‘In rural Britain today, studies show that young people feel more marginalised than ever. To explore this problem, the BBC spent six months filming with some young people in a typical Cotswold village.’
So begins each episode of BBC Three’s This Country, a mockumentary series focusing on the daily lives of two rural youths.
Real-life siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, who also wrote the series together, play cousins (and best mates) Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe. They live in the sort of slow-moving area where it’s perfectly normal for 20-somethings to hang around the streets with children, and sitting on a park bench with someone in your best shirt and trainers constitutes a date. The village is populated with believable oddballs, including a scary neighbour looking for someone to try out her new tattoo skills on and Kerry’s uncle Nugget who’s described by her as a legend but actually seems like a bit of an idiot.
Comparisons have been drawn between This Country and The Office, and it isn’t a stretch to see why. Both succeed in getting across the mind-numbing mundanity of where they are set. But while The Office’s domain was staff training days, appraisals and Christmas parties, This Country is all about the tedium of existence when you’re a young person living in the countryside.
Deprived of excitement, Kurtan turns small things into big deals, putting huge amounts of effort into finding out what happened to the cast of The Queen’s Nose, tracking down a boy he bullied at school (not to apologise, but to prove to Kerry that he hasn’t made the boy up) and trying to win the affections of a new neighbour with whom he very quickly claims to be in love. An entire episode is devoted to a fight over who gets to cook their food on the top shelf of the oven – something that the Cooper siblings have admitted is based on a real fight they once had.
The show’s autobiographical element really adds to its charm, as Daisy May and Charlie Cooper clearly have a genuine affection for the way of life they are sending up. The pair grew up in Cirencester, moved away (for RADA in Daisy May’s case and university in Charlie’s) but soon found themselves back there and have recently said they do not plan on leaving. Several supporting members of This Country’s cast are played by friends and family of the Coopers, such as annoying neighbour ‘Slugs’ and appearances from their real-life dad and uncle.
Kerry and Kurtan are no Little Britain characters; these dim-witted, tracksuit-wearing youths are sympathetic and ultimately likeable.
We may start off laughing at Kerry’s boasts about her ‘hard’ reputation and Kurtan’s desperation to win at the local scarecrow festival, but by the end, we really feel for Kerry as she describes time spent playing a flight simulator game with her negligent dad as the best day of her life, and for Kurtan when he has to break the news to his clingy cousin that he might be leaving the village to do a GNVQ. Kerry asks him “Why would you want to leave the village when we’ve got a pub and a shop?”
Most importantly of all, given that it’s a comedy, This Country is funny and endlessly quotable. If you were born and raised in rural Britain it’s a must-watch, and even if you weren’t you will probably enjoy it nonetheless.
All six episodes of This Country are available to watch now on BBC iPlayer.
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