Bilingual Cop Shows
Here at Fairlycurrent we really nurture the academic endeavours of our dedicated readers. So, if you happened to have the novel idea of learning another language this Lockdown (pt. 2), we hear you, and we support your decision. In a world where your university may well have forgotten you exist, bilingual cop-shows have just about restored our faith in remote study. Below, you shall find the result of many long, hard hours of research. To maximise the merit of each show as an educational resource, a comprehensive point-system has been developed to indicate both its 'Bilingual rating' and 'Cop-show rating' . Enjoy!!! ******N.B*****Fluency in your respective languages is not guaranteed- but an acute knowledge of strangely specific legal terminology is. Oh, and a lot of organised crime terms that you would not have otherwise picked up…( I hope…?) Lastly, all of the listed shows can be found on Netflix, because we want to make life easy for you, AND because we heard through the grapevine that your flatmate's ex-boyfriend's mum's neighbour has just upgraded to a multiple screen account. Sweet.
The action of this Japanese/ British production is divided equally between Tokyo and London. In possibly the perfect premise for a bilingual cop show ever: the plot begins with an international exchange between Kenzo and Roy, from the respective cities' different police departments. But rather than an Erasmus vibe, or even a wife-swap USA-type-situation, the exchange is complicated as we discover both outgoing cops are pretty big names on the old organised crime scene. So Kenzo goes to London working simultaneously for the Yakuza mafia; and Roy goes to Tokyo allied to his cockney mobsters.....
Kenzo falls effortlessly into London city life: every shot of him drinking whiskies at Soho gentlemen's bars worthy of a Burberry campaign, his new female colleagues at the Station falling at his feet etc. etc. Roy, on the other hand, is still the talk of the office, but for all the wrong reasons. Less than hot stuff when he walks into the Tokyo dept., Roy's Greggs-related paunch and Oi-Wot-you-looking-at gaze leaves his colleagues chuckling at their desks, their comments translated as: "Hey, have you seen the new temp from London? He looks like a sex tourist! haha" Bilingual rating: 10/10 Because it is so evenly set between cities, there is a perfect balance of Japanese and English spoken. In London, Kenzo meets our favourite character of all. Rodney Yamaguchi, who, thanks to his mum and dad (from Peckham and Kyoto respectively) dominates both languages perfectly. And uses this bilingualism to grace the show with some of its best one-liners. *Highlight*: arguing with his boyfriend, Rodney is approaching the throes of fury, when his bloody phone rings, and he answers with a cordial "hey, phone me back? I'm just in the middle of a Greek play" before resuming rage mode. Cop Rating: 8/10 Sure, you will get your fix of car chasing, (if that's what you're in to) My only complaint is this : the writers' effort to build up tension for the finale's roof-top confrontation scene between Yakuza and Cockney mafias, was somewhat *DEFINITLEY* compromised by the anti-climatic presence of a simultaneous translator.
Watching ‘The Eddy’ is like watching an extended sound-check in a jazz club, only getting up to smoke vogues at the bar between numbers. It’s a rehearsal that warms up its musicians (because this is the first time many of them have acted), just as much as it warms up the audience: to the casts’ maverick improv, insular desperation, and just sometimes, moments of genius. The lights are low, and the atmosphere is just right. The stage itself is set for murder- when the club’s manager is soon knocked off by the mafia. He had embroiled himself in Parisian underworld in a final plea to save ‘The Eddy’, his club, from going under. They were in a rough patch, you see, financially. But in a frankly ironic turn of events, that not only turns this jazz-cat’s wet dream into a quasi-police drama, the nightclub is indeed saved (if only by a renewed clientele of morbid punters from TripAdvisor, all eager to spend an evening out at a genuine crime scene- lol). Bilingual Rating: 9/10 So. Good. And sadly, probably the reason this got such bad reviews in Britain: even the most ‘open-minded’ of the Guardian’s literati do not have the attention span for an series that syncopates between French, Arabic, English and Polish without missing a beat. Because just like the protagonist’s choice to leave solo jazz fame in his maternal New York for the inspiration of Paris, the stories of his bandmates are those of immigrant voices in the French capital. At Farid’s funeral, we are privy to an improvised scene I can only describe as musical bilingualism: where a cathartic New Orleans-style memorial turns into an Arabic jam session, mobilising the whole cast into beautiful cacophony. (NME, qui?) Needless to say, the show’s soundtrack deserves a review of its own. It was such a feature of Fairlycurrent’s peak lockdown experience back in April that it inspired Bria’s insanely good story Call Me When You Get There. And the bilingualism rating would have got 10/10 if not for the pesky thorn in Jack Thorne’s side…(yes, Jack Thorne is the actual name of the scriptwriter, and yes he did write ‘Skins’ for Channel 4!) So here it is, the thorn: protagonist Elliot’s distinctly anglophone arrogance. Rather than faire l’effort with his frankly B1 level French, Elliot expects everyone to communicate with him in his own perfect New Yorker English. And I really mean everyone! From police chiefs to the very criminal heavies pushing him into the back on a white van on the Rue de la Paix. These slightly forced dialogues risk becoming cringeworthy when they starts spoiling the whole fly-on-the-wall realism vibe the Whiplash director was trying to create with his hand-held cameras and natural lighting. Cop show rating: 5/10 Just to confirm, we are definitely here for the music. And Amandla Stenburg. And the long moody shots of Paris. “So not for the quasi-mafia drama, then?” No, not for the quasi-mafia drama. With this one, I do have to cede to what the other reviewers have said before me. For the most part, the menacing phone calls between cops and heavies (oh, and Elliot, lol) do just rudely interrupt what is otherwise amazing telly. After ep. 3, though, I totally encourage you to find humour in these ‘tense’ scenes- so please do not be dissuaded from watching the The Eddy. Because it is very easily the best thing to come out of 2020. (Not that 2020 will be remembered as a year for stand-out bilingual cop dramas).
Frontera Verde/ Green Frontier
Not your average cop-show set in Colombia. And not set on the Caribbean coast that my own family are from either, but rather the Amazonian border where Colombia meets Brazil. A woman detective follows a trail of femicides linked to Nazi-war criminals in the jungle. Filmed deep in la selva, the show was coincidentally released during the same week in 2019 when worldwide attention turned towards devastating wildfires breaking out in the Amazon. This tragic coincidence turns out to be highly poignant as the series progresses, as much of Frontera Verde centres upon the spiritual relationship between man and nature. When it comes to presenting the Arapuni people who speak to each other in their native Witoto language, the directors present both the dignity and beauty of the way of life for Colombia’s indigenous peoples. Thankfully they have chosen not to subscribe to the tedious psychedelic ‘magic realism’ trope so overworked by exotifying writers.
If you have watched the show yourself, I highly recommend this article about the historical importance of Frontera Verde:
“At this point, it is impossible not to circle back to the Amazon’s current state of affairs: as fires burn at unusually high rates on the Brazilian side of the Amazon, critics point to the Bolsonaro Administration’s inattention to slash and burn farming as one cause. Some indigenous activists have communicated that Bolsonaro is attempting to carry out a genocide of their peoples, making the Nazi scientist’s agenda in Frontera Verde feel particularly timely”
Bilingual Rating: 9/10 This is set on a border town, let’s not forget. So expect many entertaining conversations in simultaneous Spanish and Portuguese. Spanish speakers really do not understand anywhere near as much Portuguese as they do us, so it is always great to watch. Further bilingualism points for the fact that a big part of this show is dedicated to the native Witoto language of the Arupani people, v. rarely found in productions of this scale. Cop show rating: 9/10 Actually very refreshing. The female chief inspector has to deal with all the stereotypes that come with being a woman and a 'cachaca' (an ‘endearing’ name Colombians give to Bogotánas- capital city dwellers) when she is seconded to a new local police HQ. Helena’s bad-ass part is interpreted brilliantly by actress Juana del Rio. Unlike in The Eddy, the tense phone calls between police, the heavies and the protagonist do form a necessary component of the plot and character development. All in all, it’s a great watch- (and the fact that this is the only bilingual cop-show I watched Not During Lockdown, as in, when I was working 12 hour days as a waitress yet still found the time between shifts for it- means it must be good).
Special mentions: Jane the Virgin
Even I’m surprised that this has made it the list, and yet here we are. Considering just how underqualified I am to answer how high the cop-show rating it is (quite high?? I guess? For a telenovela?). I’m mostly underqualified because I myself have never sat down to watch a full episode of “Jane the Virg”- although I feel a deep enough connection with it; by virtue of watching series 1 till 5 vicariously through my Fairlycurrent flatmates. What I do recall, however, is the show’s great use of bilingualism for comic effect. Characters like Jane’s abuelita speak solely in Spanish whilst younger generations reply adamantly in English (hard relate). This theme is also used as a trope for comic effect in the new Netflix show about gentrification amongst the the Latinx community in LA: ‘Gente-fied’. Yep, I know, its legit called ‘Gente-fied.’ But this last one isn’t even remotely a cop-show, hence why it only gets a special mention within the special mention sub-section.
None of the photos used are my own (obvs) property of: BBC, Netflix and Netflix and Netflix respectively
2 thoughts on “Bilingual Cop Shows”
‘A must read article for every language student, whose remaining two brain cells crave that sweet, language learning goodness!’ -Netflix 2020
Rodney Yamaguchi needs his own fucking show!! So many incredible one linerss…..’jesus didn’t stop making furniture becasue the Romans beat him up’