'The Indian Detective': A wacky cop and William Shatner as a bad guy

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
<em>The Indian Detective</em> (Photo: Netflix)
The Indian Detective (Photo: Netflix)

If The Indian Detective pops up as a recommended item on your Netflix home page, chances are you’ve been watching some stand-up comedy specials, and maybe some Star Trek reruns. This new four-episode series stars Canadian comedian Russell Peters as a laughable cop, with William Shatner making welcome appearances as a bad guy. Peters, whose stand-up act is apparently pretty popular up north, plays Constable Doug D’Mello, who at the start of the show is put on suspension from his Toronto job for general incompetence. He uses his time off to visit his father in Mumbai, India. (Dad is played by Anupam Kher, who’s been good in everything from Bend It Like Beckham to Silver Linings Playbook.) There he stumbles upon a murder, real estate business corruption, and drug smuggling, much of it involving Shatner, who plays a businessman named Marlowe. Shatner is almost effortlessly good — he exudes menace as easily as he releases carefree silliness in the new season of Better Late Than Never.

As an actor, Russell Peters is a stand-up comic, by which I mean all his lines are delivered as punch lines to jokes set up by the dialogue — whether the conversation is meant to be humorous or not. The tone of the show veers back and forth between comedy and suspense. The name that pops out in the credits is Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files, The Man in the High Castle), who’s listed as co-creator and co-writer on every episode. There’s little of Spotnitz’s talent for dramatizing tension here.

The Indian Detective delves into fish-out-of-water territory when Constable Doug explores his ethnic roots in Mumbai in the company of his father. To give you an idea of the humor level, a big recurring joke is that Dad wears a ludicrously phony hairpiece. Indian Detective plays out like a tidy little PBS Sunday-night cozy-mystery show. Bear this in mind if you’re looking for something to watch with your mom, who likes Inspector Lewis or Midsomer Murders, during the holidays.

The Indian Detective is streaming now on Netflix.

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