Friday, 29 January 2016

Detectorists: Series 2

In October 2014, a new comedy-drama series called Detectorists aired its first episode on BBC Four. Directed and written by Mackenzie Crook, the show revolved around the lives, loves and metal-detecting ambitions of Andy (Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones) in the fictional town of Danebury. Throughout the first 6-episode series, Detectorists was met with extremely positive reviews from both UK and US media outlets. Understandable really, as it was one of the finest new shows of the year – a truly beautiful, funny and touching piece of work. This October, Detectorists returned for a second series. Does it suffer the age-old ‘disappointing second series’ curse, or is it even better than the first? 

Out now on DVD as an individual release as well as part of a boxset with the first series, Detectorists: Series Two is really just more of the same. And that is in no way a bad thing. Picking up one year on from the end of the first series, we re-join our ‘heroes’ in their same little world. Becky’s baby, Stan, has been born. But other than that, nothing else seems different. Andy and Lance continue to search the beautiful country landscapes for gold while, as Lance puts it, ‘talking bollocks’. Their peaceful little existence is undisturbed. That is until a young German man named Peter arrives in Danebury looking for the Danebury Metal Detecting Club’s help in finding a crashed WWII bomber plane – he claims, the burial site of his grandfather. But there’s something not right about him…

Series Two feels slightly different to the first in that it has more subplots, and we spend more time away from Andy & Lance. There’s Sophie (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) and her budding friendship/romance with Peter (Daniel Donskoy), there’s the case of the Mayor’s missing Chain of Office with Russell (Pearce Quigley) and Hugh (Divian Ladwa), and there’s more of ‘Simon’ (Paul Casar) and ‘Garfunkel’ (Simon Farnaby). And of course, there is the mystery of Peter’s motives of why he truly wants to find the crashed WWII plane. Some of these sub-plots are a bit tedious – the Mayor story-line seems a little out-of-place in its immature nature, while Peter’s foul intentions are somewhat predictable. But at the show’s heart, Andy and Lance remain – with a new set of problems for them to discuss, as the series progresses. Lance meets his long-lost daughter Kate and attempts to build a relationship with her, while Andy’s marriage is struggling through living with the new baby and Becky’s desire to move to Botswana. But alongside these issues, Andy and Lance still find time to discuss issues greater than love and life, like metals and “last night’s University Challenge”.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what Detectorists’ story is. Like with the first series, the show’s true charm lies in its subtle low-key humour and heart. Detectorists continues to avoid painting a nasty picture of the enthusiasts and hobbyists it depicts, but instead shows their mundane existence with gentle affection and love. This is complimented perfectly by the stunningly beautiful rural cinematography and a gorgeous soundtrack from returning musician Johnny Flynn, who brings back that wonderful theme song along with his gently understated folk score. Yes, Detectorists is a show of immense beauty that put a tear in my eye on several occasions through its poignancy – particularly a heart-warmingly special moment in the closing moments of the series. A hard feat to achieve at the best of times, and to achieve it in an understated show about metal detectorists is nothing short of genius. While the friendship of Andy and Lance is never explicitly explained or thrown in your face, it’s always felt thanks to a pair of incredible performances from Crook and Jones. Their chemistry is as perfect as ever, and thanks to impeccable writing from Crook, I could spend hours just watching them talk. Crook’s acting often leaves a bit to be desired – especially alongside the brilliant Jones – but this isn’t a major issue. His deadpan, quiet delivery often adds to the show’s beautiful mundanity, so perhaps it’s intentional.

Detectorists truly is a modern masterpiece, and will be a future classic without a shadow of a doubt. It’s a truly gorgeous series that I cannot praise enough, and although this second series might not quite reach the immense highs of the first, it’s still near-perfect television. The only reason I can fathom for this is that when Detectorists came along last year, nobody knew what to expect. But now, having seen the flawless first series, there’s a certain sense of expectation with this follow-up. But even its lowest points are a hell of a lot better than most of the stuff on television today. It’s a beautiful and funny show that continues to bring something new to television, which nowadays is a rare treat indeed.

Detectorists: Series Two is a near-perfect second series in what is quickly becoming one of my favourite comedy shows of all time. 4/5.


Sam Love

Detectorists: Series 2 at CeX

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