Over the last few weeks I’ve loved watching a beautifully-written, gentle comedy called Detectorists on BBC Four. Most episodes I’ve watched at least twice.
The show stars its writer and director Mackenzie Crook, who in an interview on BBC One Crook described the story as “an affectionate study of people and their pastimes”.
I love the intimacy and the seeming smallness of the show. There are TV shows that are fast-paced and sensationalist, dealing with spies and the security services, or investigating police cold cases, or hospital dramas dealing with life and death situations. So much TV is escapist, and I guess to an extent this is too, but there is so much real life in this series. It’s a celebration of the subtleties and the goodness found in every day life.
Detectorists centres around the lives and relationships of two friends, Andy and Lance, who share a love of metal detecting (which makes them detectorists) who are looking for the ship burial site of an ancient Saxon king.
The casting is brilliant, particularly Mackenzie Crook as Andy, Toby Jones as Lance, and Rachael Stirling as Andy’s girlfriend Becky. And the music is just sublime, a specially-written song by folk singer-songwriter Johnny Flynn.
The show has such beautifully written dialogues, like this one between Andy and Lance who are trying to decide where next to look for treasure.
Andy: This farm here… I don’t remember anyone going there before, do you? Look, this is the original Roman road running up the side. And where you’ve got Roman, who’s to say you haven’t got Saxon as well. We all know there’s a Saxon ship burial somewhere in this part of the county. We’ve just got to find it first.
Lance: Saxon hoard? That’s basically the holy grail of treasure hunting.
Andy: Well, no, the holy grail is the holy grail of treasure hunting.
Lance: Well, if you’re going to be pedantic. The ark of the covenant is the holy grail. Let’s talk to Terry…
I don’t often buy TV series on DVD, but I definitely want to pick up Detectorists (BBC, 2014); I already have the theme tune, written by Johnny Flynn.