Thursday 29 October 2015

BBC Metal Detecting Comedy on Again

The TV comedy series (BBC4 Thursdays at 22:00) "Detectorists" comes back for a second season.
Andy Brockman has reviewed the first episode and given it a good write up highlighting some of the wider aspects and most of what he says matches my own thoughts.

Although he does not make much of it at all, I was pretty appalled by the idea that metal detecting around a standing stone is being depicted at the beginning (though it is a fallen one and there aren’t any to speak of in Essexshire anyway). This is a good illustration of the whole issue of these people irresponsibly targeting known sites in their collecting activities, which is a huge contrast with the official propaganda for their "partners" by the PAS that suggests that this is not happening. Shame on the PAS. But then, as the opening makes clear, while they are hoiking around the stone, their "work" (I use the term loosely) does not actually reflect the archaeology of that site. Artefact hunting with metal detectors on archaeological sites is not ersatz archaeology. It is nothing of the kind.

Regular viewers will know that the leitmotif of the BBC series is that "not finding" the real picture of the areas searched. This is a constant with the activities of the "Danebury Metal Detecting Club" and the series two main heroes. Thus the rather pathetic selection on show in the 'Finds Table scene'.  Mr Brockman write about it, but clearly does not know that the “naked calendar” motif (with the find pouches as modesty covers) which figures large there is actually based on two real instances. A photo exists which Mr Crook has possibly come across – my readers will forgive me for not posting it, it is not a pretty sight (you can try Mr Google). The calendar was actually in the planning, for that you can check out Dick Stout’s blog (in the section “what we are really like”). In the last series, one or two of the gags seemed to suggest a knowledge of some of the themes of this blog, for the second season they’ve obviously gone for the representative crème de la crème of the detecting world, the likes of Dick Stout and John Howland, those stalwart "ambassadors for the hobby". The second season therefore has a bad language warning absent in the first.

It seems from the first episode that there will be a aeroplane crash site hunt.  Mr Brockman shares the same curiosity about the search permit for the project.
As that plotline develops, we may find out just how good Mackenzie Crook's research has been as the DMDC should know that any attempt to dig up a military aircraft in the UK requires a licence from the Ministry of Defence and they are not normally granted where missing aircrew are believed to be present.
Some readers may understand my interest if they recall my comments on the extraordinary behaviour of Roger Bland’s PAS seven years ago when one of their metal detecting “partners” found something on an aeroplane crash site  in Newark for which no search permit was ever issued ('Newark Torc questions', Wednesday, 10 December 2008; 'Newark Aircraft Crash Site Questions', Saturday, 28 March 2009). Online news stories were rewritten overnight. If there is no mention, PAS "outreach" will once again be seen to have been an expensive failure [UPDATE: 5th November 2015, well, there was a mention of a permit in the second episode. Let us see if they get one, so well done PAS (?)].

But most of all, the comedy gains its energy from focussing on the dysfunctionality of the sort of folk who get attracted to metal detecting in the UK and, as Brockman observes, the series explores "the sadness and despair" and "the paranoia, jealousies and feuding, so characteristic of the real world of metal detecting".
For both Andy and Lance, metal detecting is an escape into a world of promise, however distant. The bucolic outdoor version of that other escape route, the lottery ticket and with the odds stacked just as much against a life changing success.
UK metal detectorists did not see it that way at all, having posted 31 pages of comments like "woo hoo, metal detecting's gonna be on TV agin", on watching that first episode comments were rather subdued, and showed that the detectorists really had not got the joke. Member "T2Devon" (Thu Oct 29, 2015 11:25 pm) complained
"Bit of a slow start [...] [I] Just wish they'd find something - something that us detectorists can identify with - and find something maybe a bit more worthwhile so the non-detecting viewers don't think we're all total nuts!
"British Beef" (Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:55 am): "felt it was a bit on the slow side. Not sure why the finds table scene needed to be so long". Duh. 

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