A typical buddy-cop setup is bolstered by socially-conscious subtext in the new Italian series Carlo and Malik, now available on Netflix.
The buddy-cop setup is a tried-and-true format in film and television, embraced all over the world and beloved by many. Carlo and Malik, the 12-episode first season of which debuted today, is Italy’s interpretation of a genre popularised by stuff like Lethal Weapon in the U.S. and Bulletproof in the U.K.
The setup is comfortably familiar. A veteran cop in Rome, Carlo Guerrieri (Claudio Amendola), is paired with a rookie, Malik Soprani (Jacopo Lo Conte), born in the Ivory Coast but now living and working in the capital. But the usual frosty dynamic is complicated somewhat by Guerrieri’s lingering biases and resentments (read: racism), giving Carlo and Malik a distinct cultural specificity, compounded by it being filmed entirely in Rome.
Originally titled Nero a metà, Netflix went for a less provocative title for its international rebranding after acquiring the show — among others — from the Italian national TV station Rai. The undercurrent of race-relations is what gives Carlo and Malik the uniqueness that is missing from the familiar format, as the two cops work together across the season to solve a variety of criminal cases while working through their own personal issues. There isn’t much here that’s new in any sense of the word, but the distinctly Italian flavor — and the boldness of its socially-conscious subtext — gives the composition as a whole a bit more depth than is typical in this kind of show.
With the entire first season now available internationally and no official plans for a second season despite a lot of success in Italy, the show’s ability to entice binge-watchers this weekend could well determine its future lifespan. While it’ll undoubtedly appeal more to those familiar with its setting and climate, there’s enough universal appeal in Carlo and Malik for the show to find plenty of success all over the place, providing Netflix puts in the marketing legwork.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.