So, among the wave of new TV programmes in 2016, there’s one wee gem tucked away in Channel 4’s schedule on a Sunday night that’s right up my particular cultural strasse. Allow me to gush profusely about it this week.
I’d seen a pile of trailers for Deutschland 83, and I was interested straight away. Two Tribes thumping away, a young man running around, German Cold War setting… what’s not to like? And, well, I can find very little to fault, two episodes in.
Deutschland 83 revolves around a young man called Martin, who’s drawn into the murky world of spying in West Germany. Now, there’s been a spate of spy/crime dramas on UK TV in recent months, but none of them really grabbed me (and London Spy just made me rage impotently on here). Why did Deutschland 83 manage it? Firstly, the aesthetics are spot-on. Every little detail, from interior design, vintage cars and fashion, through to old Reagan speeches on TV, is a joy to behold. And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without an excellent 80s music soundtrack. I do like my writing sufficiently punctuated with music, so I approve wholeheartedly.
The pacing also sets the show apart from others. I’m a little biased here. The sort of TV shows and YA novels I enjoy trot along at a good speed, not bogged down by too much lengthy scenes of characters sitting around talking or staring out to sea. There isn’t a single wasted moment in Deutschland 83. The dialogue is sharp, there’s always a new crisis coming along in a minute and there’s few moments to catch your breath, if Sunday’s episode is anything to go by. I’m pretty sure I held my breath for a whole ten minutes while Martin snooped around trying to crack a safe, getting into a spot of high-octane fighting with a ninja hotel waitress. As you do.
You really feel for Martin. He’s torn away from his girlfriend and his stable, austere East German life, gradually getting used to the luxuries of the West, but coming of age in a somewhat violent way. He’s vulnerable and unsure of himself, but he’s also quite keen to throw himself into parties full of drink and pretty girls. And I do love a character with moral grey areas. I’ve got a feeling Martin’s hijinks are going to get a lot more complicated.
Oh, and not since Foyle’s War have I had so many Wikipedia pages open at once. My 80s politics research has been so far limited to the UK and South America, but now I’m reading up on Helmut Kohl, Operation Able Archer and all manner of cheerful ways we were going to meet our maker in the paranoid, nuclear missile-filled 80s. (If I’m honest, I’m also quietly despairing that I’ll never write anything as good as this show but hey, it’s good to have realistic goals, right?)
So basically, if you’re not watching Deutschland 83, get yourself on All4 and watch it now. It’s slick, it’s exciting, it’s got shades of a good YA romp, and it might just make you go on Amazon and ‘accidentally’ buy a retro Casio calculator wristwatch. Not that I’ve done that or anything. Ahem. Take my internet away, before I follow Martin’s example and look for a cheap Walkman…