The BBC has a strong track record of making comedies that find humour in the most mundane situations, including hits such as The Office, The Royle Family and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Now in its final season, This Country has proven to be another worthy addition to the list, with show creators (and siblings) Charlie and Daisy May Cooper producing a constant stream of quality comedy in the most unlikely of settings – the Great British countryside.
Yet what makes this show particularly interesting is that it is much more than just a comedy: This Country has some surprisingly impactful storytelling and a number of important messages. While on the surface the programme may seem to be making fun of the rural lifestyle, it’s actually a nuanced and skillfully drawn representation of these areas, demonstrating the struggles these communities face but also the heart that they possess.
Each episode of This Country is underpinned with an important message about the rural community in the UK, with every seemingly trivial plot highlighting key issues within an area of society that is so often overlooked.
One clear example, as crazy as it sounds, is the episode where Kurtan (Charlie Cooper) wants to go to TK Maxx. While the premise is more than ordinary, the episode itself is memorably hilarious – but it also brings up an important point about the lives of young people in deprived rural areas. We all want to go shopping, but while most of us can simply get in the car or hop on a bus to get there, countryside communities often lack the same luxury.
Kurtan’s reliance on the vicar (an excellent Paul Chahidi) to get him to TK Maxx leads to some fantastic comedic moments, but subtly highlights a bigger issue: without help from other people, a lot of young people like Kurtan simply cannot get out of their village, as public transport in these areas is so poor. While a trip to the shops is not crucial (despite Kurtan’s insistence that the best clothes arrive on the first Saturday of the month), the show highlights that a lack of transport options hits young people in these communities on a wider level, preventing them from getting better jobs and seeking new opportunities.
This Country also shows the potential that these young people have, as Kurtan does eventually get a job and truly cares about it. In season two, Kurtan becomes a bartender at the local bowls club, and achieves a lot during his time there. He is passionate and successful and, while his somewhat excessive enthusiasm is expertly exploited for laughs, the Coopers once again make an important point. Given opportunities, those in rural areas would have a lot to offer, but as things stand a many young people’s chances are severely limited, and their potential wasted.
Finally, and more seriously, the episode ‘The Vicar’s Son’ tackles a deeply problematic issue in deprived areas: a lack of support for those struggling with drink and drug issues. “Cuts to public health funding have seen sharp rises in the levels of alcohol dependence and drug addiction in the UK. In rural communities these problems are often worsened by a lack of support services,” the episode states.
For a comedy, this is a surprisingly poignant issue to engage with, and the show does it brilliantly. The points are once again made under the guise of comedy, but this is ultimately a clear and intelligent indictment of the government’s handling of these issues. It’s brave and bold, but is layered with delightful moments of humour – influencing the audience without preaching to them.
The dynamic between Kerry (Daisy May Cooper) and her father, Martin Mucklowe (Paul Cooper), also demonstrates the writers’ ability to inject emotion into their storytelling. Kerry’s desperation to win the approval of her dad is, again, often played for comedic effect, but it also adds some genuinely heart-wrenching moments to the bizarre antics of the show’s characters.
The final few episodes of season two, as Kerry is forced to come to terms with Martin’s pure detestability and lack of affection, are executed with nuance and proficiency, each emotional beat hitting home with full force. It ends on a genuine cliffhanger that any bingeable Netflix show would be proud of, and as the screen fades to black you realise how much you care for these ridiculous characters.
In a programme like this, you rarely form a bond with those on screen – that’s not usually the point – but this is something more. Rather than simply observing these characters, you feel like you know them, with the show establishing a real connection with the audience through its writing and performances.
With such emotional storytelling, and the ability to underpin hilarious storylines with important messages about rural life in the UK, This Country is undoubtedly more than just a comedy. The writing is genius, and the Coopers deserve full credit for the work they’ve done. With the programme soon coming to a close, Kurtan and Kerry will be missed – but their story will live on.
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