Thursday, 8 September 2016

Digging up:Detectorists

'Climbing through the briar and bramble'
Most people who have watched this series wonder how is it possible that it was broadcast on BBC 4 only as, clearly, it deserves a much wider audience; this seems unfair because, in a perfect world, Detectorists would be shown in prime time on BBC 1 and would be acclaimed by critics and public alike.
This should be so because this sitcom, written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (better known as the infamous Gareth in The Office), is a gem bound to touch anyone who is after a comedy that is subtle, original, delicate and at times deeply moving, all in an understated way that makes it even nicer to watch; some may call it 'slow comedy' simply because it demands some time and effort for its brilliance to come forward. You won't find here canned laughter, neither slapstick nor cliches or crowd-pleasing numbers; this is humour at its best, but not the sort that will have you in tears.

Andy and Lance in the thick of it
Detectorists tells the story of friends Andy and Lance (the mentioned Mackenzie Crook and the great Toby Jones, star of the marvelous film Marvellous) whose main - and only- interest seemingly lies in metal detecting; almost an obsession.
This is, by all means, a refreshing and quirky starting point, as it puts the series in a league of its own. Episodes kick off with these two peculiar and unlikely characters in search of the Holy Grail of metal detectors (or detectorists,as they like to call themselves) in rural Essex: the Saxon hoard.
Instead, they find discarded and useless objects, though this does not seem to deter them from continuing their search. Metal detecting becomes a way of life, a philosophy, a therapy of sorts.
As with many other great pieces of art, the genius of Detectorists sits in those details that may go unnoticed at first. Crook's writing is subtle, full of awkwardly funny moments, low-key yet impossibly sublime; this is enhanced by superbly crafted characters that you grow to like and love as the series develops and the whole is made irresistible by the stunning beauty of the English countryside.
To top it all, John Flynn has written one of those songs that manage- despite or because of its simplicity-  to give you goosebumps, thus confirming, from its very first minute, that Detectorists is a series like no other. Unmissable.

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