It’s difficult to watch Mackenzie Crook’s comedy The Detectorists, and put your finger on what makes it quite so enjoyable. Across two series, not a huge amount really happens and I can’t actually recall a moment I laughed out loud. But for some reason, it strangely compels you to keep coming back for more.
For every comedy show these days that seems to be brash and loud, The Detectorists is the complete opposite. It portrays the unfashionable side of British life: rural village England, where weird characters inhabit the world. You know the type. The bearded 60 year old who still runs the local scout hut, the ex-hippy who owns the bric-a-brac store that somehow still stays in business, or all those hobbyists who go to the car boot sales and school fetes up and down the country. I like being reminded that these people still exist, and that they are what makes Britain unique. Crook manages to portray them with a gentle love and affection, ending up with a really enjoyable comedy that just meanders along gently.
I assume it isn’t easy to get such a slow-burner of a comedy commissioned, but this is what the Big British Castle does so well. Crook’s the writer and director but on-screen Toby Jones steals the show as the detecting sidekick, leading a cast of slightly unhinged characters.
It’s been a bit of a sleeper hit, but from what I can tell anyone who has found The Detectorists seems to have loved it in the same way.
And “Did you watch University Challenge last night…?” is simply genius.