Comrade Detective premieres on Amazon Prime August 4. Castlevania streams on Netflix.
Only slowly does it become clear that Comrade Detective, a star-driven meta-prank cop-show curio, isn’t supposed to suck. This fact hit me early in the second episode, a full hour into this squirmiest of prestige streaming series, when the comedy’s winking premise — that we’re watching a well-regarded but propagandistic Romanian cop show from the 1980s, dubbed over with earnest new performances by Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jenny Slate — suddenly flowered into something fascinating.
Shot in Romania but voice-acted by a second cast here, Comrade Detective plays, in its pilot, like a concept in search of an execution. There are some visual gags about Jordache and Pepsi and teensy Eastern-bloc cars, and the villain is a serial killer in a Reagan mask, but the show we’re watching has been crafted to resemble the show the premise purports it is: a grim, dated procedural. That means that the pilot deadpans through underwhelming action and familiar police-drama beats, punctuated with scenes of unconvincing brutality — lead cop Gregor (embodied by Florin Piersic Jr. but voiced by Channing Tatum), a proud Communist and nationalist, kicks the hell out of every suspect and informant. The violence isn’t as explicit as today’s TV standard, but the voice cast noisily commits to the victims’ screams and gurgles. I kept cranking down the volume and wondering whether I was supposed to be laughing.
But then came Monopoly. The second episode is a marked improvement, opening with a tense border-crossing standoff that reveals creators Brian Gatewood and Alex Tanaka (and series director…
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