Throwback: This Country | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Throwback: This Country

TV Critic Ben House looks at the funny yet surprisingly realistic comedy This Country as it returns to BBC iPlayer

BBC3’s mockumentary This Country, featuring new-to-the-block brother and sister duo act Charlie Cooper and Daisy-May Cooper, is without a doubt an absolute revelation in the comedy genre, and there is substantial grounds to suggest that, in time, it will be amongst Britain’s finest comedies full stop. If you have a spare half-hour today, give it a watch online – I had to rewind whole scenes because I was laughing so much. And I have a very dry sense of humour.

The two characters are very believable and stunning actors, with superb comedy timing
Lee ‘Kurtan’ Mucklowe and Kerry Mucklowe (played by Charlie and Daisy respectively) sit on a bus stop bench, muttering about how ‘humble’ this old man is because he always holds doors open for the both of them. Then it switches to the title screen – plain black backdrop, with ‘THIS COUNTRY’ in white letters. No music, just crickets. Looking back now, I love this opening sequence. The pointless conversation between our two heroes sets up what is really to come – random adventures, absurd situations and overly simple characters. The crickets only show that there really is no hidden agenda or humour, it’s just a bunch of prats behaving weirdly; however, this is really what makes them able to exploit their pretty unique humour to the max. The two characters are very, very believable – and stunning actors, with superb comedy timing – so when something goes wrong and they forced to protect their ‘reputation’ on camera we can’t help but laugh about how absolutely pathetic they are. In episode one, Kerry is aghast to find out somebody has been lobbing plums at her house (the plum scene had me crying – ‘there’s nothing left that hasn’t been plummed!’) but at the end of the episode, we find out that she asked her friend to do it for her ‘to make her look hard in front of the cameramen’. Honestly classic stuff.

It isn’t just the ridiculousness of the series which makes it so successfully funny. Even minor characters have particularly outstanding moments – in episode four, our two heroes attend a pyramid scam event, fronted by the ever-stereotypical Avon leader Shaz. Her mannerisms and intonation are so on point, and just the way she both patronisingly and comfortingly utters ‘hi Kerry’ had me and my friends in stitches. The vicar is also more than worth a mention, as he serves as, pretty much, Kerry and Kurtan’s only friend (he is quite old, too) and provides a hilarious sensibility and sombreness to counteract the other two’s misdemeanours.

When you look deeper you will uncover the implicit heartbreak that lays beneath
This leads me on to the really interesting stuff. At first glance, this mockumentary jokingly explores all the side-tickling adventures that Kerry and Kurtan are up to, but when you look deeper you will uncover the implicit heartbreak that lays beneath. ‘In rural Britain today, studies show that young people feel more marginalised than ever’, reads the text on screen which kicks off every episode. Immediate audiences will see this as adding to the humour, however it is true in the cases of many youths across this country. People grow up in secluded communities, without pubs and clubs etcetera, and would have to travel miles just to get to school: Kerry and Kurtan are simply the product of growing up in such circumstances. Once you really grasp this concept, perhaps through Kurtan’s deep anxiety around girls, or Kerry’s tragic possessiveness over Kurtan, or even that the vicar is the real father figure, it really becomes quite heartbreaking and somewhat disturbing. Other hilarious British comedies such as The Office and The IT Crowd perhaps lack this incredibly realistic and sensitive heartbreak to accompany funny jokes and absurd situations.

Even in six episodes, it has managed to become one of my all time favourites, and I am over the moon to hear they have renewed it for a second series, due to air in 2018. Well done Charlie and Daisy, for revamping the increasingly decreasing genre of comedy, and well done BBC3 for scouting them.

Over the festive period, BBC iPlayer have released a number of box sets of their classic shows and some recent gems that you may have missed to catch up on, , including This Country. You can find the full list here.



Published

1st January 2018 at 9:00 am



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