The 1980s action Hollywood scene belonged to Sylvester Stallone. Popular movie franchises like Rambo, Rocky and movies such as Red Dawn drilled American political propaganda into the minds of movie watchers, demonising the world beyond the Iron Curtain.
All things communist and East Bloc were sources of evil, and capitalism and America (as it presumes to be to this day) was the savior of the goodness, freedom, and democracy. A glorious picture, but one that would not have resonated as well in the Soviet Union.
But wouldn’t there be similar capitalism-hating, communist propaganda driving programming in the Eastern Bloc? A six-part series that has been recently tracked down restored and dubbed for international audiences for the first time in 30 years presents a unique and never-before-seen view of what TV looked like behind the Iron Curtain. This is the Romanian buddy-cop Cold War-Era drama series, Comrade Detective.
At the beginning of the first episode, actor and producer Channing Tatum and the host Jon Ronson introduce the series as government-funded programming aimed at promoting communist ideas. And as the show starts, the freeze frame title credits, the era-appropriate soundtrack, and the fashion take you back to the ’80s. This is not a homage to the era, it’s the resurgence of a long-lost, recently-found, perfectly-restored TV phenomenon of the time.
Comrade Detective is an original comedy-drama created for Amazon Prime Video (though regrettably not available in India for now) that re-creates ’80s television, propaganda and Bucharest with what seems like commendable accuracy. Created by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka and executive produced by Tatum, the show poses as propaganda, highlighting its similarities with its American counterpart and the ridiculousness of all that we have been mindlessly and unconsciously guzzling with our Coca Colas. The series is not a spoof but a clever cop drama, simply written from the other side of the fence.