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(Credit: BBC)


The mundane genius of BBC series 'This Country'

Besides a slight improvement in digital quality and a marginal shift in Charlie Cooper’s curtained hairline, very little has changed over the three series of This Country. Sure, ‘Big Mandy’ has calmed in her old age and Kerry seems to have slightly matured, but as the first episode of the latest and last series has shown, nothing really changes. 

Siblings Charlie and Daisy May Cooper, whose mockumentary of English country life centres in on an unnamed Cotswolds village, focuses on the inhabitants who shuffle aimlessly around a fatigued microcosm of Englishness. Trivial squabbles and the annual pinnacle of the scarecrow festival, fuel the enthusiasm of Kerry and Kurtan (played by Daisy May and Charlie respectively) providing a purpose for their everyday reality. 

The third series begins with the characters’ largest hurdle yet, the death (and unfortunate real-life passing) of best friend ‘Slugs’. Such a matter of immovable poignancy the show has never before had to traverse. Ever the extrovert, Slugs had persuaded them to take part in a ‘zombie escape room’ on the weekend, before unfortunately passing away the Friday before. Kurtan reacts “it was sort of a relief in a way”.  This bittersweet moment, spiked with blunt honesty, perfectly encapsulates the deft brilliance of This Country, switching the situation with effortless dynamism, between absurdity and tragedy. 

Born and bred within the very setting the series inhabits, the Cooper Siblings’ satirical portrait of the English countryside is a first-hand account. Consequently, this isn’t a cynical taunt of an upper-class demeaning the ‘outsider’, rather a lovingly honest celebration of the absurdity of countryside living. Where the quirks of London living and inter-city life are often explored in mainstream comedy, rarely are the realities of those living on the fringes of modernity. As the title might suggest a distinct Britishness exudes from every cell of This Country, from the clumsy social awkwardness to the quaint eccentricities of traditional England.

Often this same concept is repackaged and sold within the handsome vehicles of Hugh Grant or Tom Hiddleston to foreign audiences, though here there’s a particular subtlety that would be lost in translation. England is weird, ugly, awkward and immature, blemishes which This Country embraces and celebrates. This intimate exploration of English country life takes the dustiest figures of society and proudly pushes to the forefront. The bleak, the eccentric, the peculiar, the best human curiosities, each highlighting the absurdities of everyday reality, without dipping (too far) into farcicality.

Much like the landscape itself, This Country’s portrait of the Cotswolds is static, peaceful and strangely ethereal. Moving at 1mph, stresses of modern life are pitifully meaningless, focus switches away from place and time, and onto the individual. Kerry and Kurtans’ wandering musings uncover the most beautifully mundane, profound stories, typifying a British cultural humour frequently forgotten.