Searching for something to watch that was not too serious and dark, I heard that the Chinese drama My Roommate is a Detective was pretty funny. Have you ever wanted to watch a tall skinny guy run down the street in blue silk pajamas? Join Clkytta and I as we laugh our way through this drama.
Not too serious is a good description. The usual summary tells about a police inspector who enlists the help of a man who has just returned from studying in England, and they are joined by an energetic female reporter. Though true, this doesn’t really convey the right impression.
Clkytta: It feels a little like a Chicago Typewriter knockoff, as we have our trio who are out to save the day. The main difference is that this drama does not have the serious undertones that Chicago Typewriter does.
Look at it this way: Inspector Qiao is the straight man in a comedy duo. He looks clean-cut and official and he seems incorruptible. It takes a while to register that this guy tells lies when it suits him. Then we see him go to get instructions from the man who got him his job, Master Bai.
Clkytta: Oh, I totally knew that Inspector Qiao is someone who stands on both sides of the law. He’s got connections in the underworld, but his main focus is to do what is right.
Lu Yao, from England, is flippant, medium lazy, and a coward. When questioned about the first case, he lies and bickers with the inspector. In the first ten minutes of the show, he tries to run away twice. He turns out, however, to be very smart and makes observations worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Our straight man wants him on the force pronto. Lu resists, but Qiao discovers that he can be bribed.
Clkytta: Oh my gosh, yes, medium lazy! He’s just not someone who puts much effort in, so he’s not too lazy because that would be too much work. He’s so funny because he is so distracted by money.
Our reporter is Bai Youning, fearless and hardworking, who chatters and pesters people for information. She is the one who dresses more like Holmes, with a hat and plaid cape, but she is actually more like Watson because she is the writer. Oh, and also she is a spoiled rich girl.
Clkytta: She’s totally the Girl Friday here. She’s very spoiled, pretty, and has a doglike determination. She’s got connections and she’s not afraid to use them so she can be in the middle of what’s going on.
This show is a period piece, set in the mid-1920’s during the time of the Republic of China – between the Qing Dynasty and the Japanese Occupation. The wonderful sets and costumes help set the mood. The first case is a murder in a huge bathroom with walls covered in mirrors. Isn’t that a little ridiculous, and don’t you just know there’s going to be a mirror trick involved?
Clkytta: I adore the Art Deco feel we get from this time period. I thought the mirrored bathroom was so Gatsby. Of course there was going to be a trick, but I was still surprised when it was revealed. I think that’s what makes this drama fun, it’s full of the regular tropes we expect, but they have a twist.
The whole setup reminds me of the old movies that I used to watch on TV with my dad on Friday nights when I was a kid. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour got into and out of all kinds of trouble with a lot of light bickering and silliness, sometimes helping each other and sometimes not. Bing was the straight man and Bob was the comic; they both fell in love with Dorothy, and they always pretty much played themselves. This show has that kind of vibe.
Clkytta: I also love old movies. It really does bring back that feeling of sitting on the couch on Saturday night watching whatever old movie that PBS was showing. It’s really delightful that so far, the show is giving us that bit of escapism.
Villains? Maybe? Maybe Not?
Master Bai is Youning’s dad, and he seems kindly enough, but she fights with him and storms out of the house – and now she needs a new place to live. It transpires that Dad is a mafia boss. Wait – he got the inspector his job? How’d that happen? He raises parakeets though – how bad can he be?
Clkytta: I am cracking up. Youning is so spoiled, she may think she’s leaving Daddy’s influence, but he’s still going to keep an eye on her. I knew her family had to either be mafia or high ranking military. She gets her way too much to be from common stock.
Sherlock Holmes’ pipe finally shows up in the possession of a wealthy British guy who seems to be plotting against the Chinese. We haven’t seen much of him yet, but he knows who Inspector Qiao and Lu Yao are, and keeps talking about “the Concession.”
Clkytta: Let’s find all the white guys we can, and we will just dub their voices. That’s all I have to say about this scene. It’s politicking and I tend to zone out when that happens.
At the start of the show, Inspector Qiao introduces himself as working for the Concession police. We keep hearing that term all the time. If you know me, you should know that I would sooner or later have to look this up. I found out that first the British, and then other Europeans and Americans, won battles against the Chinese in the mid-1800s. They made treaties that gave them land concessions – enclaves near important cities.
Inside their enclaves, the westerners ran things as they pleased, with their own laws, and their own police. The British and Americans joined together and called their area the International Concession, or the International Settlement. The British brought in many people from India, especially Sikhs to serve in the police force. Salim is one of these.
Clkytta: I did not know that! I’m sure that did not endear them to any of the Chinese people around them.
To Watch or Not?
This show has 36 episodes, but only 20 of them are out. I have seen seven. I’m enjoying it a lot, because of its light and humorous tone. Hopefully it stays that way! This show has a fair amount of humor and it doesn’t get too dark. The acting is not very deep, or else maybe the actors are all dubbed by other people who can’t really act. Either way would work. I’ll just say that Lu Yao’s English is so perfect that I’m guessing that part at least is dubbed. If you like retro or humorous, you should try it!
Clkytta: I’ve only watched about 3 episodes, but it’s interesting. It’s a great time filler right now. I love this time period in history, and I haven’t watched many Chinese dramas set during this time.
Telzeytalks: [update] I’ve seen 16 episodes now, and it’s not as funny, but we do get a joke about a baguette, and it’s still enjoyable. Inspector Qiao doesn’t show up as much, and I need more of him!
Until the next case,
Telzeytalks and Clkytta
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi