'Detectorists' Season 3: TV Review

Found gold in the TV stream.
1/15/2018

One of the better hidden gems on TV begins its third and final season — so now is the time to discover it.

In the insanely crowded world of Peak TV, finding little gems remains one of the more gratifying parts of the job. And so it is that Detectorists, a series literally about finding little gems buried in the ground, concludes its run starting Monday on the streaming service Acorn, bringing to a lovely end one of the most enjoyable surprises on television in a long time.

The British series, created, written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean) and co-starring Toby Jones (Captain America, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games), won two BAFTA awards in 2015 for best scripted comedy and best comedy writing, stealing the hearts of viewers (and critics) as it slowly unfurled a tale of two detectorists searching for things they might not even know they're searching for. Oh, sure, they wanted to find ancient gold coins and other historical loot (and the fame that would accompany its discovery), but mostly they found friendship for themselves, love from others and many a philosophical jewel buried in a hard lessons.

Detectorists centers on two friends from the fictional rural town of Danebury, in northern Essex (but really in Suffolk, if you're an Anglophile), both belonging to the Danebury Metal Detecting Society, whose small membership is exactly as eccentric as you might expect. (Don't make the mistake of calling them "metal detectors" — that's the name of the actual device, not its operator, called a detectorist.) Crook plays Andy, scuffling with day jobs while studying to become an archaeologist. Jones plays Lance, a bit of a sad sack whose wife left him for a more macho lunk-head. They bond over their hobby, and as that hobby has anchored the story of their lives over three perfect seasons (albeit short — six episodes each), Detectorists has refined the art of making a slice-of-life comedy with enough drama and storytelling to make you passionately invested in the characters.

It's probably a given that most people haven't discovered the series, but the first two seasons are available to binge right now on Netflix. Even better, all three are available on Acorn (a Brit-centric streaming service with international series as well — itself a hidden gem).

In and out of Andy and Lance's world rotate a whole litany of intriguing, esoteric characters in the wonderfully bucolic rural England town where it's set (a town so quiet that when someone drops their keys on the street at night, the lights go on in five houses). Andy's wife, Becky (the wonderful Rachel Stirling), lovingly supports him and his hobby even if she's bored to death by it; Becky's mother, Veronica (Diana Rigg, Stirling's real-life mother) is a bit less tolerant of Andy's pursuits. Lance, the smart, middle-aged underachiever who is too easily controlled by his ex, Maggie (Lucy Benjamin, in a funny, cringe-y over the top way) and too dim to realize how lucky he is to have his current girlfriend, Toni (Rebecca Callard), is, like Andy, something of a lovable loser whom you want to succeed.

But at its core the series is simply a tale of two good-hearted dreamers. Detectorists is a show so refreshingly in the slow lane that it takes an episode or two to adjust to its languid pacing. After that, you'll wish that you could swap your stressed-out lifestyle for that of Andy and Lance, who walk through farm fields with metal detectors and headphones, quietly and with determination listening to the beeps that might reveal Saxon treasures. If nothing comes up but old ring-pulls from cans and other worthless objects, then there's always the pub at the end of the day.

Of course, such a picture of quaintness, while true, doesn't give enough credit to the humor and many other exceptional achievements in Detectorists, but those are best left for you to unearth on Acorn (at your own slow pace, naturally). Whatever you do, just don't skip over it.

Cast: Mackenzie Crook, Toby Jones, Rachel Stirling, Diana Rigg, Lucy Benjamin, Rebecca Callard

Creator: Mackenzie Crook

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