Mockumentaries are a difficult art to master. Too serious and it comes across as a potentially offensive piss take of a serious topic. Too light-hearted and all you have is an average comedy with far too many fourth wall breaks. This Is Spinal Tap managed to tread that oh so fine line. So did The Office, as well as What We Do In The Shadows. BBC Three’s This Country, however, does not quite reach up to these lofty standards, but it has a damn good stab at it.
Set in a small village in the Cotswolds, it follows the adventures of cousins Kerry Mucklowe and Lee ‘Kurtan’ Mucklowe – played by real life brother and sister Charlie and Daisy May Cooper – as Kurtan gears up for the annual village scarecrow competition. Meanwhile, Kerry is keen to show off to the cameras and sees herself as a bit of a Big Name In The Country. As a self-confessed country bumpkin, who grew up where the best-kept village competition was a matter of proverbial life and death, the producers have done a fantastic job of capturing the feel of rural life, and petty politics that surround it all.
The series pulls off the documentary style, with long zooms and a shaky hand-held camera creating the amateur feel that is so commonly associated with investigative television. Numerous interviews with local residents, as well as constant chat from the two main characters also add to the realistic image.
Though This Country comfortably nails the documentary format, it falls down when it comes to the comedy. That is not saying that the show is not a funny one. It is, but that it’s the wrong sort of humour for a mockumentary. It is too obviously scripted, with not enough organic banter meaning that the jokes do not always hit the mark.
Watching Kurtan angrily rate other entrants tickles is delightful, however, as he expunges a deluge of disgust for his competition: a personal favourite being, “It was meant to be Beetlejuice but fuck me did it look like Kerry”. His ridiculous bribery of voters with free potatoes tickled my rural funny bones with both its absurdity but also believability.
Kerry’s storyline is slightly weaker in comparison, where the jokes are more predictable. Her desire to be seen as a badass is largely predictable and the scandal that her ‘gang’ is made up of 11-year-olds produces little more than a smile that soon disappears.
On the whole, though, it’s a solid, if slightly genre-skewed, effort. The stars clearly have chemistry, and excellent comic timing, but the script feels more suited to a sitcom, rather than this half-baked mockumentary.
Image Credit: BBC/ Sophie Mutevellan