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Monday, 17 February 2020

REVIEW: This Country. The Coopers deliver heartfelt tribute in first episode.

BBC Three's sublime rural mockumentary This Country is back for what creators Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper have said is its final series. When we last saw the Mucklowe cousins (played by the Cooper siblings) just over a year ago in 'The Aftermath', Kerry was finally coming to terms with the selfishness of her dad, whom she had always idolised, while Kurtan was struggling to cope with losing his job at the bowls club.


When we meet the cousins again, Kerry has a job at the local recycling centre – not because she wants to work, but because she owes Kurtan money following an unwise purchase she made on Gumtree. Surprisingly, she seems to be enjoying working life... although this is largely due to the fact that she's stealing charity items, with "simple beast" co-worker Griff as her accomplice, and taking them home with her. "Why go Christmas shopping when the dump is my John Lewis?" she asks, with no shame whatsoever. Meanwhile, Kurtan is trying his best to keep Kerry on track by having her dinner on the table when she gets home from work and tending to her screeching, perpetually off-screen mum.

This opener is entitled 'A Letter from Slugs' and it serves as a fitting tribute to Michael Sleggs, who played annoying neighbour/friend Slugs until he tragically passed away last year, not long before the series began filming. The Coopers have said that it felt right to incorporate his death into the show and that it would have felt dishonest to say that the character had simply moved away. At a recent screening and Q&A, the team spoke emotionally about Sleggs' contribution to This Country and revealed some of the bonkers requests that he made towards the end of his life, including that his funeral should be filmed and used in the series, with Paul Chahidi acting as the Vicar – an idea which they sensibly chose not to take him up on!

In this stellar opening episode, Slugs manages to stir things up from beyond the grave by leaving Kurtan a letter, confessing to something that he and Kerry did 12 years ago, so a hilariously indignant Kurtan confronts his cousin to get to the bottom of what happened. Kerry and Kurtan's relationship (full of petty bickering, even though at the heart of it they care deeply about each other) often proves to be a highlight of the show, and it's obvious that the Coopers really know their characters inside out. One of the many joys of This Country is how specific its references are – from the idiosyncrasies of life in the countryside to mentions of Goosebumps, Theme Hospital and Bodger & Badger, which will resonate with anyone who grew up in 90s Britain.


The equally great second episode sees the ever-patient Vicar agree to give Kurtan his first driving lesson. However, their journey to the local airfield is disrupted when the Vicar has to make some stops and learns that homeless Len (Trevor Cooper) has gone missing. The Mucklowes are truly at their childish best here, with Kurtan stubbornly dismissing advice, which prompts a brilliant anecdote involving a Müller Corner, and Kerry causing mischief in the back seat. We also get some more insight into the Vicar's past, a glorious appearance from scary Mandy (Ashley McGuire) and Kurtan getting irked by "the sheer arrogance" of a neighbour opening her garden to the public, continuing his long-held habit of creating mountains out of molehills for want of anything better to do.

Assuming this is the end of the series, (The Coopers have spoken of revisiting their characters for a special years down the line) then This Country will go down as one of the best British comedies in recent memory, if not ever! We can't wait to see what the pair do next.

Contributed by Sophie Davies.

This Country continues Monday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer 

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