Detectorists – an unburied treasure

From its seductive cinematography and score, to its well-honed characters and storyline, BBC4’s Detectorists has bewitched a legion of fans. Here, Simon Ricketts pens a love letter to this affectionate television comedy, full of the mundane and the meaningful

I was late to the first series of Detectorists. I had seen some distant noises about it and, with a free evening, I trundled through the episodes I’d missed. Within a few bare minutes, I was watching the wind bustle through some summery trees, a patch of earth being disturbed in hope and two friends discussing quiz shows. Not long afterwards, I was in love.

Now that the second series has finished, I am besotted.

There is very little I can do about this one-way love, this unrequited infatuation. I could stop people in the street and over-explain. I could take out a small ad in the local paper. Perhaps just shout random justifications out of my car window at passers-by.

Or I can do this. I can write about why I love it. Explain what makes me so fond of it. Examine its features gently, with appreciation.

So, that’s what I’ll do. Here, in no particular order, are some of the reasons I love Detectorists and want to marry it.

The cinematography and settings
If you are in the UK, unless you have spent your life confined in a windowless prison, deprived of books, the internet and eyes, you will understand – will have absorbed – the beauty of the British countryside.

The distant burble of birdsong, the balletic swaying of grasses. Those slow-motion moments when the sun caresses the hillsides, like a kiss drifting past your lips. Your lungs fill with pollen-laden air and you wheel to look around, unexpectedly hit with a deep gratitude that this particular patch of the planet is letting you stand on it.

In Detectorists, the movement of the camera, the slow, passionate passages as it tracks across the fields of green and gold – it seduces and strokes you, inviting you to watch on. It is as appreciative of the countryside as the life president of the National Trust.

The music
Perfectly pitched, redolent in earth. A folky, friendly score that will allow you to hug it, while knowing you’re not sure how much you mean it.

That’s the thing about those societies, closed clubs, which you sometimes sneerily reject – but secretly admire. You wish you had the passion to be part of such clubs. The music makes you know that. It ignores your reluctance and cheerily, without pressure, reminds you that, if you just abandoned your restrictions, you can enjoy yourself.

detectorists-toby-jones_mackenzie-crook_on-acorn-tv_3207

Characters
Lovable losers, perhaps – we can temporarily understand and identify with that tribe. We sometimes pretend that its what we are. But the truth is, no matter how much many of us think we embrace that otherness, we often don’t. We can be inexorably drawn to conformity.

The characters make you open your arms. They give you the feeling, the hope, that you can be what you wish, indulge in your peculiar, innocent hobbies without condemnation, without flush-cheeked, ground-staring awkwardness. It’s an elusive attraction, making you want to be part of a group that are instinctively outsiders.

Writing
There’s a deceptive depth in the script. A genuinely impressive blend of the mundane and the meaningful. It’s never completely easy but never over-complicated and it’s never quite the way you want it to be.

The end result is perfectly uncomfortable and affectionately drawn. It’s funny without punchlines, tender without mawkishness and performs a perfect balancing act between plot and pathos.

Acting
Toby Jones, Rachael Stirling, Mackenzie Crook and many other authentic, committed performances. You never feel like they’re working too hard. You’re never bumped out of a scene by their endeavour, only drawn in by their prowess.

You want to offer their characters a cup of tea, cuddle them, kiss them, sympathise with their plight, shake them by the shoulders, lecture them and then love them.

Story
It suggests a wish to do better. A yearning to fulfill your destiny. The tingling feeling that you are just one day away from unfettered riches. A love you can’t quite believe you deserve. A friendship you don’t realise how much you rely on.

And yet underneath that, it’s simpler. It’s really the search for self and the rediscovering of love. The understanding that, sometimes, you were only looking in the wrong place.

I told you I loved it, didn’t I? It’s a little embarrassing, isn’t it? If you haven’t seen both series, you can buy them here.

Just don’t fall in love with it more than me and run off with it.

Simon Ricketts is a journalist, screenwriter and script editor. He is also a member of the Guardian’s night news team. See @SimonNRicketts. This post originally appeared on his blog at simonnricketts.tumblr.com. Series two of Detectorists is currently on the BBC iPlayer, here, and is available for the next six days. More on Detectorists at bbc.co.uk

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