Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Cunk on Earth [Media Notes 89]

Think about the title for a moment, Cunk on Earth. “Cunk” – is that a person’s name, an interrogative, a noun, or what?

I suppose we’re dealing with a mockumentary aimed at those sweeping BBC series that give us the wondrous scoop on everything. It’s deeply ironic without, without being – and this is the peculiar part – without, it seems to be, being parodic. I goes beyond parody to something else. Whatever else it is, Philomena Cunk, played by Diane Morgan, is giving it to us deadpan straight.

I’ve just watched the second episode, which opens with Philomena strolling around Rome and telling us:

The time is half past Rome o’clock B.C.
The Romanite Empire is at its most biggest.
But despite the fancy columns and mosaics,
there was an emptiness at the heart of Roman culture.
Holding endless wine-fueled orgies
in cramped vomitoriums is all very well.
But eventually you need something more.
And also a mop.
Humans craved enlightenment.
To find it, they’d need
a spiritual role model, and icon,
an almost Christ-like figure.

At this point we know what’s coming, but don’t anticipate the little twist with which it comes:

And as luck would have it,
someone fitting that bill was about to arrive.
None other than Mr. Jesus Christ.

I suppose they could have had an “H” in there, but that would have been overkill. The “Mr.” is far more effective.

The whole thing is like that, though at times far zanier. Moreover it would seem that the “experts” Philomena Cunk interviews are, in fact that, experts. Each has their own way of getting along with it, whatever it is. For example (quoting from the NYTimes):

On her BBC show investigating the history of humanity, Philomena Cunk interviews Martin Kemp, a professor at the University of Oxford, about the Renaissance period.

“Which was more culturally significant, the Renaissance or ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyoncé?” she asks the academic with all seriousness.

Kemp pauses before patiently answering. The Renaissance was trying to reform culture as a whole, he says, and “whatever Beyoncé does, I don’t think she’s quite got that ambition.”

Cunk responds with bewilderment: “So what, the work of a few straight white men just blows Beyoncé out of the water?”

I’d say I can’t wait for the third episode. Nor do I have to since all of them are available on Netflix. But why binge my way through this in a single sitting? Better to savor it over successive evenings.

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