Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Inspector Rex (1994-2004)

Australia has gotten a plethora of foreign television thanks to the likes of SBS for decades now. From our old fascinations with shows like Monkey and Shintaro, to more modern programs. By far the most notable and long-lasting of all of these is Inspector Rex! Coming from Austria, Rex is so popular here it may even eclipse its fame in its home country, and kids might grow up wondering why an Australian show is in German. Like many others, I grew up with this show, and count my childhood all the luckier for it...

There are many words to describe police dog Rex. Playful, naughty, curious, tenacious, and brave. Most important of all is his nose for justice! With Rex on the case, no stone is unturned and no criminal in Vienna is safe. Together with his humans, he is there to keep us safe...

Kommissar Rex is a police show, and surely one of the best to come out of Austria. The plots can vary from traditional whodunnit, to a 'howcatchem' format (i.e. like Columbo), and from regular murder investigations to broader criminal activities. There's always a great new plot each episode, and plenty to keep you guessing and entertained.

Rex takes place in the heart of Vienna, and as always it is a wonderful city. A great mix of old and new, with beautiful classic buildings and monuments, recognisable landmarks, and a really nice feel, even if there is a murder every week.

The action here is great to watch. We get gunfights, chases, hostage situations, kidnapping, attempted bombings, and more. There's so much variety, and the team is always on hand to help. It's also hilarious seeing the more implausible moments, like Rex's uncanny knowledge of English (sorry, German), and how specific his commands can be. And above all, it's adorable watching how Rex will solve puzzles and save the day!

Besides thrilling and engaging, Inspector Rex is also a very funny show. Much of the comedy comes from the naughty hound, who often misbehaves. He'll eat people's slippers, steal their shoes, 'wash' their clothes, get jealous when they have a fraulein over (how dare you give someone else attention! Don't you know you're here to throw the ball for me always?), and a lot more. There are so many memorable moments. It's a joy to watch!

One of the more amusing things about this show is how dark and adult it can sometimes get. There'll be violent moments, mature plotlines, plenty of nudity, etc. All mixed with the lighthearted antics of a lovable pooch. The most surprising thing about the show is that it does handle all these tones well. And while I'd be the first to make silly jokes about such a crazy tone, Inspector Rex is suitable for kids. There is a reason why a whole country plopped their wee ones in front of this and never once complained.

Inspector Rex began in 1994 and ended in 2004, cancelled prematurely. This resulted in a cut-back season of only 4 episodes, which itself has caused no end of confusion. The season listings in Australia are different to Austria, since we had the benefit of hindsight, and combined a couple of the shorter seasons into one.

While it was sad to see Rex finish, it did have a 10 year run, with 119 episodes. That is no mean feat, and I applaud everyone involved for their constant effort and achievements. They had a good run. Then things got better, in a way most shows aren't lucky enough to get. It was revived in Italy, not as a remake, but a continuation! That will get its own full review someday too, but suffice to say, it was a generous lease on life, and let's all show our gratitude to the Italians!

The characters are a high point for the series. Well written cases are one thing, but we wouldn't care half as much if we didn't like the heroes. Rex is naughty but purehearted, his love of ham rolls only exceeded by his love of justice. Moser is a relateable guy with a strong personality and fun sense of humour. He has good relationships with the more nervous and officious Stockinger, and the carefree Höllerer.

The next hero Brandtner is an adventurous guy, with his sidekicks including the impish and playful Böck and the OCD-suffering Kunz, who would go on to be the series's main anchor, besides Rex. Then there was Marc Hoffman, a younger and more energetic bloke, who had more of a romantic partnership going on with straightlaced Nikki Herzog. Each character brings something new to the table, and while you might miss the old characters who cycle out, their replacements are just as good.

The cast is a fantastic one. Getting to the most important players first-The dogs! The dog(s) who play Rex do an absolutely marvellous job, looking so cute, acting really well in scenes both funny and dramatic. There wouldn't be a show without them! Tobias Moretti is a great lead, handling comedy and drama well. Gedeon Burkhardt is a nice successor, doing just as well, and handling the series' first transition to a new lead well. Alexander Pschill is a fun dude, different to the previous two in a good way, and bringing plenty of identity to the part.

As for the partners and sidekicks, they are all fantastic, from Karl Markovics, to Wolf Bachofner, Heinz Weixelbraun, Martin Weinek, Elke Winkens, Gerhard Zemann, and Fritz Muliar, among others. I could rabbit on about all their respective quirks and positives, but to cut a long story short, they're a great cast, and nothing short of perfect.

The music in Inspector Rex is wonderful! Absolutely wunderbar! You have a variety of nice tracks, from nice and gentle tunes, to tense pieces, and thrilling chase music! The score really captures the tone of the show, and the feeling of the city.

And lastly, let's come to the main theme. The first is fantastic. A nice mix of serious, goofy, and sincere, with its somewhat baffling but no less charming English lyrics. Dog Takes Over Control (or Good Friend if you want a more mundane title) is played during Moser's era. When we reach Brandnter, the theme was changed for the worse. It's not bad, but it's rescored slightly, the new singer has a harsher voice during the chorus (I don't dislike her, but...you know what I mean!), and it's cut down considerably, only 30 seconds to the original's minute. This later got a slightly reworked version that improves on it. And then there's the third and final one. It's a new song altogether, built from the same groundwork, acting as a good sister theme.

The intros themselves are hilarious to watch. We've got good ol' Rex leaping through [dangerous looking] windows, helping his master(s), tormenting his other colleagues, etc. I like the first the best, but there are great moments in all of them. It's Hoffman's intro that I have real soft spot for, with its great comedic moments, Dr. Graf and his cadaver, and Nikki handcuffed to Rex.

Inspector Rex is a fantastic show, and I recommend it for everyone! Young, old, Teutophiles, or those with no knowledge of German countries. Fans of mystery and crime, foreign television (and if you're not a fan, then broaden your horizons, mate!), and of course cute dogs! You really can't go wrong with Rex. There is something for everyone...

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