Review: The Indian Detective 1×1 (Canada: CTV; UK: Netflix)

Russell Peters solves crimes around the world

Russell Peters and Mishqah Parthiephal in The Indian Detective (Marcos Cruz/Bell Media)
Russell Peters and Mishqah Parthiephal in The Indian Detective (Marcos Cruz/Bell Media)

In Canada: Thursdays, 9/8 pm MT, CTV
in the UK: Available on Netflix from December 19

Call me crazy, but there’s something about casting a comedian as the star of a TV show that leads you to expect it to be funny – more so, if he starts trying to tell jokes. But that’s not the case with The Indian Detective, which stars comedian Russell Peters. Peters is apparently the world’s third highest paid comedian according to Forbes, so again, you might think The Indian Detective is funny.

It’s not.

But maybe it’s not supposed to be. Certainly, co-creator Frank Spotnitz has no form for writing comedy. Bad action shows: Transporter: The Series, Hunted, Ransom. Sure. The occasionally good bit of sci-fi: The Man in the High Castle, The X-Files. Undoubtedly. But comedy? Nope.

And look at Cracker. Robbie Coltrane starred in it. Was it funny? Nope. Well, maybe sometimes.

The Indian Detective

Comedically, that’s about the size of The Indian Detective. It see Peters playing an inept Canadian beat cop. He’s so inept he’s just been demoted to a fourth-grade Constable after the drugs shipment his informant told him about turned out to be a van load of bikes.

But while he’s on suspension for a month, he gets a call from his dad, who’s moved back to Mumbai. Dad wants him to come visit and with nothing else to do, Peters takes up the opportunity. But before you know it, the lawyer who lives upstairs from dad (Mishqah Parthiephal) is asking him to help investigate the case of a client, who’s admitted to murdering a local swami but who she thinks is innocent.

And guess what – Peters turns out to be quite good at ‘detecting’. Maybe not ‘The Order of Canada’ good as his dad’s been telling everyone, but enough to solve the crime. Except it turns out there’s something deeper going involving Canadian billionaire property developer William Shatner (Star Trek, TJ Hooker – yes, I went there) that will get played out over the subsequent episodes.

Not Cracker

The Indian Detective is not Cracker by a long chalk. Think of it more as a bit of Indian tourism that shows off both the poor and rich parts of Mumbai, sometimes stereotypically, sometimes not, all married with criminal investigations that wouldn’t even tax a fourth grade Canadian police constable. There’s the occasional joke thanks to ‘flash forward’ interrogation scenes from when Peters returns to Canada that look like they’ve been lifted from Peters’ stand-up, but out of context, they feel more like character quips rather than anything expected to make you laugh hard.

Despite this being his first starring role, Peters isn’t half-bad. It’s a little surprising that he has two potential love interests, but hey ho, it’s a funny old world, innit? Parthiephal doesn’t have to do much beyond translate and offer native guidance to Mumbai, but there’s decent support from Anupam Kher (Bend It Like Beckham) as Peters’ toupee-clad dad. The Great One himself (Shatner) only appears in one scene in this episode and I wouldn’t expect that to change much until the end, as is the way of these things.

The show looks good and an Indian-set programme makes a nice change, but the first episode was a real drag and every failed attempt at a joke only made it harder to watch. Stay with it for Shatner if you must, but don’t be expecting an hilarious comedy, a top drama or the next Cracker.