I stumbled across This Country on the previews site critics like myself have access to to preview things before they air. I knew nothing about it before pushing the play button, and within moments I felt like I’d discovered a gem. I took to social media (as is the way these days) to tell my ‘people’ they must watch. The mockumentary style has been used to death since The Office broke the mould in 2001. It’s become a genre of comedy all of its own and is often seen a lazy device. The stars of the show, siblings Charlie and Daisy-May Cooper, who also write the show, take the mockumentary format and reinvent it again.
For those who have somehow missed the boat, it’s the story of two cousins Kerry and Kurtan. They live in a rural visit and the BBC cameras are there to capture what for life is like for the young and unemployed in rural Britain. From the opening scene of the first episode, it was clear the siblings were going to be huge stars. Kerry and Kurtan chat to the camera about a brief encounter with ‘Changing Rooms’ designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Sat in a bus shelter, the pair recounts their celebrity encounter. “I was walking in the Co-Op and he was coming out, and I said to him, after you and he said no, after you. He’s so humble.” Further highlights of that first episode include their tale about why they’re relationship works so well. “He’s perfect to share a box of Celebrations with because he eats all the Bounty’s.”
Recent comedy has conditioned to me not to expect a lot of laughs, but This Country had me howling from the off. The premise is a simple one, which centres around a small but key group of characters and it’s one of the funniest shows in years. It’s no surprise that the siblings have gone on to win awards and legions of devoted fans. The two series of This Country are perfect. The Coopers know they’re characters inside and out. Kerry is a self-professed hard nut with enemies around every corner. We saw this first hand when her house was subject to ‘a plumbing’ in episode one. This cowardly act sees the victim’s property covered in plumbs! Kerry is also close to her father Martin Mucklowe. Mucklowe is a nasty piece of work who only shows his daughter the attention she craves when it benefits him. Lee ‘Kurtan’ Mucklowe has traits of an obsessive. This is first seen with his quest to find out what happened to former classmate Robert Robinson and further on display in the second series when he takes a job at the bowl’s club. He’s a man who takes his responsibilities, no matter how tiny they may be, incredibly seriously. He, unlike Kerry, can see through Martin Mucklowe and can’t understand why his cousin can’t see her dad for the manipulative man he is.
The BBC confirmed some time ago that they’d given the green light to a third series, but that they’d also ordered a special episode to tie up the loose ends of the second series. The final episode saw Kerry possibly take the blame for storing a load of dodgy vacuum cleaners Martin had acquired. Would the devoted daughter really be willing to take the blame and do time in order to save her father?
The ‘special’ episode explores the father-daughter relationship in greater detail. The episode, which slightly longer in length than previous really gives Daisy-May Cooper the chance to shine, putting Kerry and front and centre for the majority of the plot. It’s not a spoiler to say Kerry is spared prison, having testified against her father. Instead, Kerry is doing community service by reading Dr Seuss books to the visually impaired and taking out their frustrations in random acts of destruction or unruly behaviour around the village.
Desperate to learn more about the father who she has let down she reaches out to old friends of his, dragging the ever-patient vicar (the brilliant Paul Chahidi) along for the ride. What she learns is as funny as it is heartbreaking with Daisy able to easily able to portray Kerry as both dimwitted and vulnerable. Kerry is desperate to believe the stories she tells herself about her Dad but even she knows deep down what kind of man he is.
Kurtan meanwhile is obsessing when he learns a new barman has taken over his job at the bowls club. He spends the majority of the episode telling the camera how he hated working there and how awful boss Terry was, but knowing Kurtan as well as we do by now it’s clear he’s hurt and is desperate to be back behind the bar. The Coopers creations aren’t clowns or caricatures they feel like genuine people full of bravado but deep down they’re desperate to be appreciated and valued.
The longer episodes gives the pair time to tell their story and fill it with gags. It may well be the best episode of series so far. It strips back the characters to reveal their vulnerabilities and gives even the minor characters something to do. I’m already desperate for the third series as I just want to spend more time with Kerry and Kurtan.
This Country is now available on BBCiPlayer