- Directed by Christian Watt
- September 19, 2022
- BBC Two/Netflix
Intrepid journalist Philomena Cunk dives into the world in which we live in only the way she can.
I had heard about the mockumentary Cunk on Earth not that long ago and decided to finally give it a look. The character of Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) has a bit of a history so I was curious if the character deserved it. And from the looks of it the character certainly does.
Early on this five episode limited series establishes itself as insanely hilarious. In that dry British style, the jokes start coming steady. Cunk is genuinely clueless and knows only enough to say really stupid things that indicate how out of her depth she is. And Morgan performs the role to such perfection you have trouble believing this is an actress playing a part. It all comes so naturally.
And more importantly she interviews real experts and asks odd and often stupid questions. Sometimes you could view the question as coming from a place of simply not knowing so the expert could understandably be suckered into responding. At other points the individual’s chain is clearly being yanked. Ever make a joke and see how far you can run with it before the person catches on? Were the experts in on this? Were they clueless? Not sure. It could be a mix. Those that were in on it were told to not make jokes and react seriously.
There is no intent to necessarily be mean. Like I said this is a person playing a joke and running with it as long as they can. Those being interviewed are being polite because they sat down for someone they thought was informed enough to ask intelligent questions but find themselves with a boob.
In Cunk on Earth there are a series of running gags or recurring elements in this that help to drive home the absurdity or are just funny. Cunk has this weird obsession with “Pump Up the Jam” by Belgian electronic music group Technotronic. At random moments Cunk loops back whatever they are talking about to that song. And as a few seconds of it plays little text blurbs accompany the video and are just as funny as anything you might find in the show.
Just about every documentary with a visible host has a walking shot with that host. They’re walking through ruins or just simply walking somewhere or in front of a building that ties into whatever the next topic is. Here they do that and go on just a bit too long like Cunk or the crew has no idea when to stop. Cunk interjects random elements of her own life into her such as her ex-Sean or some story about her friends that weirdly connects.
And Cunk on Earth is presented like the real thing. It has all the trappings and the slick editing and everything you would expect in a legitimate BBC documentary. They play it completely straight from start to finish which makes it even funnier. It’s like watching something ridiculous happen before your eyes and those involved have no clue it’s as stupid as it really is.
I laughed out loud. The jokes are witty and the humor is just perfect. It is a genuinely funny parody of a serious documentary. It also pokes at the self-serious journalist stuck on themselves that does not know how uninformed they actually are. The humor I find reminiscent of stuff by ZAZ. It has that kind of reality skewering weirdness to it. It plays on your expectations and then goes against them in a rather funny way.
At certain points you can see there is clearly a point of view held by the people behind it. And that’s fine. I didn’t care because they put entertainment first. Their focus was on the humor and anything they had to say came second and that’s why it is just genuinely funny. And it helps that there are no sacred cows that they are afraid to go after. Nothing is too sensitive. They go after Christianity AND Islam.
Cunk on Earth is a brilliant mockumentary that fans of good humor and legitimate documentaries should watch. This is a loving ribbing of the genre and enjoyable as well.