The ancient Greeks also invented theatre, in all its tedious forms.Philomena Cunk, Cunk on Earth, Episode 1
Next Tuesday, January 31, Cunk on Earth will finally arrive on Netflix in the United States, following its premiere on Netflix UK last year. If you poked around on YouTube enough you may have seen a few episodes already, but this marks the official US premiere of the terrific documentary parody, so now’s your chance to see it without those annoying ads.
I wrote about the show last November 22 and repost my comments below. And, although the YouTube episodes are disappearing at the request of Netflix, you can catch her study of the Bard of Avon in the admirable Cunk on Shakespeare at the end of this post, in which she is joined by Simon Russell Beale.
Cunk on Earth, a new documentary series parody co-produced by the BBC and Netflix and premiered on the BBC in September, packs more laughs into every minute than any show I’ve seen in years. Grimly moronic broadcaster Philomena Cunk, played by Diane Morgan, hosts a five-episode series about the history of civilization, endlessly spewing inaccuracy and nonsense as she traipses through caves, museums, and deserts, baffling experts but never losing sight of her own illusory expertise, gleaned through Wikipedia pages and TikTok videos. The Guardian review of the show is here.
Philomena Cunk was created by Charlie Brooker in 2016 for his BBC Weekly Wipe series as one of several characters commenting on current events, and she proved so popular that she was featured in her own series, Cunk on Britain, two years later. A favorite in Britain, the new series bids well for similar success here. Along with Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ Fleabag and the surreal Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Cunk on Earth is a product of the comedic generation after Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan: more than parodies, their characters satirize self-confidence, arrogance, and ignorance, not only of the media but also of the culture. (Indeed, Cunk may herself be Alan Partridge‘s illegitimate daughter.) Part of the fun of watching these shows is amazement at the blithe, supreme, entirely unearned self-confidence of these characters; another pleasure is admiration for the pitch-perfect parodies of their forms — cultural documentary series, children’s show — which are themselves undermined in the process.