It’s always been hard for me to recommend British comedy shows to my friends. There’s something about the dry humor that never really clicks with them or they have a hard time getting over the English accent. I do think it’s a shame because there are a lot of British comedy programs that are really good. There’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Absolutely Fabulous and The IT Crowd. There are even the unscripted programs like QI and the original Whose Line Is It Anyway? just to name a few. The one thing that’s really prevented me from watching British comedy shows is they’re not readily available here in the Philippines. Most of them are carried by BBC and the only way I can really watch these kinds of shows is by trolling the Internet, hoping I can watch a good quality copy on YouTube or something like that.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see that Netflix actually acquired the BBC’s mockumentary, Cunk on Earth, and made it available all over the world. I have come across clips of Philomena Cunk interviewing several experts on different topics before but I only saw short clips of her antics. Netflix finally allowed me to see what she has to offer with Cunk on Earth and I’m glad they did.
Cunk on Earth is basically a mockumentary follows Philomena Cunk, landmark documentary presenter, as she delves into pretty much the entire history of humankind, starting from the dawn of civilization all the way to present times. Each of the show’s five episodes covers a different segment on history, such as the birth of religion and Renaissance, with Philomena Cunk, in her own dimwitted way, tells viewers about the time period. She also does go around interviewing experts in specific fields… with varying results.
I actually watched through all of Cunk on Earth’s five episodes pretty quickly as they are edited into half an hour digestible chunks. In fact, it did feel like I breezed through the entire mockumentary series as I was thoroughly entertained by the quick-witted and deadpan humor peppered throughout the show. I really did like the rather fast-paced timing of a lot of the jokes and how Diane Morgan, who plays Philomena Cunk, plays it straight throughout.
This really comes into play during the interview portions. Diane Morgan does a really good job of coming off as really earnest during these moments. She gives all of the statements as if she’s so sure of them despite not really getting things right a lot of the times. She would ask experts about subjects like “the Cube and Missile Crisis” and the “darkages” and, even when the experts try to correct her, she’d insist she was right. I also love how she would sort of make the interviewees uneasy with perplexing questions and odd comments and I love how the experts also act serious and they do try to answer her insane questions. I learned that they are told it’s all a gag but they have to treat the interview like they’re talking to a child. It does add a lot to why these moments are funny as Phimomena Cunk is still the butt of the joke because I think it would be mean-spirited if they weren’t.
I will say, however, they could’ve done with the historical re-enactments in the mockumentary. These are the segments when Philomena Cunk would interact with some figures of the past, like Jesus and Galileo. It’s not that they’re bad, though. It’s mostly because they’re used too sparingly. Because of this, they do feel weirdly out of place to me. On the other hand, I guess the same thing could be said during the portions when Philomena Cunk would be dressed up in time appropriate garb but that strangely worked for me.
Another thing that worked for me are the recurring jokes sprinkled throughout the five episodes. Things like her referring to something crazy her mate Paul did or finding a way to take a jab at her ex, Sean. Probably one of the recurring gags I looked forward to was how they would find a way to work in the “Belgian techno anthem, Pump Up the Jam” in one way or another. They would actually play a good long minute or two of Pump Up the Jam while revealing “facts” about the song. It does seem random why they would pick Pump Up the Jam. But, by the end, it does make sense. Kinda. Anyway, I always looked forward to it being played as it would come unexpectedly for me, even though I already knew to expect it.
All-in-all, I am recommending everyone to watch Cunk on Earth, whether it be on Netflix or the BBC. However, I do understand it will not be for all people as the humor is still very dry and British. People who aren’t used to this kind of humor probably won’t get some of the jokes. I also think there’s going to be a segment who’ll wish Cunk on Earth took the history lesson more seriously, which would kind of be missing the point of the mockumentary. Still, Diane Morgan’s deadpan delivery fits perfectly with the rather absurdist tone. It actually makes me wish Netflix would go whole hog and get the entire catalog of Cunk’s specials available for the whole world to see. But, for now, I guess I’ll be trolling YouTube to see if anyone’s made it available for viewing over there.
Have you seen Cunk on Earth? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!
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