Detectorists

Detectorists

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.

A new societal aim?

Many small light bulbs equal big one

How inspiring is this as a political statement, published in New Statesman, 25-31 October 2013?

Our political leaders are using the economic downturn to push through a neoliberal agenda that will dismantle the welfare state, privatise public services and extend the huge inequality of wealth and power that scars our society. It’s no accident that those responsible for the crash have greatly increased their wealth over the past few years while half a million people across the country now have to use food banks to survive and a third of disabled people live in poverty.

Under the banner of austerity, welfare claimants are demonised as lazy scroungers and disabled people are stereotyped as burdens on the state. Aided by the corporate press, the government is stoking up hate and anger as we are encouraged to turn against each other rather than identify the true source of our problem: a corrupt and increasingly undemocratic system that has replaced the principle of one person, one vote with one pound, one vote.

We need a new societal aim, one that respects the limits of the natural world and places human well-being at its centre. The prevailing ethos has been one of greed, competition and inequality, and we must build a new society driven by the goals of sustain-ability, compassion and equality.

We need to democratise workplaces, dramatically increase investment to create “green jobs”, tax carbon emissions, raise corporate taxes and increase regulation, reform the financial sector and adopt a raft of other common-sense policies. We need a revolution of our ideas, and an explosion of hope, creativity and co-operation. We need to build a society in which every person is free to live with dignity. We need to pull together as one species and protect this beautiful piece of rock that we call home.

Sadly though, it wasn’t written by a politician but comedian Francesca Martinez. That’s genuinely one reason that I love so much comedy: it often cuts through to the heart of the matter.

To sign Francesca’s War on Welfare petition, visit: wowpetition.com.

Derek

A couple of weeks ago I took out a 30 days trial of Netflix. It’s been great fun watching TV shows, stand-up comedy and films on my PC, on my phone, and streamed to our television. I stumbled on a seven-part TV series called Derek, written by and starring Ricky Gervais.

I remember when I first watched The Office. I actually had no idea it was a comedy at the start. It felt so awkward and uncomfortable until I cottoned-on that this was a comedy. So I was perhaps more than a little apprehensive when I began watching Derek.

Ricky Gervais plays Derek Noakes, a 49 year old care worker at Broad Hill old folks’ home. Derek has been described by some as high-functioning autistic, by another as ‘learning disabled’, or ‘of low mental acuity with impaired language skills’. Gervais himself seemingly maintains that Derek is definitely not mentally disabled. He is, however, extraordinarily kind.

Gervais said, apparently, that the show was inspired by family members who work in care homes and with children with learning difficulties.

There is so much that could have gone wrong, so many potential opportunities to be cruel. And yet I found it one of the most profound and moving programmes I’ve watched for a long time. It moved me to tears more than once. The final episode especially, and Kev’s monologue in particular where he talks about his regrets. It’s an astonishing piece of drama, tremendous writing, and beautifully acted.

It is funny, it is sad, it is awkward, it’s rude, it’s vulnerable, it’s touching: it’s filled with the reality of every day life. I’m looking forward to series two.

Campus

20110511-kirkeuniversity

I’ve just finished watching the sixth—and I presume final—episode in the current series of Campus, the Channel 4 comedy made by the creators of Green Wing set in the fictional Kirke University.

I do hope there will be another series. I’ve loved every minute of it. Vice-Chancellor Jonty de Wolfe is a legend.

You can still watch the entire series on 4oD for the next 29 days (until Sunday 5 June 2011), and do check-out the Kirke University’s website: inspiration for us all.