Earlier this year, SundanceTV announced that they would be co-producing the German Cold War coming-of-age spy series, “Deutschland 83”, making it the first German-language series to be broadcast on an American network. With the eight-part mini-series airing its first chapter this Wednesday, June 17, the reviews have been making their way online and it looks like Sundance doesn’t have much to worry about.
We’ve rounded up some of the top reviews to give you a look at what to expect for the series. Each review is worth reading in its entirety so links to the full reviews, which provide a more detailed analysis of the story, are also included.
Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times:
The show has the feel of a CW series, with a young main character who both is buffeted by these grown-up forces and is the only glimmer of sanity in a world gone mad.
The series doesn’t have the depth of that other ’80s spy show, “The Americans” on FX, but intentionally so. It’s decidedly a drama — lots of close calls and complications for Martin to deal with — but there’s a slight wink throughout as well, as if it were saying, “Don’t take this too seriously.”
John Anderson, The Wall Street Journal:
It’s certainly entertaining and well-done but, based on the first two chapters, the viewers are going to have to swallow quite a large helping of implausible sauerkraut to attain their suspension of disbelief… Martin, who is playing along reluctantly, and only so Lenora will get his mother on the kidney-transplant list, is a wholly untrained secret agent when we meet him. Yet, on the basis of a very cleverly executed intensive-training montage, he is not just able to pick locks, scale walls and crack safes. He’s been inculcated with the entirety of West German pop culture. When he has to pull a caper, he’s still nervous. So are we.
What “Deutschland 83” does portray convincingly is the material poverty, existential dread and intellectual stagnation of a zoned Germany.
Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News:
“Deutschland 83” can be a little clunky at times, and most of it is subtitled. Nevertheless, it’s a taut thriller with some cool ’80s spy moments — near-miss escapes with sexual elements. There is also a cool soundtrack from the era anchored by German pop diva Nena’s anti-war anthem “99 Luftballons” (“99 Red Balloons”).
Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter:
Like most high-gloss TV miniseries, Deutschland 83 is not exactly subtle. The political complexities of the Cold War’s final decade are sanitized and simplified into very broad strokes. The background chorus of cigar-comping military hawks, malevolent enemy agents, sexy female assassins and tree-hugging hippie idealists struggle are mostly cartoonish cyphers. Between the pop hits, the strident orchestral score is intrusive and bombastic. And the script is full of clumsy contrivance, like the rushed phone call that Moritz makes back to East Germany from General Edel’s house, an idiotic error with no dramatic purpose besides artificially stoking tension.
But look beyond the built-in limitations of the genre and Deutschland 83 becomes a fun remix of recent history, reeling you in with its good-looking, nostalgic, lightly ironic pop-culture spin on potentially apocalyptic events. On the strength of these taster episodes, I look forward to more.
“Deutschland 83” debuts this Wednesday, June 17 at 11pm ET on SundanceTV
Photo: Nik Konietzny