This Country: Threatening Letters
You wouldn't believe the difficulty I am having finding programmes to blog about which would be suitable as Television for a Time of Strife. So many programmes, when you come to look at them, include references to plagues, government corruption, espionage, poverty, injustice, that they really aren't suitable. For that reason here I am blogging about this wonderful mockumentary about a Cotswolds village with a character heavily based on serial killer Fred West. All I can say is that strange things will start to be entertaining as the level of strife increases, and writing this post is how I found on tvtropes.org that there is a thing called Comedic Sociopathy. Perhaps I should mention that this show has a Uk rating of 15 for Strong Language and Sex References.
The show is made by real life siblings (Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper as Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe), playing members of their fictional family the Mucklowes, and based on real events in Cirencester, although filmed in Gloucestershire village Northleach. The character based on Fred West is Daisy/Kerry's dad Martin, played by the siblings' real life dad Paul Cooper. Cooper incidentally in his own time has a thing where he helps hoarders. As is my way I am going to be devastatingly upfront with my own personal bias, which is that this show scares me witless, because it's set in a village. I'm not slow to acknowledge the problems of city life, shootings, drugs, and so on, but a village to my mind has all the same problems amplified and inbred over centuries. It's my utter utter nightmare. And cows. And what they leave behind. Really scary.
In this one Kerry Mucklowe has been getting threatening sexual letters and gets protection from Mandy, the village psychopath and tattooist, who collects toy meerkats from comparethemeerkat.com. Mandy is really bloody terrifying, however has a go at being empathetic in this one by explaining to Kerry how she understands being stalked. At quite a late stage in the show, in a way which feels like a bucket of cold water, she reveals that she understands this because she was the one doing the stalking, not the stalkee!
Meanwhile Kurtan has got some work on the building site with Kerry's dad, where of course he's subjected to all sorts of humiliation and bullying. I love the way Paul Cooper plays the utterly cold and psychopathic Fred West character. He offers Kurtan work in front of Kerry, completely ignoring and blanking her. Elsewhere in the series he involves his daughter in looking after stolen vacuum cleaners for him and she is loyal to him when she gets arrested and he just drops her in it completely. This is the real genius of this show: that it is absolutely screamingly funny yet portrays some very scary stuff such as violence and psychopathy. In doing it this way it actually portrays them more sympathetically and I think enables a better understanding than many a documentary. The scary thing is that Paul Cooper is actually exactly what Fred West would have been like in reality, and probably with kids in every village around. In fact elsewhere Martin references him directly:
'The last Thursday of every month I used to play pool with Fred West. I know he done some iffy things but as a builder he was top notch.'
Ultimately the letter writer is discovered only for Kerry to say she doesn't mind him getting off on writing her the letters as long as there's nothing sexual in the letters. But the main reason for her relief is that she was far more terrified of Mandy than she was of her stalker. Because this clip contains reference to and dramatic depiction of a stonk on, I've put it on a separate page here.
The high point of this episode is the bit where Kerry is playing Happy Families with Mandy and Mandy is just making up the rules as she goes along to her benefit.
Watch it, or Mandy will get you.
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