We seem to be enjoying a mini golden age of British comedy series at the moment. In ascending or from good to superb current shows include:
Motherland (BBC – all available to stream on demand). I‘ve never been a parent to a young child, let alone a mother, so the school gate politics of this are outside my area of experience. Nevertheless, everyone will recognise the struggle for one-upmanship, and the social awkwardness that comes from worrying about what other people think of you more than what you think of them. In the pilot it seemed to me as if Anna Maxwell Martin had been parachuted in from a different programme, but now her character is more embedded (particularly in her friendship with the wonderful Diane Morgan’s character) she seems much more at home, even when every nerve in her being is screaming that she wishes she could be anywhere other than where she has found herself.
The Detectorists (BBC) kicked off its third series last night with more understated observations of middle aged male friendship, beautifully scripted, acted and filmed. It’s almost an opposite to Motherland in that there are no monsters here, just real people getting along or not in an entirely believable way. As if that wasn’t enough we get The Unthanks’ Magpie playing over a scene portraying the changing population over the unchanging landscape. Actually, I found that montage a little overdone – the shiver that runs through The Detectorists when Lance blows the newly found hawking whistle was effective enough by itself. Bliss.
The End Of the ****ing World (Channel 4 – all episodes available to stream on 4OD) is the best of the lot. It’s a good thing this is all available to stream because once you start watching you have to see it to the end, as I have done twice. Two nihilist teens, one who feels nothing and one who feels too much, go on the lam in his father’s car. What she doesn’t know is that he is planning to kill her, figuring that it is time to work his way up from killing animals. So dark it’s barely a comedy, we’re a long way from Hi De Hi here. Praise is due all round but the two young leads, Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden, are outstanding, and deserving of all the apes, ivory, peacocks and Baftas which will surely be piled upon them. It’s up there with The Handmaid’s Tale as the best thing I have seen on television this year.
As if all that wasn’t enough The Detectorists was followed by a repeat of The league of Gentlemen from the first episode. Have I missed any out?