Detectorists is an absolute televisual treasure. I’m delighted that Series 3 is here. For a while it seemed like it wasn’t actually going to happen, and certainly not this year. Both stars Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones are very busy on other more glamorous Hollywood projects. So, especially as it’s written and directed by Crook I’m overjoyed they’ve made time for another series. Enjoy it people, as sadly this is due to be the last.
This is the most completely gorgeous comedy/ drama/ nature documentary mash-up. It’s bucolic, sunny summer days filmed in the most glorious parts of Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex and soundtracked by modern British folk music or equally lyrical birdsong. It really is a breath of fresh air.
But for those who’ve not yet seen the show, let’s get the basics right – the people we meet are metal detectorists, not metal detectors. The detector is the tool. It’s like calling a pianist a piano, a gymnast a pommel horse, or a dustbin man rubbish. And they get very tetchy if you make that mistake.
Our duo are rather unlikely best friends. Lance (Toby Jones), is a geek with amazing knowledge of ancient coins, jewellery and ring pulls, with a British Museum success under his belt. Where now he wonders? “Is there a nobel prize for metal detecting?”. Lanky Andy (Mackenzie Crook) is slightly awkward and put-upon, trying to find time for his passion alongside his real job and his young family. Lance’s pomposity is pricked by the duo’s amazing flights of fancy their ridiculous what-if questions that they have time and space to ponder out in the fields. And like good mates should, they always find time for the pub. Pleasingly Gary Blackwell, an actual metal detectorist says “Talking rubbish and finding rubbish while enjoying the great outdoors is a part of the detectorist’s everyday life.”
As always, there’s anxiety and friction under the surface. Both men are struggling in new family situations. Andy is back from his African adventure in yet another difficult situation at home, which seems to be the story of his life; living in a confined space with his wife, young child and a demanding mother-in-law (Diana Rigg). He says he’s taken up vaping for “ten minutes alone in the garden at night”. Lance’s beloved estranged daughter Kate is now living with him in his tiny flat and taking full advantage of his hospitality, making his girlfriend Toni feel unwelcome. Major plus points to Lance for maintaining a relationship, but for how long? They’ve got nowhere to be alone together.
There’s so much love and appreciation for British history and the natural world packed into 30 minutes. The camera appreciates everything in all its wonder, however tiny and commonplace the plants and animals are. David Attenborough would be proud. The plans for the solar farm leave Lance perplexed as he knows he ought to be a good environmentalist cheering the company on, but he doesn’t want to lose the farm where he and Andy search for treasure. It’s a special place for them, they have a constant hope and a bit of a sixth sense that motivates them; like all treasure hunters they’re always searching for one more big find – something that’ll bring them fame and fortune, or at least something for the finds table to present to their fellow detectorists.
A quick mention to the phenomenal supporting cast in the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. My personal favourites are Pearce Quigley as zany Russell, Sophie Thompson as life-and-soul Sheila and Laura Checkley as the forthright Louise.
We share Lance and Andy’s magical feeling of hope as the viewer sees the treasures lost for centuries, buried for safety by ancient people, during a moving time-lapse sequence. We know, just as surely as Andy and Lance, that they should do all they can to keep looking. Detectorists is always filmed in the summer and that warm golden feeling permeates the series. Come for the comedy, and stay for the sheer joy of it. A show that makes you feel this good really is a precious thing.
Detectorists Series 1 & 2 is available on Netflix. Series 3 is on BBC4 on Wednesday nights at 10pm and is available on iPlayer