Motherland and The Detectorists herald a good time for new comedy

Comedy seems to be stuck in a timewarp at the moment '“ just look at the reboot of Porridge currently clogging up BBC1, or ponder the inexplicable success of Mrs Brown's Boys, which attracts millions of viewers despite being as funny as a poke in the eye with a stick.

Friday, 10th November 2017, 11:03 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:15 pm
The cast of the new BBC2 sitcom Motherland, including Diane Morgan (second left) and Anna Maxwell Martin (centre)
The cast of the new BBC2 sitcom Motherland, including Diane Morgan (second left) and Anna Maxwell Martin (centre)

But the BBC struck gold with two sitcoms this week, and at first glance they couldn’t be more different.

Motherland (BBC2, Tuesdays, 10pm) was totally urban, revolving around flat whites, Smeg ovens and the struggle for mothers to balance work, family and expectations of the middle class.

Detectorists (BBC4, Wednesdays, 10pm), on the other hand, was defiantly rural, pastoral – the modern, bustling world only intruding to build a massive solar farm on the favourite metal detecting spot of best friends Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook).

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Motherland raced through its plot, as mum Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin) struggled to organise a last-minute dream party for daughter Izzy, so as not to lose face in the eyes of alpha-mum Amanda.

Detectorists, meanwhile, meandered along, following Lance and Andy across the fields, and into the pub, punctuated by chats about the ideal dinner party guest (not Stephen Fry, by the way, he gets invited to too many).

Vitally, they shared a couple of similarities. They were based on real characters, not grotesques in a twin set or a ducker-and-diver last seen in Minder. And they were both funny. Motherland was gag-heavy, sweary, laugh-out-loud funny, while Detectorists was droll, dry, laidback funny.

And, unlike Ma Brown or Fletch, they both talk about life today, not life as it was 40 years ago. And comedy should always look forward, not back.

Blue Planet II (BBC1, Sundays, 8pm) continues to test our credulity, this week with an episode in the deepest parts of the ocean, which featured a fish with legs and saltwater lake at the bottom of the sea.

Masterchef: The Professionals (BBC2, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8pm) is my favourite Masterchef show as it has much less of egg-headed grunt machine Gregg Wallace than the others.