‘This Country’, the mockumentary-style comedy set in a small village in the Cotswolds, has returned to BBC Three for its third and final series – that it is not aired primetime on BBC One might be the main oversight behind problems at the BBC.
The first two episodes have met the high standards already set by sibling writers Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, who also star in the show as cousins Kerry and Kurtan. The show’s undeniable charm can be attributed to their on-screen relationship, as naïve best friends whose attempts to keep boredom at bay constitute much of the mundane drama in the village. A scuffed water sprinkler is a major plot point, as well as Kurtan’s outrage at June opening her garden to the public for 50p. Both actors play their parts with complete sincerity, making their childish reasoning and righteous indignation both convincing and hilarious. Daisy Cooper’s facial expressions could carry the show alone.
The mockumentary format is perfect for this project, as much of the humour derives from the characters playing up to the camera crew, taking pleasure in spreading gossip and casting judgement on the residents, all with zero self awareness. Of the kind, soft-spoken vicar, played by Paul Chahidi, Kurtan says “there’s no place he’d rather be than at the centre of an almighty shit-storm that he’s created”.
The show is special, though, for the sensitivity it gives to its subjects. This is perhaps most clear in the episode dedicated to Michael Sleggs, a friend of the Coopers, who played Sluggs on the show and died last year. The first episode deals with the fallout from Sluggs’ passing, and the conflict that emerges as a result between Kerry and Kurtan. By the end, they forgive each other, and brand him a “shit stirrer from beyond the grave”. “It just goes to show”, Kerry says with a shrug, “people don’t change, even in death”. It’s a touching tribute, and very funny.
‘This Country’ has won four BAFTAs, and its writers have used their platform to speak on their own experience of poverty and growing up in rural England. Daisy May Cooper told Radio 1: “When you’ve got no money, you have no choices… there are so many brilliant people that don’t have the opportunity.” It is the knowing detail, and the affection for the people and the place it centres, that underpins the show, and gives it power as a new perspective for British comedy, so often dominated by privilege. Charlie added: “Our biggest concern was that we didn’t want it to come across as us laughing at these characters…We wanted to have warmth and heart”. It is safe to say that they have succeeded.