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German Series in the USA
​How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

Titelimage Netflix series "How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast)"
© Netflix

Ever since Netflix hit our screens, drug dealers have enjoyed even more popularity in the world of TV than they did in the 1980s. This is normally how it goes: a young person (usually a man) from a humble background has entrepreneurial ambitions and loves his family. But he loves the Dead Presidents even more, becomes corrupted in his endless quest for bigger and bigger piles of cash, and sooner or later makes a grave error that has serious consequences and puts him six feet under – or at least behind bars. To date, such series have tended to revolve around billionaire cartel bosses like Pablo Escobar, Félix Gallardo, or Joaquín Guzmán. By contrast, the first German-made drug tale is about an 18-year-old from Leipzig who goes by the name of “Shiny Flakes” on the darknet and in whose bedroom the cops discovered 320 kilograms of narcotics in 2015. The Netflix series is titled: How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast).

By Sascha Ehlert

Rinseln, 2019. It’s the same old story: the local youngsters are from well-off families and dream of studying abroad – though not because they have a specific life mapped out for themselves, but simply because they want to get away. Rinseln? Ok, you got me – no, there is no such place really, but you’ll find hundreds of similar small towns in Germany. How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast), which for reasons of space we will henceforth abbreviate to HTSDO(F), is set for the most part in nice family homes, on streets lined with nice family homes, in a generic educational institution, and on a dilapidated farm that to all intents and purposes is all that remains in this series of a world in which the great outdoors was anything more than just a backdrop.
 


The lives of the youngsters in HTSDO(F) play out first and foremost in their smartphones. Unlike all other drug tales, this series – which like all show formats involving Jan Böhmermann comes courtesy of the bildundtonfabrik production company – is primarily a story of adolescence. And it comes complete with all the stereotypes one would expect: first (and lost) loves, disappointing parents, and the first existential crises. What sets the series apart is the fact that no other TV or cinema format has so far managed to convert the never-ending stream of new messages on our smartphones into a narrative format in a way that feels so consistently and exhaustingly over the top as HTSDO(F) does. Not a minute passes without emojis or text messages popping up to the left or right of the characters’ faces. For example, one of the protagonist’s two “opponents” is introduced by the narrator reproducing the profile that the character in question has created for himself in social media networks. This is stylistically consistent and could hardly be more contemporary, so hats off to the series-makers.

How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast) takes the usual young-adult formula of “losing the girl and doing anything to get her back” and transmogrifies it into a show that’s thoroughly modern and inventive.

Joel Keller / DECIDER


This narrator is Moritz, a not especially attractive and averagely intelligent nerd with a single-parent father, a best friend who is sick (Lenny, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness), and a girlfriend, Lisa, who leaves him in the first episode because she has returned from the USA questioning the world, her family, her future, her relationship, and herself. To hide her own restlessness and lack of direction, she regularly takes MDMA, as do most of her fellow students, which is supplied to her by Dan. Dan is one of life’s winners; not only is he from a wealthy family and better than average looking, he is also reckless enough to buy pills from “Buba”, the small town’s local drug kingpin. In short, Moritz perceives him as a threat, and as the reason why Lisa wants time out from their relationship. When he logs onto her Facebook account – during the course of the series Moritz reveals many of the traits of a toxic stalker – he hatches a plan to win Lisa back by buying MDMA himself. As much as he can.
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series "How to sell drugs online (fast)" © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series "How to sell drugs online (fast)"
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
  • Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)” © Netflix, Photo: Bernd Spauke
    Still frame from the Netflix Series “How to sell drugs online (fast)”
Most of what happens here in the six episodes of the first season is predictable: his attempt fails, and in a bid to turn the drugs back into money (for his hopeless project he even plunders his joint account with Lenny, which was originally intended for a new venture they were planning to start together – a marketplace for rare video gaming articles) Moritz decides without further ado to open a drug shop on the darknet. Subsequently, HTSDO(F) roughly follows the Walter White pattern. The margins he makes on his MDMA dealing are so good that Moritz increasingly reveals himself to be a good capitalist (or, to put it another way, an egotistical sole trader) whose business success makes him even more unscrupulous. A familiar story so far, in other words.
 
Indeed its screenplay is the greatest weakness of HTSDO(F), with much of the narration and character development feeling cobbled together (with bits of Breaking Bad, bits of Stranger Things, and bits of Fatih Akin) and more of a means to an end rather than anything meaningful or credible (with the exception of a surprise guest appearance by X-Factor host Jonathan Frakes). However, because the right casting decisions were made, and because the series is such a stylish and unerring visual portrayal of how our smartphone-dominated lives unfold, HTSDO(F) is nonetheless one of the best German Netflix production to date, so here’s hoping for a sequel.

1 Season, 6 Episodes @ 30 min., German w. optional English subtitles.
Starring: Maximilian Mundt, Anna Lena Klenke, Danilo Kamperidis, Damian Hardung, Baptiste Schaller, Leonie Wesselow, Bjarne Mädel
Created by Philipp Käßbohrer and Matthias Murmann, written by Käßbohrer, Sebastian Colley, and Stefan Titze, and directed by Lars Montag and Arne Feldhusen.

A Netflix original series, "How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)" first premiered on Netflix on May 31, 2019.
According to a tweet by the production company bildundtonfabrik (btf) a second season of the series is coming to Netflix in 2020.

 

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