So here’s a surprise: Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a TV show and it’s a parody of a Romanian 1980s cop show. That’s a lot to digest. Let’s break it down. The trailer for Comrade Detective, an Amazon Prime show, was just released and it pretty much broke my brain. It opens with CTates receiving a box of old VHS tapes and demanding a VCR and vodka. Then we get to see what’s on the tape: A Romanian cop show cum Communist propaganda. And the meta-plot is that Tatum and JGL dub the voices of the Romanian actors for an American audience just discovering this lost television classic. You follow?
But the show itself is made up of actual Romanian actors doing the show for real in Romanian. Tatum voices Gregor Anghel, who is played on screen by Florin Piersic, Jr. (If you’re a fan of Romanian cinema—generally good, but VERY depressing—you might recognize Piersic from The Escape (QED).) JGL voices Iosif Baciu, who is played by Corneliu Ulici, and Nick Offerman voices “The Captain”, played by Adrian Padararu. Other voiceovers are provided by Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, and Jake Johnson. The only step Comrade Detective misses is not knowing about Sebastian Stan, who is Romanian and could have done both performances as an in-joke.
As for what it’s about, it looks like a pitch-perfect parody of 80s cop shows. From the trailer, the tone seems straightforward, and not self-referential. It reminds me of GLOW in that way, which also treated the era and the subject it was referencing seriously. The best parodies—for instance, Spinal Tap and Wet Hot American Summer—know not to wink at the camera. Comrade Detective premieres August 4, the same day as Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later arrives on Netflix. It’s like the comedy gods know how badly we need a good laugh right now.