Sprechen Sie Deutschland 83: Kopieren Sie nicht, dass Floppy

Moritz / Martin (Jonas Nay) tries out a Walkman on Deutschland 83.
Deutschland 83 (Photo: Laura Deschner / Sundance)

Although Deutschland 83 pokes fun at all of the gizmos that were big deals back in the 1980s, the approach to the storytelling is more Mad Men than The Goldbergs or That 70s Show.

It is somewhat fitting that the third episode of Deutschland 83 premiered on Sundance last Wednesday, as it was the 36th anniversary of the introduction of the Sony Walkman. A Walkman factored heavily into the mission, as well as provided a greater exploration of the state of technology during the Cold War. As with any look at former state-of-the-art technology, it was hilarious.

Die Zuordnung

This week Moritz is tasked with getting more bugs planted in NATO Chief Mayer’s places of business. Specifically, he is to use Mayer’s secretary Linda to infiltrate the main office in Brussels. Once Stamm and Edel Sr. arrive in town, he is approached by the German equivalent of a guy selling Rolexes via trenchcoat. The man has a Walkman and gives Stamm a demo, allowing him to rock out to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Stamm eventually meets Linda, woos her, and they go antiquing as a date. The shop they visit has a desk that Mayer has ordered for delivery the next day.

After the date, Moritz buy Linda the Walkman and a recording device for himself. The two engage in some adult activities before Stamm sneaks off to set up the recording device. After almost getting busted by the worst guard dog ever1, Moritz successfully plants the bug on the desk. Unfortunately, Stamm discovers the next day that Mayer decided to give the desk to Linda, so the bug won’t catch all of Mayer’s communications. However, the sounds from Linda’s typewriter will get picked up by the comms team, as demonstrated by Linda typing out the lyrics to “their song” (“Hungry Like the Wolf”). Hehe. Good job, Stamm.

Mittlerweile

Speaking of the comms team, they are having a difficult time deciphering the disk picked up from last week’s mission. Actually, that’s not quite accurate: they haven’t even gotten to the point of accessing the information that needs deciphering. First, it has taken a while to find a computer with the correct size disk drive for their particular floppy disk. Once they figured out that one size does not fit all, the next struggle involves finding the proper brand/processor combination. Comms is in East Germany, the disk originated from West Germany, and there are several different Western options that might work. The guy working on the project tries to lighten the mood with a joke about a drunk searching for his glasses by a lamppost because that’s where the light is, but his superior is not amused–the severity of his stone-faced reaction to the punchline is one of the funniest moments I’ve experienced on TV in quite a while. Later, he tells his subordinate “Sagen Sie nicht cool” (“Don’t say cool.”)  and “Sagen Sie nicht ok.” (“Don’t say okay.”) Awesome.

Edel Jr. continues to meet with the university peace-niks. The group has encountered a setback as they learned that their East Germany counterparts will not be able to participate in Hands Across Deutschland efforts. Edel tells the group that the decision-makers (Mayer, Jackson, et al.) don’t give a shit about such protests and more direct action is necessary. The group leader interprets this as a call for non-nonviolent resistance, which he resists. The debate continues, with Edel bringing down the room with some truth bombs about how devastating the Pershings will be if they are used. Edel is told “if you want something more radical, you’ll have to join another group.”

Annett has moved in to help Ingrid as she deals with her kidney problems. Things get awkward as Thomas pops in to help Ingrid with some moving. Annett is rather short with him, spots a photo of Martin, and proceeds to vomit. Later, Ingrid surmises that Annett is pregnant. Mazel tov? Annett tells Ingrid the baby is Martin’s, even though it could be Thomas’s. But that isn’t the biggest secret in the house: Annett discovers a book on Ingrid’s nightstand with a false cover is actually a copy of 1984. She sneaks into the basement while Ingrid is gone and discovers a door hidden behind a shelf. Inside is a library chock full of contraband books. Annett freaks.

What I appreciate about the storytelling in Deutschland 83 is how true to the time period the show has been so far. Unlike other shows taking place in the not-too-distant past, there is a temptation to throw in references to everything about the decade, regardless of anachronisms. Although Deutschland 83 pokes fun at all of the gizmos that were big deals back in the 1980s, the approach to the storytelling is more Mad Men than The Goldbergs or That 70s Show.

  1. YOU HAD ONE JOB  

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About Mike McComb 616 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv
  • LeilaM12

    The German that you used for your headers is supposed to be completely nonsensical gibberish, correct? (I’m guessing you meant “The assignment” and “meanwhile”… the German means neither.)

    Something else: I think you misinterpreted the “I’m hungry” thing – General Jackson knows that everyone speaks English at least well enough to get that. I do that kind of thing (switch back for something supersimple which everyone understands and then feels good about it) all the time… with several languages.