtle and some are just laugh out loud moments. One scene in particular is comical when the two detectives enter the US Embassy. They walk in and look to the right and see two overweight embassy workers eating hamburgers and milk shakes at a table with about 30 more burgers on a plate waiting for them to finish. We get it, “Americans are lazy and like to eat.”
The detectives walk up to the Ambassador’s office and enter a room that looks like a Royal Palace VIP dining room. The detectives walk a good 30 seconds across the room to the Ambassador’s desk where a huge picture of Ronald Reagan adorns the wall behind her. Translation, “the United States needs a lot of room and we want your country for extra room to park all of our Yachts.”
Comrade Detective runs in a short 6 series story arc and is introduced as a show from Romania and has propaganda in it like many Western media shows showing communists as the bad guys in the Cold War days. In the middle of all of the political jabs and culture humor, the detectives manage to solve a crime.
This is a show worth a look to see the result of a show if it were produced by a communist cold war country film studio and showed how they would have perceived the United States and all its excesses. In this case though, like in some alternate universe, the show was produced by the capitalist bad guys, the creative Americans.
Another show streaming on Hulu is Deutschland 83 and has additional seasons followed by the year it is portraying. It is a popular spy show in Germany and must be scene with subtitles in English. The extra work reading subtitles is worth the extra work because the show hooks you from the beginning.
The show starts from the premise of an East German soldier involuntarily recruited to practice the spy craft in Western Germany. The series is closely related to the United States show, The Americans, in that is takes viewer inside the intelligence world and the dangers associated with it. The young military recruit that the East German spy agency kidnaps from his family to do the dirty work of spying is constantly making mistakes and must be saved by fellow spy network colleagues.
Deutschland 83 is like Comrade Detective in that the interesting part is how the other side perceives the west. One show takes stereotypes to the extreme while the othershows how the spycraft worked when missiles were pointed at each region. Showing the Chess match, the give and take, the back and forth,and hiding in dark shadows creates the must see part of this series.
The conclusion from both shows is that unfamiliarity breeds trustworthiness but .we shouldn’t take any thing fed to us at face value, whether it be from government propaganda or commercial media.