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"Corporate Cops" from Germany - great show about business crime
In the film "Bowling for Columbine", controversial American film maker
Michael Moore suggested the reality TV-program "Cops" to be replaced by
another: "Corporate Cops", wherein the protagonists would go after
business crime and arrest CEOs instead of black people with knives. Mr.
Moore, look no further, because this is actually it.
The show tells about of a bunch of government agents and bureaucrats
working for the German Customs Investigation Office at Hamburg. They
are probably the kind of people which usually, the viewer learns to
hate: they're said to live off other people's tax payments, they dabble
in other people's business and keep the economy from being free and
efficient. This show, however, shows the whole thing from the viewpoint
of the bureaucrats. We have Hobel (Siegfried Kernen), the typical
bureaucrat with the big glasses and the porn magazine under his desk,
we have Doellke (George Meyer-Goll), the anarchistic new guy with beard
and pony tail under his bald head, and we have, of course, grim, but
honest Zaluskowski (Uwe Friedrichsen from Edgar-Wallace-fame), all of
them working in the same shabby office, having to visit a number of
dirty places, experiencing about every kind of dishonesty and hostility
along their way, and all of them trying to make the big bosses of
economy play by the rules knowing even if they ever got one of them
convicted, that they will never even be half as wealthy as the least
important of their opponents' lawyers.
One sequence shows Zaluskowski looking at the giant swimming pool
underneath the big house of the CEO he has just convicted of a fraud
which has cost not only billions of European tax money, but also
several hundreds of jobs and the only thing Zaluskowski is able to
say, sighing, is: "Yes. That may have been worth it." The honesty about
himself and his own feelings is, admittedly, one of the aspects which
make Uwe Friedrichsen's character great. Occasional guest stars are
usually from German TV and theater, most of them rarely known outside
of Germany, but with wonderful character actors such as "Torn
Curtain's" Günther Strack, Peter Pasetti, Herbert Fux, Dieter Eppler
and Pinkas Braun (of Edgar-Wallace-fame, too). The greatest thing about
the show is, however, the scripts.
Unfortunately, I have to admit it to Mr. Dick Hurlin, the producer of
"cops": a show like this doesn't have much action in it. Since it deals
with matters such as tax evasion, fuel tax, subsidy fraud, embezzlement
and business crime, and tries to do it on a very serious but
entertaining way, there is naturally a lot of talk, explaining,
controversial dialog, and even some almost documentary sequences.
Sometimes, it is like real life: a lot of crime goes unpunished.
Sometimes, they get the small fish only, while the big one gets his ass
"bailed out". Sometimes, they get the big fish only while all the small
ones slip away. Sometimes, the crime is exposed, but no one can be
punished at all.
Besides its criticism of some aspects of economy, this show is far from
being a "socialist" program. The episode "Vereinigungskriminalität"
(literally: "reunification crime") finds the old team transferred to
the Eastern part of the reunified Germany where it is their sad and
frustrating duty to help clean up the economical nightmare that has
been caused by over 40 years of socialistic mismanagement.
The show does NOT "blame it all on capitalism" or on some villainous
CEO meant to represent it. Rather, it criticizes the often
unnecessarily complicated law (EU law in particular) or the way some
people with the obvious intention of doing something good sometimes
make it all too easy for others to loot and to exploit exactly the
people which were originally meant to be protected and supported. Look
at my summary of the episode "Hammelsprung" for an example. Most of the
time, the protagonists are not even up against actual business crime or
some CEO's great bunch of lawyers, but against themselves: other
bureaucrats and government agents and directives that turn out to be
somewhat contradictional. The show does not even criticize capitalism
at all. It just shows and explains some of the numerous both good and
bad side effects which we seem to have agreed about taking up with. If
you are looking for simple black-and-white solutions and the blaming of
only one side, do not watch this show. It is always very well
researched, takes its time to explain things and tries to show every
side of the things and the people in question. It takes its time to
explain that business crime, tax evasion and embezzlement of subsidies
isn't just "being cleverer than others" or making money out of nothing,
but that it actually has (negative) influence on the whole society and
environment, that it means actually taking other people's money,
welfare or jobs. Usually, when Zaluskowski and his team have convicted
a villain, he will almost certainly excuse his crime with the rest of
his competitors: "If I had not done it someone else of them would
have." While Zaluskowski or in this case, Hobel will answer: "If that
was true and everyone was thinking just the same, your crime would have
achieved you no advantage at all. No, there always must be some honest
idiot left to make the ugly business pay off!"
If someone thinks, the government would do best just to stick out of
business and economy then probably even this show won't convince him
otherwise. However, it may help him to understand why there are people
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