Set in Essex but filmed in Suffolk, Detectorists feels quintessentially British, and is packed with British cultural references. How many non-UK viewers understand, say, the conversation about the accepted protocol when correctly answering a starter for 10 on University Challenge? (“What you want,” says Lance, “is a humble smile and a nod to your teammates as if to say ‘I know you guys knew that one too’.” “That’s it. Spot on,” agrees Andy). Yet the show has a dedicated and growing following outside Britain.
Do they know what a “chinny reckon” is in Tel Aviv? Seems unlikely, but an Israeli newspaper called Detectorists “buried treasure”, Are they familiar with Fiona Bruce in Bordeaux? Possibly not, but a French paper described Detectorists as ,délicieuse“and”un baume appaisant, – a soothing balm. In an online discussions, a fan from India wrote “this is not a TV show, it’s soul food”. A viewer in North Carolina poetically described it as “a deep, grassy field in an asphalt world”. In appreciation of the show’s pastoral elements, the LA Times said it was “almost Shakespearean” and compared it to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Toby Jones, after the Baftas ceremony where the series won an award, told the story of cycling through New Orleans when two guys rushed out of a bar to tell him “Man, we love the Detectorists!”
‘About hobbyists, for hobbyists’
Crook appears genuinely embarrassed when this global adulation is mentioned, and says he cannot explain it. “Toby is able to wax lyrical more than me about those sorts of things,” he tells BBC Culture. “It was always my idea to write an uncynical comedy about hobbyists for hobbyists – people with obsessions – and I guess those sorts of people are all over the world, and they’re not often championed so perhaps they can relate to it.” Jones, incidentally, is quite clear on why it is so universally loved. “It’s a brilliant, brilliant piece of writing,” he says.
Ben Lindbergh is a senior editor at The Ringera Los-Angeles-based pop culture and sports website and podcast network, and has written about the show.
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