Netflix Review: ‘Detectorists’


It was suggested to me that I might enjoy the English TV series, “Detectorists.” I think I know why the suggestion was made. In very broad terms, it’s a picture of my life. In spite of that, I found it entertaining.

The series centers on the lives of a pair of friends who belong to a metal “detectorists’” club (it’s pure coincidence that the mystery novel I reviewed last night involved the murder of a detectorist). Lance (Toby Jones) is a small, unprepossessing man who is nevertheless quite intelligent. He works as a forklift operator in a produce warehouse, but his twin passions are his ex-wife, who exploits his affections, and metal detecting in the Essex countryside. His friend Andy (Mackenzie Crook) looks and dresses like a homeless man, but actually is nearly qualified as an archaeologist when the series starts. He lives with a girlfriend, Becky (played, I was delighted to discover, by Rachael Stirling, daughter of Diana Rigg, the great crush of my youth). Andy and Becky dream of going to Africa to do excavations, but Andy drags his feet, crippled by self-doubt. He and Lance spend a lot of time together in the fields with their detectors and in pubs, even to the point of raising mild jealousy in Becky.

They are members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, a small, struggling group of moderately obsessed social misfits. Their mortal rivals are the “Antiquisearchers,” a less principled detecting group, suspected of “Nighthawking” (detecting at night so as to take possession of their finds without properly declaring them to the authorities). The DMDC is galvanized in the first season by the appearance of a young woman named Sophie (Amy-Ffion Edwards), who attracts Andy’s attention enough to put a strain on his relationship with Becky.

The first season centers on Lance and Andy detecting on the farm of an affably crazy farmer, who constantly calls out commands to nonexistent dogs, and is suspected of having murdered his wife and buried her somewhere on his property. In the second season, a young German man shows up and asks the group’s help locating the crash site of a plane which had carried his grandfather during World War II.

“Detectorists,” written by Mackenzie Crook himself, is a well-crafted, character-based comedy which treats its cast of characters with affection. We laugh at them but also with them, and they are portrayed with pathos and compassion. Also, the scenery shots are breathtakingly lovely.

I liked it a lot. The only thing that really annoyed me was the final episode, broadcast as a Christmas special, which involved elements of superstition. Cautions for language.

4 thoughts on “Netflix Review: ‘Detectorists’”

  1. I find Toby Jones remarkable. I’ve seen him play a handful of different roles successfully, including a wise missionary in China. He’s got skills.

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