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.
Luckily there were some things to enjoy this month to distract us from the impending end of the world as we know it…
Every few years a film comes out with such a torrent of euphoria that it’s hard to actually sit and enjoy without the pressure of watching the-film-that-everyone-loves. However I thought (unlike King’s Speech and The Artist) La La Land does just about do itself justice. It’s very good fun, has some superb musical set pieces, and enough depth/plot to prevent it slipping into tweeness or cringeworthy American shmaltz. There’ll be a backlash at some point but I say ignore it.
Tickets went on general sale last week for political historical rap musical theatre show Hamilton. I’ll post up a review when I’m grey and old, having secured tickets for some time in 2018.
Last week was the 75th Anniversary of Desert Island Discs which was marked by a 2 hour special show with highlights from the archive and some clips from previously lost interviews. Hosted, as ever, by the dreamy voice of everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure, Kirsty Young (no? just me..?), it was BBC documentary-making at its best. Also while you’re there, I thoroughly recommend checking out Gareth Malone‘s from back in December.
This month I finished Book 1 of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s ‘My Struggle’ series. It’s apparently an autobiography, but Knausgaard’s memory for detail makes it read just like any novel. I loved Knausgaard’s ability to find the tiny nuances and small moments in life that make us act the way we do, the things you would normally completely overlook, identify them and describe them so well. But while I didn’t quite have the same instant love for the entire book as many of the rave reviewers, I will definitely try the next one in the series.
Finally, this article popped up in my Twitter feed at some point this month. Makes you wonder a) how good would it be to be this bloody amazing at piano?! But then b) how good would it be to be this good at piano criticism?!
A documentary about Nick Yarris, who spent 20 years on death row in the US prison system whilst attempting to clear his name. It’s one of those occasions when you can’t help but sit back and be transfixed by the story and the emotions of the man who is interviewed throughout. Compelling and moving at the same time, it’s well worth a watch and has been recommended by Louis Theroux no less so must be good.
You can probably find it on BBC iplayer or Netflix, otherwise a bit of creative searching on Google should yield results…