Canadians are consistently the funniest people in the world as far as I’m concerned, which is hard to reconcile with the stereotype that we’re boring and forgettable. So I don’t try, I just think of us as funny and the stereotype as another example of how Americans are just not as good as we are. Above all else, Canadians specialize in satire. I have to think that is inherited from our former colonizers, as the British may love satire more than we do.
But just as Canada is not Britain (because in 1867 we asked politely if we could be our own country from then on, and the Brits were like, didn’t you already leave when the Americans did?), British satire is a whole other thing from ours. I have always been fascinated by how there really is no middle ground in North America – either you devour British satire or you think it’s unbearable. Personally, I find Steve Coogan a good test for one’s tolerance for British satire. If he cracks you up then you are going to enjoy Mindhorn, whereas if you’re thinking, “Who the hell is Steve Coogan?” then you should probably give Mindhorn a pass.
I think Coogan is hilarious so of course Mindhorn made me laugh. As a bonus, Coogan is not just a random reference I decided to use. He’s also a bit player in Mindhorn along with a ton of familiar Brits (including a great cameo by a guy nicknamed “Kenny B.”). But Mindhorn is co-writer Julian Barratt’s vehicle, and he is terrific as Richard Thorncroft/Mindhorn, a washed-up actor/TV detective. Mindhorn’s gimmick is his bionic eye that is a lie detector, allowing him to literally see the truth. Mindhorn made Thorncroft a huge star in the 70s and early 80s but he hasn’t exactly been tearing it up since then. In fact, he’s just lost his last endorsement contract (for orthopedic socks). So when a call comes in from the police department requesting Thorncroft’s help (as Mindhorn) in solving a murder case, he jumps right in, seeing it as a great way to kickstart his career.
In the finest British tradition, we quickly learn that Thorncroft is a grade-A idiot (maybe even grade-AAA if you use the meat grading system). Still, as tends to happen, Thorncroft manages to bumble his way to (moderate) success despite not having a clue at any time. And while Mindhorn’s way forward isn’t particularly innovative or clever, Barratt is clearly having great fun bringing Mindhorn to life and that fun is infectious. The satire is spot on, as Mindhorn takes every opportunity to poke fun at the real TV shows from Mindhorn’s day, like Knight Rider and the Six Million Dollar Man, and there are some good shots at the cheesiness of those shows as well as the spin off products from them (such as Mindhorn’s best-selling rock album).
You’ve seen this all before but it’s good fun and I don’t think satirizing David Hasselhoff will ever get old. So if you have 90 minutes to spare and think Coogan is a funny guy then you should check out Mindhorn on Netflix.