Billed as "the greatest '80s Romanian detective show you've never seen," Comrade Detective is one of the smartest and funniest shows to grace whatever we call the small screen these days. Ostensibly a recently recovered and just-dubbed-into-English program from Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal fiefdom but in reality an Amazon Original production shot on location last year with leading Romanian actors, Comrade Detective follows Bucharest cops Gregor Anghel (voiced by Channing Tatum) and Iosif Baciu (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as they track down the killer of their mutual friend and former partner, search for an elusive murderer in a Ronald Reagan mask, and bust black marketeers giving away Jordache jeans (pronounced "Jor-dah-kee") to stoke insatiable Western-style materialism among Romanians.
The show deftly parodies conventions of both cop shows and Cold War thrillers while lampooning the phony national pride that inevitably mars state-sanctioned cultural products. "Not even the excellent Romanian health care system can help him now," muses a doctor upon finding a patient who has hung himself in a hospital room. Says Detective Anghel, "You don't become a good communist by going to meetings, or by memorizing the manifesto; you do it on the streets, you do it with your fists."
The genius of the show is that it doesn't simply mock ridiculous communist boasts (even the U.S. ambassador grants that Romanians have the "best tripe soup" in the world) but forces American viewers to think about the ways in which unexamined jingoism and exceptionalism can seep into the artistic offerings of even a free people.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Comrade Detective".