A spy thriller uber alles

Martin (Jonas Nay) and his cold-hearted aunt Lenora (Maria Schrader) in the new spy thriller Deutschland 83
Martin (Jonas Nay) and his cold-hearted aunt Lenora (Maria Schrader) in the new spy thriller Deutschland 83
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We’re still on a journey, you and I, through unknown lands, where they speak different languages and wear different clothes.

I’m not talking about an episode of Geordie Shore.

No, our cultural brows are aimed much higher than that.

After Hinterland last week, we’re braving the subtitles again and heading into the recent past with Deutschland 83 (Channel 4, Sundays, 9pm).

It’s a German spy thriller, set in the early ’80s against a backdrop of Cold War paranoia, as Ronald Reagan ratcheted up the rhetoric against the ‘evil empire’ of the Soviet Union, and nuclear missiles were bargaining chips in the ongoing struggle between capitalism and communism.

Into this fraught atmosphere stumbles Martin Rauch, a young East German border guard, who gets his kicks by frightening West German thrillseekers caught the wrong side of the Berlin Wall.

Unfortunately for the fresh-faced Martin, his aunt is a flint-hearted operative in the East German intelligence services, stationed in the West, who spots a chance to get a spy into the heart of Nato.

It just so happens that her nephew is the ideal candidate.

The first episode set the scene beautifully, with Martin blissfully ignorant of the geo-political machinations of the East and West, more interested in his girlfriend and helping his mum than getting immersed in Marx.

But soon he is undercover in the west, breaking into his superior’s office and slipping a Mickey Finn into the drink of a troublesome eavesdropper.

It’s tense, sweaty and has a fantastic soundtrack, from New Order to Nena.

A new show that is neither tense nor sweaty is Insert Name Here (BBC2, Mondays, 10pm), a new panel game hosted by Su Perkins in which sundry comedians swap badinage about a different name each week.

It seemed like a Radio 4 show just transplanted straight onto TV, but the panellists were sharp, and it passed half-an-hour very pleasantly.