Spy shows for adults and children sneak into streaming services


  • Gloria. Available now on Netflix.com
  • Harriet the Spy. Available now on Apple TV +.

Espionage is one of television’s first genres – the alluring paranoid Cold War counter-intelligence drama I led 3 lives (“Citizen. Communist. And Counter-Spy.”) Debuted in 1953 and lasted, in reruns and syndication, until about the end of time. Even after James Bond’s glamorous fantasies gave way to revelations about shellfish toxin, the secret dosage of LSD and other aspects of the sleazy underside of intelligence work, spy shows retain an endless fascination with viewers.

The latest two additions to the stable come from premium streaming services and, at least superficially, couldn’t be more different. Gloria is a Portuguese-made drama that reeks of the kind of Cold War amorality that made John LeCarre’s novels extremely popular with hawks and doves. (Don’t be scared of the Portuguese; Netflix has a huge range of translation options, including one particular option in which the show is dubbed in British English and subtitled in American English, convincing proof that we have cast their tongue overboard with tea.)

And on Apple TV +, there is Harriet spies on it, a cartoon adaptation of a very—very– strange children’s book from 1964 about a wealthy, sociopathic little girl who prefers burglary and surveillance to Barbie and Ken who, in her own way, foreshadowed Bart Simpson and the South Park kids. Some of her claws were ripped off for the show, but there’s enough left for a good “What were Mommy and Daddy thinking?”

Gloria takes place in 1968 in troubled Portugal, where Salazar’s right-wing dictatorship is besieged by communist guerrillas in its African colonies, Soviet militarism near its borders, and authoritarian American allies at home. The zero point of this political crossfire is the small town of Glória do Ribatejo, northeast of Lisbon, where a shortwave radio station known as RARET broadcasts Radio Free Europe’s propaganda through the curtain of iron.

When RARET plots to broadcast an interview with a Soviet general urging Russian troops to refuse the order to invade Czechoslovakia – a move that is expected at any time – the Cold War in Glória do Ribatejo becomes hot. At least three intelligence agencies – Soviet, American and Portuguese – operate secretly at the radio station, all riddled with moles who turn their clandestine operations into a sort of masked (and armed) ball.

A few of these masks fall off quickly, at least for viewers. The main character is João Vidal (Miguel Nunes, like most actors, a regular on Portuguese television), the son of a senior government official Salazar whose family ties have earned him a job as a station engineer. (Because the Soviets spend so much time scrambling RARET, engineers are key personnel.) But it soon became apparent that João, a military veteran of the wars in Africa, was traumatized by the brutality and switched sides, working for the KGB. When he manages to block the dissemination of those of the Soviet general, it triggers a deadly mole hunt inside RARET in which the three spy agencies take bloody trophies.

But while João’s allegiances seem clear, there are plenty of others shrouded in ambiguity. Can his engineer colleague and college buddy Goncalo (Alfonso Pimentel) really just be a kind idiot whose only interests are pushing women around and pirating American rock ‘n’ roll records? Even mole hunting doesn’t bother Goncalo. “As long as the cold war is hot, our jobs are guaranteed,” he explains to João.

And what about all the women floating and flirting around João: the unfaithful translator Ursula (Joana Ribeiro), the mysterious telegraph Mia (Victoria Guerra) or the local cafe girl Carolina (Carolina Amaral)? Are they spies, or just sex assignments? And if the latter, who makes the summons, for sex in Gloria is often what von Clausewitz might have called the continuation of the war by other means.

Both in tone and content, Gloria looks a bit like Spy city, the Berlin spy thriller which aired last spring on AMC +. But his characters, including American diplomat James Wilson (Matt Rippy, Diary of a call girl), his CIA wife Anne Wilson (Stephanie Vogt, Entourage), their Portuguese sock puppet Ramiro (João Pedro Vaz) and Soviet spy master Alexander Petrovsky (Adriano Luz), are even more ruthless and their bloodshed even more horrific. Like the story it came from, Gloria is tense, tight and terrifying.

Harriet spies on it is probably best described as cute, although the children’s novel it’s based on was odd and arguably a bit disturbing at the time. Her hero, Harriet M. Welsch, 11, wants to be a writer and misunderstood the standard advice of paying close attention to the people around her to mean that she should break into their homes, transcribe their conversations and write them down. annotate. with sour observations on their breeding and manners.

Its heroes are Mata hari and Josephine Baker; her blood enemy is the arrogant wealthy class president Marion Hawthorne. (Although she might not be richer or more brat than Harriet herself, who constantly laughs at her parents and teachers, lives on the Upper East Side of New York’s ruling class, and has a nanny who encourages all of Harriet’s subversive tendencies.)

To be clear, when I was a kid, I loved everything about Harriet’s book (except her horrific refusal to eat anything other than tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches), especially her bitchy challenge of adults. And I was delighted with his creepy espionage, most of which was practically unnecessary but satisfied what senior CIA official Archie Roosevelt called the “thirst for knowledge“It is probably not fair to blame Harriet for the coup plot in Iraq, Syria and other small Bushwa countries; he was already 70 years old when his literary birth occurred. these CIA officers blew up caves and called for air strikes around Jalalabad definitely got the idea of ​​Harriet.

The version of Harriet that debuts this week on Apple TV isn’t quite so insurgent. On the one hand, Bart Simpson and the South Park children have redrawn the lines of pubescent rebellion since Harriet’s heyday. And the show’s producers gave it an irritating, irritating cast. Consider the comparative cases of rich old Mrs. Plumber, in whose bedroom Harriet spends many days hiding behind furniture taking notes because, well, because she can.

In the book, the indolent Mrs. Plumber rejoices in having so much money that she never has to get out of bed. But soon Harriet overhears a conversation in which her doctor warns her that she has contracted an illness that will leave her bedridden for the rest of her life. Mrs. Plumber is overwhelmed by grief. Harriet, puzzled, reflects – briefly – that some of the things you discover while spying can be unpleasant. (Tell that to the lucky CIA analysts who have been tasked with collecting and studying Gorbachev’s poo.) Then she goes back to work.

On the Apple show, however, Ms Plumber is described as a young lawyer who wants to apply for a bank loan in order to start a dog clothing store, but has become so terrified of changing that she cannot. not get out of bed. And Harriet spies on her to somehow encourage her to go there and get her money back. Gag me with an ax, as children say.

Still, there are enough dangling sons of old Harriet to make the news sometimes interesting, especially if you’re 11, which is pretty much the show’s target demo. When I heard Harriet planning an operation against her nemesis Marion Hawthorne, I must have laughed at her statement: “For something so big the rules should be broken! Dark secrets revealed! A raging purple yoyo butterfly ! ” If you assume that “purple butterfly yoyo” is the code for “exploding seashell“, it looks like a meeting of CIA personnel on Castro.


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