First thing, if you ever see a person with a metal detector, remember to call him a “detectorist” or you will be told firmly that the machine is the detector. This much I learned from a 6-part miniseries from the BBC titled “Detectorists,” now out on a single DVD from Acorn Media.
The general plot revolves around Andy (Mackenzie Crook, who also scripted and directed the series) and Lance (Toby Jones), whose Impossible Dream is to find a buried Saxon treasure ship near the village of Danebury (get it?). The land under which they are sure it lies belongs to the crotchety and eccentric Bishop (David Sterne), who has trouble keeping his invisible dogs in check.
Love interest is provided by Andy and his teacher girlfriend Becky (Rachael Stirling), the latter of whom is not thrilled by a pretty young lass named Sophie (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) who expresses an interest in joining the boys in finding hidden treasure—most of which shows up as tin can pulls.
Lance is still very much in love with his ex-wife Maggie (Lucy Benjamin), who is now happily married to Paul (Paul Casar), a Pizza Hut employee. When Andy finds an actual gold coin on his own, Lance breaks off their friendship.
The villains of the piece are two antiquarians with connections in higher places, who are forever trying to treasure hunt on the same land, preferably without Andy and Lance. In the meanwhile, the treasure hunting club in Danebury, seven members strong, has been spectacularly unsuccessful in finding anything worthwhile. In fact, the President is reduced to giving a talk on buttons, which puts most of the members to sleep.
In a series of interviews, Mackenzie makes it clear that he wanted the series to be a “comedy of character,” not a series of one liners. I see by my notes that I laughed out loud exactly four times during the 180 minutes running time. One time was when Andy is trying to watch TV but is utterly defeated by all the remotes his now departed Becky left him. Another was seeing the utterly blank treasure hunting group’s Business Chart whiteboard.
“Detectorists” is a pleasant look at nice characters obsessed with their hobby. The saddest, perhaps the funniest, scene is the Open House given by the group. There are several tables displaying the fruits of past efforts: can pulls, buttons, and other items of no interest whatsoever. All the event needs is just a single visitor.
The show is worth the watching, but not quite as “hilarious” as the quotations in the press release put it.