Cunk on Earth: Why this British mockumentary is Netflix’s funniest show in ages

REVIEW: Move over Simon Schama and Brian Cox, there’s a new British presenter aiming to entertain and enlighten audiences as to human history and how our home has changed over many millions of years.

Actually, while many Kiwis won’t have struck Philomena Cunk (if she looks familiar, that because she’s portrayed by Motherland star Diane Morgan) before, she’s actually been around since 2013 when she first appeared as a current affairs reporter on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe.

However, after previously tackling everything from Christmas to Shakespeare and the history of Britain, the documentary presenter is taking on her most ambitious project yet.

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Over five half-hour episodes, Cunk on Earth (which debuts on Netflix tonight, January 31) aims to tell “the incredible story of how humankind transformed our world – from a load of pointless nature to a load of modern things – and how it did it using nothing more than its hands, its imagination – and also tools and electricity and the internet”.

Filmed in every corner of the globe “money and pandemic restrictions allowed”, the show promises to highlight our species’ most stunning achievements (everything from the Statue of David to the musical version of The Lion King), while Cunk asks “academics, clever naughts and expertists” insightful and challenging questions like “how is it a mystery how the pyramids were built when it’s obviously just big bricks in a triangle?”


In Cunk on Earth, Philomena Cunk asks “academics, clever naughts and expertists” insightful and challenging questions.

If you haven’t already picked it up, Cunk on Earth is a mockumentary, one played magnificently straight by a brilliantly deadpan Morgan. Fans of the comedic stylings of our own Leigh Hart and Jeremy Wells’ noughties satire Eating Media Lunch will absolutely adore her attempts to “break” a string of earnest and serious interviewees with left-field and outrageous queries.

To their credit, she manages it only once in the opening episode, when an authority on the Roman Empire is flummoxed by her obsession with whether they invented anal bleaching.

But if posers like “was the invention of writing significant, or a flash in the pan like rap metal?”, “have any cave drawings been adapted into films?” or “did numbers have the same value as now”, don’t get you, then Cunk’s hilarious commentary most assuredly will.

Diane Morgan has been portraying Philomena Cunk since 2013.


Diane Morgan has been portraying Philomena Cunk since 2013.

Whether it’s observing that Julius Cesar was “the most notorious Roman until Polanski”, how the Greeks “invented culture – like yoghurt – and theatre in all its many tedious forms”, or that mummification was “like the kind of spa Gwyneth [Paltrow] has on a weekly basis”, you’ll need to make regular use of the pause button to ensure you don’t miss all the gags from laughing so hard.

A perfectly pitched parody that offers consistently hilarious entertainment and a reminder of the power of the mockumentary.

Cunk on Earth begins streaming on Netflix on the evening of January 31.

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