The factor I recognize most about Diane Morgan’s Philomena Cunk character, launched as a part of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe present occasions mockumentary sequence, is that after you have a personality with the title Philomena Cunk, do you really need the rest?
It’s an ideal comedy character appellation, with a very flowery first title and a wonderfully terse final title that incorporates a number of comedy “Ok” sounds and can all the time be adjoining to a considerably taboo — much less so within the U.Ok. — soiled phrase.
Cunk on Earth
The Backside Line
A tremendous and sometimes instructional introduction to a singularly foolish comedian character.
You then get the precise character herself. Cunk was first introduced as a dim-bulb interviewer/commentator in three- to five-minute segments that had been characterised by her ignorance and spotty analysis. However then, one way or the other, the character and idea had been enlarged upon in various half-hour specials, after which within the BBC Two sequence Cunk on Britain. Now her second prolonged sequence, Cunk on Earth (one other BBC Two launch), has expanded the character so efficiently and made her so relatable that the brand new present is coming to Netflix for publicity to international audiences who might need missed all her earlier incarnations.
Certain, you may go on YouTube and watch most of Philomena Cunk’s earlier TV appearances forward of Cunk on Earth, or you may test them out after Cunk on Earth. However actually it doesn’t matter, as a result of Philomena Cunk has turned out to be more and more humorous the extra Brooker and Morgan use her, which is way from regular in relation to the enlargement of initially one-note characters. They usually’ve achieved this with out sacrificing the character’s mockumentary core.
At 5 half-hour episodes, Cunk on Earth is a persistently droll, ceaselessly pleasant sequence that mixes excessive and low comedy at a breakneck tempo. The punchlines don’t all the time land — partly due to inconsistency in the best way the character has advanced — but when one commentary feels too glib or one goal feels too on-the-nose, don’t fear. Philomena Cunk will probably be transferring proper alongside to the subsequent. By the tip of those episodes, darned if I wasn’t seeing indicators of precise emotion and depth poking by. They’ll make an actual individual of Philomena Cunk but!
I wasn’t kidding in regards to the tempo of Cunk on Earth. Over the 5 episodes, the documentary-style sequence covers the entire of human progress from the primary Homo sapiens — “We frequently assume early males had been silly, as a result of that they had large eyebrows and mentioned ‘Ugg’ ” — to historical civilizations to fashionable religions to the Darkish Ages and the Renaissance to the worldwide enlargement of Western civilization to the Industrial Revolution to twentieth century wars and twenty first century expertise. There’s a lot materials that Cunk on Earth can’t assist however really feel slightly extra superficial than Cunk on Britain, with its hints of exploratory depth. However that doesn’t imply there aren’t pleasures in available when Philomena Cunk embarks on a journey of exploratory breadth.
The self-esteem treats Cunk as a considerably dead-eyed model of David Attenborough, touring the globe — presumably for actual and presumably simply through greenscreen — and talking with extremely embellished specialists about all crucial issues associated to civilization, together with whether or not early people had the identical variety of holes as we’ve got, why society tends towards violent battle, and the enduring pleasures of the video for Technotronic’s hit “Pump Up the Jam.”
Morgan, who Netflix viewers might know from Ricky Gervais’ After Life, is a assured performer with a different vary. She’s deliberately understated and even bland, but when it’s required by the bit, she’s able to doing a pratfall down a sand dune or getting whacked within the head by a wood plank wielded by a Jesus impersonator. The writing staff, led by Brooker, offers Morgan foolish non sequiturs and ridiculous mispronunciations — I’m nonetheless guffawing at her announcing “Bible” as one thing nearer to “Bibble” — however there’s an advanced, typically casually tossed-off joke construction to her prattle, like praising the smartphone as “extremely superior and but on the identical time so easy a baby could make one.”
I’m unsure that Cunk’s Marxist-adjacent skepticism — she’s significantly cynical in regards to the increasing American empire — traces up with the character a lot as with Brooker’s worldview, nor do I totally purchase Cunk’s existential ache at realizing that Laika, the primary canine in area, died whereas up there, however these are issues that give the character nuance and provide a reminder of how good and full a efficiency Morgan is giving. It’s within the David Brent or Stephen Colbert — the man from The Colbert Report, not the true man — vein of dedicated obliviousness.
The sequence and the character are at their greatest in Cunk’s interviews with specialists, as she politely, if considerably indifferently, asks numerous Cambridge and Oxford educators questions like “Why do people must imagine in one thing greater than ourselves? Is it so we don’t really feel fairly so fats?” or “Why does humankind really feel the necessity to invent killing machines like this? And will you retain your reply to a type of sound-bite size?” Whether or not the specialists precisely know what they’re moving into — some have been earlier Cunk assets, whereas others are utilized in a number of chapters on this sequence — they largely attempt to present little instructional highlights to counter their interviewer’s inevitable confusion. You gained’t study so much from Cunk on Earth, however you’ll purchase little bits and items of trivia or historic connectivity.
The perfect of the interview topics are even able to find mental depths within the stupidest of Cunk questions, which in flip frustrates Philomena Cunk, which in flip turns into even funnier. When an interviewee takes the time to point out concern about Cunk’s cluelessness, quite than simply simmering annoyance or frustration, it’s maybe greater than she deserves, however positively what we, as viewers, deserve.
Inside the format idea of Cunk being a landmark documentary presenter on a landmark documentary, Cunk on Earth tries sometimes to department out in type. One episode has a really humorous fake business that I gained’t spoil — it made me chuckle so much. The episode on faith and the Darkish Ages climaxes with a bizarrely imaginative one-woman fantasy sequence. A few smaller prospers fall flat, however at the least they don’t final lengthy.
It’s largely enjoyable watching Brooker and Morgan work out the brand new and various things they’ll do with this character. For American audiences, Cunk on Earth works as a no-context-required introduction. Worse involves worst, it’s all the time simply humorous to say “Philomena Cunk.”