Scrotal Recall; Detectorists; Peaky Blinders review – two charming comedies about sex and metal-detecting, and the return of the Shelby gang

Not just a good pun, but an apt one too, as Scrotal Recall’s chlamydia-stricken Dylan tries to contact all the people he’s ever slept with

It’s never a good idea to have a pun in a name. Book titles, bands, babies, yachts, TV shows, anything. Come up with it, say it out loud, have a laugh, have a groan, move on, that’s the correct behaviour. What’s funny now won’t be next week. Even a good pun – which, admittedly, Scrotal Recall (Channel 4) is – will irritate in time, if you have to live with it. Imagine if it gets recommissioned.

It’s not just a good pun, but an apt one too. Dylan (played by likable actor/folk singer/posh boy Johnny Flynn) finds out he has chlamydia and must contact all the people he’s ever slept with, to tell them the news. So memory and (presumably) nutsacks do come in to it. But there’s a sweaty, visceral, hairy, loose-skinned crudity about the title that doesn’t quite fit Tom Edge’s new comedy, tonally.

Dylan’s doing it – recalling his sex life – alphabetically, starting with A, for Abigail, three years ago at a wedding. Which one is she, though? The new girlfriend, who dumps him, during the marriage service? One of the bridesmaids? The hot vicar (complete with dog collar, woof woof)? “Definitely top of the wedding sex pyramid,” says Dylan’s louche mate Luke (Daniel Ings). So there’s a guessing game, a nice element of whodun’im about it. [Spoiler alert: don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t yet seen it and plan to.] The answer turns out to be none of the above, but the girl behind the desk of the hotel. It’s obvious, in retrospect. “Ding if you need me,” she said. He did, so he did.

There’s more to Scrotal Recall than ding-dong and scrotums and “wall-to-wall snatch” (louche Luke’s description of the wedding), though. It’s about Dylan’s examination of himself, and his relationship with women, including best friend/true love Evie (Antonia Thomas from Misfits). It’s about how love hurts, and not just when he pees. There’s something of Four Weddings about it, and One Day (you know, by David Nicholls, whose new novel Us is already being read by the person opposite you on the train). Charming, then. But also with drunkenness, and falling over, and bodily fluids. And it’s very funny. I already hope it gets recommissioned. I can live with the title.

Also charming, but less scrotal: Detectorists (BBC4), a new comedy written by, directed by, and starring Mackenzie Crook. Apart from local eccentric Larry Bishop’s land, which has never been gone over with a metal detector before, it’s not especially new ground. A pair of oddball middle-aged men, metal detectorists working a ploughed field, find shotgun caps, blakeys, a ringpull (’83, Tizer) and – beep beep beep beep beep – ancient history student Sophie! Circa 1990, I’d guess, certainly much younger than Lance and Andy, whose collected dreams suddenly aren’t just about Saxon treasures.

We’re talking nerds, and nerdy male friendship, midlife crises, all that. But it’s sharp, nicely observed, good to look at, with lovely understated performances from Crook and Toby Jones.

And the Peaky Blinders (BBC2) are back – the Shelby family, with their caps pulled down so you can’t see their eyes, delivering menace and fear in the shadows, with an era-inappropriate soundtrack and a Brummie accent. I find I have one of them, too, for at least an hour after the final credits.

We’ve moved on a few years, to the 1920s, and Thomas takes a trip in the Bugatti with his brothers and a body (that gets buried on the way), to London to … well, beat the crap out of a lot of people. Maybe they’ve done everyone in Brum.

They’re expanding the business to the other end of the Grand Union canal. And it’s exciting because London is a freak show of jazz and cocaine and crazy dancing, plus there are Italian and Jewish gangs to take on, on their own turf. It’s super-stylish, bold, looks great, sounds great, and that PJ Harvey song fits beautifully into the 1920s. Maybe I’m not supposed to, but I still can’t quite take Peaky Blinders very seriously though. There’s something cartoonish, parodic even, about it. Boardwalk Empire relocated to the West Midlands. Bullring Empire?

Actually, it’s a shame Thomas and his hard-arse brothers and their equally hard-arse womenfolk aren’t in Birmingham today. They’d liven up that Tory party conference a bit; show those Bullingdon boys who’s really boss.


Sam Wollaston

The GuardianTramp

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