‘She couldn’t even remember if I take sugar in my tea…’
If I really fall for something in pop culture, I normally construct a way to write about that thing. I know that if I hear an album that I love then I will eventually pop it into an end of year list or something like that. Occasionally however, I stumble across something that requires an article all to itself. BBC4’s most successful sitcom The Detectorists is one such beacon of pop culture light that I felt compelled to write some words about after butting my head up against it like the slack jawed moth that I am.
Andy (Mackenzie Crook) is a budding archaeologist and keen hobbyist. Along with his friend Lance (Toby Jones), Andy is a detectorist, NOT a metal detector (that is the instrument, rather than the person). Andy’s long suffering girlfriend Becky (Rachael Stirling) and various members of the local metal detecting club make up the rest of the cast.
The Detectorists gives a voice to thousands of socially awkward and slightly obsessive hobbyists. Whether it be trainspotting, bird watching or even writing a film blog, there are literally towns full of people that find their hobby to be more than just a hobby. What you do in your spare team can be an escape, a means of meeting new people, a way to feel included, to find a sense of belonging. This is partly why it feels so mean spirited to laugh at those people who are interested in something one might find banal or ridiculous. The Detectorists teaches us that behind the awkward veneer, people on the fringes of society are often kind, funny and intelligent.
It also shows us how a hobby can provide a family of sorts to those who need one. The supporting cast in The Detectorists are an utter delight with the deadpan Russell (Pearce Quigley) befriending the painfully shy Hugh (Divian Ladwa), the glamorous Sophie (Peaky Blinders‘ Aimee-Ffion Edwards) counting Andy as an ally, and group leader Terry (Gerard Horan) adding an empiric air to proceedings. That is not to mention the gentle antagonism of the wonderfully hilarious Simon Farnaby, flanked by Paul Casar, as a pair of Simon and Garfunkel look-a-like nemeses.
All of this is set to a backdrop of beautiful British countryside, with gorgeous long shots and close ups of local nature giving the show a nostalgic and rural feel. Even the soundtrack is beguiling with Johnny Flynn’s theme and score fitting perfectly with the more poignant scenes (of which there are many).
At the heart of the show is the wonderful chemistry shared by Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones. Andy and Lance’s friendship will be recognisable to anyone who has enjoyed common ground over a shared interest. In one of the shows most memorable monologues, Lance mentions that being a hobbyist is mainly a male pursuit, and while there is a ring of truth to that, The Detectorists has something for everyone.
I laughed, I cried, I developed a vague interest in the art of metal detecting. Put short, The Detectorists touched me on a level that only a handful of shows have before. As writer, director and star Mackenzie Crook put it, “when people find it and realise what it is, they hold it close to them.” The Detectorists is just waiting for the next viewer to hold in a warm embrace. Make sure it doesn’t pass you by.