One of the strange (but also rather lovely) things about the Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones’ comedy Detectorists is the way the past two series have been filmed in the summer.
It has meant that viewers have been able to enjoy this lovely, funny, touching comedy in the bucolic beauty of the Suffolk countryside during the clement months.
But as Mackenzie Crook has said real-life metal detecting enthusiasts tend to operate in the autumn and winter months when the fields aren’t laden with crops and they can work more effectively.
And so, for the first time with this show, we have a wintry edition of the comedy, which is probably appropriate for Christmas.
It’s a delightful and touching episode which starts with Toby Jones’ Lance visiting the British Museum where his gold find which concluded series two (an Aestel, a late Anglo Saxon jewel whose use is still debates by archaeologists) now occupies pride of place.
But something nags him. His precious artefact seems bereft -”like an animal that’s been trapped in a cage”. And he doesn’t like the fact that his Aestel hasn’t even been given a name, rather it is given some form of catalogue number (R5010ST78 since you ask).
Even worse he fears the “curse of the gold” which many detectorists apparently are nervous of. Various things go wrong for him (a wasp sting in winter, no finds at all, not even a ring-pull from a fizzy drink can) to such an extent that he wishes he hadn’t found his jewel. But Lance being Lance, he hits upon an ingenious and rather sweet way out of his predicament…
The episode is unusual because it focuses mainly on Jones, although Crook’s Andy does appear, returning for a convenient week from Botswana where he has settled with his wife Becky and son Stan.
But it’s as good as ever, and there is plenty of warmth and fireside cosiness when the cast get together.
My only worry is whether Crook will want to do another series. Or whether he will leave Lance in Suffolk and Andy and his family enjoying their new African adventure.
The BBC is keen but Crook is, apparently undecided. Let’s hope Lance’s discovery of gold won’t curse this show to just two series. Like Lance’s Aestel it’s too precious to be buried away.
The Detectorists Christmas Special is on BBC4 at 10pm on Wednesday December 23