The Detectorists, 2014 – 2016 BBC comedy series distributed by Netflix.
What is it about the British hobbyist? Imagine having an attraction to trains that’s so compelling, you’d spend all your spare time standing near or over rail lines to note the differences and distinctive characteristics of locomotives and what they pull. If standing in the rain waiting for the 6:15 to Oxford isn’t your cup of tea, there’s the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, a place where some very odd people congregate who share a passion – they wander the fields of England searching for buried treasures. They’re the sort of people who are offended if you refer to them as ‘metal detectors’, insisting that’s the tool of their trade – they are ‘detectorists’.
At first I was not at all sure what to make of this odd-ball comedy series. Indeed, I didn’t make it through the first episode on my initial attempt. I don’t know what caused me to give it another try – perhaps it was the despair of watching another bogglingly stupid episode of ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ that drove me back to the arms of Andy (played by Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (played by Toby Jones), two of the more endearing losers ever to grace a BBC production.
Andy desires to become an archeologist while Lance moves crates of vegetables around a distributing yard. Andy’s the sort of guy who hangs around the school yard waiting for his teacher girlfriend and has police asking him what he’s up to. Lance is the kind of fellow who’s still besotted by his ex-wife, a woman eager to take advantage of Lance in every way possible, despite having left him to shag the useless hunk with whom she’s now besotted.
Life seems to float by this hapless pair of friends that share one unshakable bond – a passion for metal detecting. Every chance they get, they’re out combing the fields for the big find. It turns out that getting permission to be on people’s fields is difficult enough, but even when they find a land owner willing to let them loose, there are unscrupulous rivals to deal with and fields filled with dinky toys, buttons and old nails that keep their metal detectors beeping. The two have a genius for walking over pots of gold, viking burial sites and Roman treasure while managing to find nothing more than a brass button.
Each episode starts with close up nature scenes from the verdant fields of England and a few episodes treat us to re-enactments of how treasures got buried in the ground. The main characters rather grow on you, despite the feeling they couldn’t find their shoes in a closet, let alone a Roman horde. It has an endearing theme song, written/sung by Johnny Flynn in the true folk music tradition. It’s music that fits both the characters and the series wonderfully.
I watched all three seasons alternating between episodes I found brilliantly funny, in a quirky understated sort of way, and other episodes where I was left wondering why I wasted my time with such a pair of daft bunnies. On the whole, there was much to like and some real gold buried in the series.
TL:DR – Not a show that grabs you from the opening frame but, given a chance, it grows on you.