[Header Image: thePipeLine]
From a drone’s eye view the basecamp tent in Channel 5’s new metal detecting series #DiggingForTreasure-Tonight looked uncannily like the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter films.
Had the former Hollywood star found a new role in a Yorkshire field? As part of our series #WeNeedToTalkAboutMetalDetecting thePipeLine investigates.
The Sorting Hat was depressed,
Its career had begun so well with a starring cameo in one of the most high profile and lucrative film franchises in living memory, but twenty years on, with no more Harry Potter films on the horizon and with the writer who had written the breakthrough part persona non grata in certain circles in Hollywood, things were not looking good.
Then the phone rang. The number which flashed up was the Sorting Hat’s UK agent.
“Good news” the agent said in that faintly sarcastic tone which suggested the news might not be altogether good, “I’ve got you a telly.”
“That’s wonderful,” said the Sorting Hat unable to contain the sudden rush of hope, “A character role in House of the Dragon?”
“Well,” the agent said drawing out the syllable, “the title sequence is, sort of, Game of Thronesy.”
“The Marvel universe? A Disney+ Star Wars spin off. I’ve always wanted to work with Yoda.”
“It’s a bit closer to home than Coruscant,” the agent began, before adding optimistically, “but it is a tour, you start in Yorkshire, then head up to Scotland.”
The Sorting Hat knew they were not in a position to turn down work of any kind, but they had learned also not to appear too eager.
“Who am I choosing this time? More heroes so that Gryffindor can face down he who must not be named.”
“Not exactly,” said the agent.
“The draw for the Quidditch World Cup in Qatar then?”
“I’m afraid not, and you know you are supposed to call it Quadball now anyway.” said the agent, now sounding slightly annoyed.
“Look,” she said. “It’s more of a static role this time, and the entire cast are Muggles.”
“So what do I have to do then?” said the Sorting Hat carefully.
“Well, essentially you stand in a field and spread yourself out, while Dan Walker, him off the BBC who is now at Channel Five…”
“Five?” snorted the Sorting Hat, “The f*cking and shopping channel. I’d rather do Ancient Aliens on History, it’s got more credibility?”
This time the agent couldn’t hide her annoyance.
“That description of Channel Five is from years ago and do I have to remind you that in this business beggars can’t be choosers. Last year my 20% from your work couldn’t keep me in Flat Whites for a week.”
“Look, Five is different now. For a start they are doing a lot of historical documentaries and specials at the moment and this is a new series about metal detecting…”
“Metal detecting…FFS,” spat the Sorting Hat. “As you know I have had plenty of leisure time recently to watch the attempts of various production companies and networks to give metal detecting a gameshow makeover and none of the formats get beyond the “Whoopee we’ve found some stuff” level. And as for Henry Cole blowing his own bloody horn…”
“This one is different.”
“Yes, for a start the Portable Antiquities Scheme was involved in designing it, well eventually it was, and as well as Dan Walker you’ll be working with Michaela Strachan. She’s a national treasure after doing Spring Watch.”
“The Archaeologists will hate it and everyone associated with it.” the Sorting Hat interjected. “Do this gig and I wouldn’t even get seen in a cattle market call for the new Indiana Jones.”
“The archaeologists will hate the new Indie too.” said the agent realistically. “Anyway, this show explains all about responsible metal detecting and the Portable Antiquities Scheme and it also has archaeological royalty. Raksha Dave, President of the Council for British Archaeology is the third presenter. And, I might add, the CBA doesn’t support metal detecting rallies which are run for financial gain.”
“Oh great, so I am not going to get paid either?” said the Sorting Hat.
“Of course you are. This is a different kind of financial gain.
Anyway, on the money side I’ve negotiated you extra for the Night Calls.”
“Night Calls?” said the Sorting Hat sounding perplexed. “I thought it was customary and responsible to go metal detecting in daylight. You know, when you can see things.”
“It’s a small detail,” said the agent, “It’s probably to do with the budget limiting the number of days they can shoot and this being a fast turn round commission for Daisybeck Studios, but the schedule includes a lot of scenes shot in twilight or at night. In fact there is a really good bit where Michaela gets taught to metal detect while an assistant producer points a Softlight at her. The shadows and dark blue night sky are stunning.”
“Oh fantastic, ” sneered the Sorting Hat, “some pain in the archaeological twitterati is going to make the obvious smart ass joke that the programme is teaching her to go nighthawking.”
“Don’t worry, they are not going to mention nighthawking in the first show. This is joe citizen scientist feeling good about finding history remember. Oh, and you don’t have to rock up for the feel good insert about looking for family rings lost in the sea at Frinton, or for the Lancaster bomber.”
“Lancaster bomber!?? I thought this was a show about metal detecting?”
“Well Lancasters were made of metal,” said the agent defensively. “Actually they have some nice artefacts from Lancaster E105 for Dan Walker to show the punters, including parts of the parachute from the crewman who was killed when it crashed.”
“Well I hope the script mentions the Protection of Military Remains Act and the licence to recover artefacts from a crashed military aircraft which they need from the Ministry of Defence?” said the Sorting Hat.
“The script does mention the Act and the licence…doesn’t it?”
“I’m sure it will all be all right.” said the agent quickly, “The series certainly isn’t as bad as some of the archaeological Taliban are saying on Social Media.”
The agent paused.
“Look, I told you it is a fast turn round commission. It might look as though the “as live” format is all over the place and that they have thrown every method of discovering historical stuff at the TV wall to see which one’s stick, probably because they haven’t had time to work out if they want the show to be Henry Cole or Alice Roberts, but Daisybeck do need an answer.
Will you be the shelter in the Yorkshire field that covers forever their IKEA trestle table timeline of history?”
“All right,” said the Sorting Hat with a sigh, “I’ll do it on two conditions.”
“Which are?” said the agent.
“First you ring up Tim Taylor and see if he has a slot for me on the Time Team reboot.”
“And the other condition?”
“You don’t commit me to a second series of “Digging for Treasure-Tonight.”
The agent thought for a moment.
“I wouldn’t worry about needing to do a second series,” she said.