While flipping through Roku’s channels last night I stopped by AcornTV, a must subscription site for Anglophiles. I came across the show The Detectorists, a 30 minute comedy (in the theatrical sense of the term) and decided to give it a go. The show centers on the lives of two friends who share the passion of metal detecting in the English countryside. It’s a very geeky show from an American perspective, but after the first two episodes I found myself hooked, and I finished the entire series in two nights. The show is written by and stars MacKenzie Crook, a British actor who will be most recognizable to American audiences as one of the pirates in The Pirates of the Caribbean. Cook plays Andy, a ne’er-do-well who lives with his long-term girlfriend Becky, played by a stunning Rachael Stirling, hasn’t completed his degree in archaeology and spends way too much time with his friend Lance, played by Toby Jones, a British actor with roles in The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Lance drives a fork lift in a produce processing plant and still pines for his ex-wife who ran off with the manager of a Pizza Hut. Together they spend as much time together as possible sweeping the British countryside with their metal detectors in a never-ending quest for the lost treasure of a buried Saxon king. The series chronicles the ups and downs of their lives as they interact with quirky and quintessentially British characters like the owner of a field who commands invisible dogs, their club members who include a terribly shy young man who collects shrapnel, and a young woman Sophie, played by Aimee-Ffion Edwards (of Luther and Peaky Blinders fame) who joins their club and turns everyone’s lives upside down for the entire 6 episodes. Throughout it all Lance and Andy struggle to maintain their heads, their friendship and their passion for the squeals and beeps of their detectors as they dig up pull tabs, lost Matchbox cars and buried barbed wire in their quest for the lost Saxon gold.
This show isn’t for everyone. I was surprised it was for me, but the characters were so interesting once you got beyond their boring superficialities. Crook’s style is simple, and the scenes were often quiet, but the writing is simply sublime. At first you laugh at the characters, then you pity them but half-way through the series you befriend them and demand to see them triumph. You want them to find that lost treasure even though you know they can’t find it because that would be the end of the show. And when they suffer you feel like you want to buy them a pint and offer them some words of hope.
The Detectorists won a 2015 BAFTA Award for best situation comedy, and has gotten rave reviews both in the UK and here in the US. I believe that TV shows and movies are alot like movies and music: they are very personal and rarely communicate to people in the same ways. But if you have an hour to waste you can do much worse than to try two episodes of this delightful show.