"Detectorists" (Netflix, Acorn TV). Originally available only to stream from the niche-y Anglomaniacal Acorn TV, this deep and delightful comedy, which sat at the top of my 2015 best-of list, is now also up on Netflix -- a much-deserved instant widening of reach. Written, directed by and starring Mackenzie Crook, best known here as the wooden-eyed sailor Ragetti in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films and the wildling warg Orell on "Game of Thrones," it's a quiet, small-town comedy, set among misfit hobbyists who go off into the woods and fields with metal detectors, searching for Saxon gold but really looking to connect with something bigger and older and deeper than themselves. "I wanted it to be a love song to the English countryside," Crook told me in an interview last year, mentioning Thomas Hardy as influence; the trees and grass and passing birds all have a role to play. There's something almost Shakespearean, too, in its scope and setting: a romantic, bromantic pastoral comedy in which characters go from the town to the country and into the woods, to be translated, broadened, changed, improved or beloved.
Crook, in a less eccentric, more rounded role than other directors have tended to offer him, plays Andy, a temp worker with vague plans to return to school and pursue a degree in archeology; his vagueness extends to his relationship with his live-in schoolteacher girlfriend, Becky (Rachael Stirling, Diana Rigg's daughter, visibly);
As an appetizer or side dish to this impending feast – depending figuratively on when you get to it – there a related audiobook, "Portlandia Traveloque: The Brussels to Antwerp Express," available free throughout the season from Audible. Ready by Armisen in the person of Candace Devereaux, co-proprietor of the series Women and Women First Bookstore – an unusually sophisticated and well-heeled version of Candace will appear in the season's fifth episode "Breaking Up," an almost perfectly straight-faced pastiche of a romantic drama -- it purports to be a breathy, self-approving erotic memoir of a "cross-country trip through Belgium": "Before French kissing became the celebrated physical manifestation of lovers around the world there was Belgian kissing; Belgian kissing was purely all upper lip; traditionally the lower lip remained motionless and morte – dead – while the tongue hid away at the very back of the mouth."