Watch Of The Week: Cunk On Earth
The genius is in its stupidity. By seeming to take everything and nothing too seriously, the mockumentary Cunk on Earth is one of the smartest shows on streaming. You’ll actually learn things! About the world! While laughing! Created by Charlie Brooker, of Black Mirror fame, Cunk on Earth features actor Diane Morgan playing a documentary host named Philomena Cunk.
Over five episodes, the witless Cunk will traverse the history of civilization, and she’ll impart wisdom about the Greeks inventing democracy and olives, the Crusades and Galileo Galilei. Like any other earnest TV personality, she stares down the camera, preferably against a sweeping backdrop which showcases the vastness of this planet and addresses the viewer.
“This is our planet, planet Earth. It’s a planet I’m literally on right now. And unless you’re
watching this on a long-haul flight or falling off a building, chances are, you are too.” It’s hard to argue with that point.
By commandeering the style of the documentary, Cunk on Earth rattles through a list of the major
touchpoints in Western history with a surprising finesse, considering it is ultimately a comedy series. Her hapless curiosity leads her to ask, “Why are pyramids that shape? Is it to stop homeless people sleeping on them?” Or comparing the fate of Marie Curie to Bruce Banner.
“He gets to be a superhero, and he gets his own comic book and movie franchise; Marie Curie just
gets killed. He got to be the Hulk. That’s not fair, is it? Is it the fault of the patriarchy? Also, what is a patriarchy?” She’s not just asking the audience.
Cunk is asking questions of experts, including professors in science, global politics, Ancient Greek language and literature, history, classics, military history, music and more. The set-up is the familiar banter of question and answer, except the bemused scholars are being quizzed,
“Why don’t bicycles have toilets?” As brilliantly deadpan as Morgan is as Cunk, it’s these real-life experts who steal the show.
According to the filmmakers, none of their responses is scripted – they’re directed to answer as earnestly as possible as if being asked a dumb question by a child. The show wouldn’t work if the academics weren’t such good sports and talents. Brooker and his team of writers could come up with the best zingers, but if the experts hadn’t turned up to play, it would all fall apart.
So, thank God for smart people because even the intentionally idiotic can be redeemed by the
brainy. Cunk On Earth is streaming now on Netflix.
Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.