THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

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Comrade Detective: Channing Tatum's weird new show

Comrade Detective: Channing Tatum's hidden gem of Romanian TV | Television & radio | The Guardian

I link above to the Guardian review of Comrade Detective without approval. The completely modern, American-written and produced show is, as it says:

...an astonishingly high-concept Amazon comedy; a detective spoof written in English, then filmed in Romania with real Romanian actors speaking Romanian, then dubbed back into English...

....and it's cleverly hilarious.

I was drawn to the show because it's set in Communist Romania and filmed mostly in modern Bucharest. That's a city I visited several times when I was based in Poland working as a lawyer on real estate finance, investment and development projects in Central & Eastern Europe. I have a Goodbye Lenin! style nostalgia for the cities of the region as they stood, in all their Socialist shabbiness, during the 80s and 90s. Some parts of them still look that way, despite the Stakhanovite efforts of my clients and me. The Central Business Districts generally look like German cities now as do the new apartment buildings and suburbs, but it will not have been too hard for the producers to clear streets of modern cars and advertising to film this show.

Tatum introduces the show, Fargo-style, as if it were for real. He and his colleague suggest that the American shows of their youth were Cold War propaganda and that it's therefore an interesting counterbalance to see one made in support of "Communist ideals". In the cod-serious introduction to a later episode they even claim Stanley Kubrick was a fan at the time. The opening titles, colour grading and 80's style semi-naturalistic acting all support this illusion and I regret that I may be spoiling it for you by writing this. It provided a lot of the humour in the first episode for me. For example, when a character proclaims "There are no corrupt policemen in Romania!" I laughed as my friends from the region would have done when they watched such stuff at the time. Or as the late Mrs Paine and I laughed with the Polish audience in our local cinema when a Russian officer in "Schindler's List" said to Auschwitz survivors

          You have been liberated by the Soviet Army.

My friends in Poland and Russia had told me – with affectionate nostalgia – about the TV programmes of their youth featuring heroic, lantern-jawed KGB men and so forth. I was happy to think I was finally going to see one, but I began to have doubts fairly quickly. The settings are accurately shabby and of course it would have made no sense for them to differ too much from reality at the time (except in the dream-sequences set in NYC) but I mused that Communist producers would have sanitised them to some extent. Well before the first (of six) episodes ended with modern credits that gave the game away, I had Googled the show and figured out I was being skilfully spoofed. My familiarity with light switches of the era and my spotting a "fuse box" that featured grubby modern circuit breakers may have tipped me off minutes before someone who didn't know the place as well.

The producers claim they wanted to work on a real show but couldn't secure the rights, but that may be another layer of spoof. I can't imagine why anyone in post-communist Romania would refuse to cash in those rights. There is no other way to exploit them in a society inoculated for a while from Socialist ideas. Back in the 90s I was briefly involved in trying to buy a set of such rights (and the associated archive) for a Western company. That effort failed on price, I believe, but there was no reserve on the seller's part about the principle.

Comrade-Detective
In essence it's a cop buddy show. A cod-Marxist Starsky and Hutch. Once the illusion is broken a lot of the humour consists (and I won't say too much because – spoilers) of the stupid anti-Western schtick ramping up and up. That shark had been spectacularly jumped by half way through the series and the nature of the humour changes so it's more about our knowing (as the characters don't) just how misplaced is their confidence in winning the Cold War. We end up laughing with the producers at themselves and their kooky idea.

Is it propaganda? No. It's a parody of propaganda and essentially a healthy one. An intelligent young SJW viewer might even recognise him or herself in it at times. But s/he'll also have fun with the parody of Americans, like the obese (and very Romanian-looking) ones in the Embassy stuffing hamburgers down their throats as the heroes walk by to visit the sluttish female US Ambassador. It's a joke and a good one at that. I have seen reviews like this one which try to argue that it's up to something else, but I respectfully suggest that's the reviewer's typical leftist sense of humour deficit. 

Watch it if you can. It's on Amazon Video and if you are a Prime member it's included in your subscription. Otherwise you'll have to pay less than the cost of a latte and it will make you a lot happier and perhaps even do you more good.


Greatest hits

Now that the blog is being sailed out to battle again I have been battening down the hatches. In its occasional role as a travel journal, it had become a bit cosy in appearance and the sidebar had been put into storage. One of my tasks for the day is to tidy up the "favourite posts" list in the sidebar and delete out-of-date items. In doing so I have been re-reading the posts and have formed a view as to my overall favourite. For the benefit of newer readers, here it is.

It's been a long time since I visited the mischievous pal in Swansea whose party inspired it. Perhaps I should ask for a rematch?


Beyond Satire

Why Britain could never make Borgen - Telegraph

I am disappointed in Michael Deacon of the Telegraph. He is that once-Conservative paper's Parliamentary sketch-writer, a profession unique to these islands. Satire exists elsewhere, of course. It was invented in Ancient Rome, so that Italian politicians have been exposed to it for millennia. This explains why modern Italian politics has evolved to be so entirely indistinguishable from it.  
 
Johnny Foreigner however is starved of our particular form of the art. Deacon tells us that; 
An official from the German embassy in London once told me that the very idea was unthinkable in his country. The satirical parliamentary sketch is an exclusively British curiosity upon which outsiders look with polite bafflement, as if we were proudly showing them our antique collection of Beatrix Potter-themed thimbles.
 So much the worse for Germany. It should never be unthinkable to prick the pomposity of politicians. Had some witty German devised a joke name for Adolf Hitler as good as Bernard Levin's 'Sir Reginald Bullying-Manner' (for Attorney-General Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller) we could all now think of that cultured country without the image of that tedious little Austrian popping up in our heads.
 
My disappointment is that Deacon shows signs of weakness. He is a fan of Miss Paine the Younger's second-favourite TV show, Borgen and is sad that no equivalent could be successfully presented in Britain. He shamefully seems to sympathise with former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith when she bleats that
Borgen is wonderful because it “portrays a leader struggling with the choices required of a position of political power, experiencing the impact of that on family and other relationships, sometimes falling short, but essentially showing politics to be the honourable profession that I believe it to be”
Yes and LA Law was an accurate presentation of life in a legal practice. 
Typical lawyers
Mr Paine and a colleague in his days as a lawyer
A profession is a self-governing body of trained specialists subject to a set of ethical rules limiting the ways in which its members can profit from their skills. Which part of that does Smith think describes her shabby, corrupt and predatory occupation? As for the word 'honourable', she displays the characteristic chutzpah of the politician in even uttering it. She should shun it as I should 'slim', 'svelte' and 'buffed'; words that if uttered by me of myself would reduce all around to helpless laughter.
 
To be serious for a paragraph, the job of a politician in a modern social-democratic state is essentially to seize by force more than half our earnings, blend them with obscene amounts of debt and use them to bribe us into voting for more of the same. There is no 'honour' in a task so sordid. Any decent human would feel soiled by it and thus the only such who become politicians are those once-in-a-generation-if-we-are-lucky sorts who want to get the state off our backs. These rarities are loathed and routinely defamed by the rest of the political class precisely because they threaten the fat and toothsome body politic those parasites infest.
 
So man up, Deacon. You perform an honourable function in ridiculing, undermining and slowing the advance of these predators. If you are really so bothered by watching Borgen with subtitles, perhaps you just need some varifocals?

Bad customers and Politicians

Maybe you get bad customer service because you’re a bad customer | The Matt Walsh Blog.

I love Matt Walsh's elision of psycho customers with power-crazed politicians here. His post is addressed to a lady who barged into his fast-food queue to complain intemperately about a mistake in her order. People like her, he comments;
...think their hallowed “customer” status somehow gives them the right to treat everyone with a uniform and a name tag like garbage. They think their past encounters with subpar service make it acceptable for them to fly off the handle about ketchup every once in a while. They think the rules of basic decency and respect come second when they are The Customer. And they’re wrong.

Do you ever wonder why we have so many atrocious politicians...? Well, you shouldn’t wonder. Just look in the mirror. Bad politicians are generally bad because they can’t handle power. It goes right to their head. They become narcissistic, petty, controlling sociopaths. But at least it’s a lot of power, so the temptation to be corrupted by it is almost understandable. You, on the other hand, become a maniacal tyrant when society hands you temporary and meaningless power over 17 year old fast food cashiers. I shudder to think what you’d do if you had an army at your disposal.

Personally, I always try always to be polite to people in low paid jobs. I used to do them and might yet have to return to them if inflated into poverty by the said politicians. Personally I would prefer that sociopaths stayed out of politics and confined themselves to being rude to servers. I think, as the taxes fell on their wages so that they could begin to earn their way out of poverty, the servers might prefer it too.

Sadly sociopaths are as attracted to jobs in politics as paedophiles are to jobs in childcare.


Public Drunkenness and Pomposity

Public Drunkenness Can Never Be a Social Norm - Iain Dale - Dale & Co..

Apropos of my previous post and the widespread delusion that candid photography is against the law, Iain Dale is busy digging himself deeper into a hole after an ill-advised photographic tweet on his way home last night (click to enlarge).

IainDale

I defend his freedom of speech, of course, but I think he should be happy the lady cannot be identified as the publication is arguably libellous.

As a libertarian, I think the laws of defamation fall under the category of "de trop", but for so long as they exist (and they have been around a long time) Iain needs, particularly as a professional communicator, to bear them in mind. Fortunately for him, the first time anyone would have chance to consider the effect on her reputation would be if she were rash enough to identify herself by suing. So she won't. Before she even considers it, she ought to read about the role of an ill-judged defamation suit in Oscar Wilde's downfall.

It's a surprising lapse for Iain who is famous for his media skills and a highly accomplished communicator (usually of not very much). An amusing Twitterstorm has ensued, as the professionally-offended on the Left take up chivalric cudgels while calling him a c**t and a w*****r without any sense of irony. They are also ranting on about the breach of this anonymous lady's privacy, which is nonsense. Firstly, she's still anonymous and secondly she was in a public place. Anywhere you can lawfully be looked at, you can generally be photographed. People take photos on trains all the time, and - although usually incidentally - there are almost always strangers in the frame.

For what it's worth, I think Mr Dale is guilty of bad manners and a surprising, for him, lack of media savvy. He says she was behaving badly, but the picture doesn't illustrate his point in any way. She could just be depressed or tired. As it comes down to his word, he should probably have left it at words.

Iain is in danger of being seen as using the hammer of his influence to crack the nut of his irritation with a minor disturbance to his peace (allegedly) caused by this woman. Sadly he comes off looking like a pompous prat. In his own interests he should have apologised immediately but having rashly mounted his high horse he's having trouble getting off. His lines of defence look tortured and weak (can he really not have realised the sexual connotations of 'slapper?') and are doing him no good.

The only benefit to his not apologising is that the stream of gleefully sanctimonious responses show the British Left up for the insufferable prigs they mostly are. Ironically, if this tweet represented his true character, it would be a trait Iain had in common with them.