The past bleak few weeks have been improved by the return of Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists, possibly the most perfect piece of television of the last decade. This charming, witty, beautifully shot series about hobbyists, archaeology and village life is also one of the most profound portraits of friendships and relationships, of many kinds, that I’ve ever seen on TV, all captured in a string of half hours that glitter like gold coins on a field.
Having watched it from the start, I was looking forward to a third series, although with some apprehension about whether the high standard could be maintained. Three episodes in, it’s already clear that series three will take the show out on a high note, as Crook spins his small-scale dramas into a story that connects to so much more about England and its place in the world.
That, sad to say, is one of the bittersweet aspects of watching Detectorists series three. The rapturous trance has been shaken, if not broken, by events since its 2015 Christmas special. Watching it now, you can’t help wondering which of the resolutely English residents of Danebury voted Leave. Terry, almost certainly. Sheila, probably. Lance?
I’d rather remember them, and rural England, as unsullied by 2016 and 2017. But there’s no escaping the times we find ourselves in, and in the face of Brexit, Detectorists remains some of the best escapism going. For one and a half more hours.