Mackenzie Crook makes me laugh right from the moment I answer my phone. And all he's said is, "I'm in my office".

Because of his breakout role in The Office, I can't help but picture him sitting there as Gareth Keenan while his deskmate Tim taunts him with a stapler encased in jelly - one of the key early scenes from Ricky Gervais' hit Brit sitcom.

So when Crook introduces himself from his Muswell Hill office in North London, I can't help but giggle.

Mackenzie Crook in The Detectorists.
Mackenzie Crook in The Detectorists.

"Sounds like there's a bit of a delay on the line, but we can cope with that I'm sure," he says, sounding every inch like the nervously earnest Gareth. But we're not here to talk about Gareth or

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The Office.

Crook's got more important things to discuss.

The 44-year-old has written, produced and starred in two seasons and a Christmas special of his very own show called Detectorists, receiving rave reviews and TV awards in the process. Here in New Zealand, most of us haven't yet heard of it, but with both seasons now available on Neon, that's about to change.

Detectorists follows Crook's Andy, a mostly unemployed oddjobber, and his mechanic buddy Lance, played by the deadpan Toby Jones. They escape their humdrum lives by searching for long lost artefacts in overgrown fields using metal detectors.

Mostly, they find rusty cans and broken toys, but Crook says there's a deeper meaning to the hobby.

"There's a beautiful, rich, simple, metaphor," explains Crook.

"They're searching for other things. Equally, it could have been about fishing, or bird watching, some other lonely hobby that has a promise of reward at the end that you won't necessarily achieve. I'm a fisherman as well, and the joy is going out fishing - not necessarily catching a fish. It's the same with detecting."

The show is less caustic than The Office, with a gentler pace and low-key laughs mostly arising from Lance and Andy's easy banter and blokey conversations.

Crook also wrings laughs out of their oddball friends who make up a local metal detectorists society, holding open days for a handful of visitors and trading geeky tips on the latest detecting technology.

Mackenzie Crook in The Detectorists.
Mackenzie Crook in The Detectorists.

Crook admits he trod a fine line between paying homage to the obsession, and making a mockery of it. It didn't help that the metal detecting community were quickly suspicious about an outsider pillorying their hobby.

"Everyone was quite nervous," says Crook. "They were worried this was just going to rip the piss out of them and they'd be portrayed as idiots and losers.

"There was a lot of anxiety at first and suspense leading up to it being on TV but they immediately embraced it. They realised I wasn't out to take the piss out of them, that it was an affectionate look at the hobby - a celebration."

Crook says it's now swung the other way: "They embraced it (to the point) I've almost become a spokesperson for the hobby. I've been asked to write magazine articles about it."

He's embraced it too, finding time to grab one of the show's props on a day off to spend time detecting for himself. And he quickly saw the appeal.

"I went out on the farm where we were filming and I found Roman coins, I found a medieval brooch, I found an Anglo-Saxon strap. It's all there in the ground just waiting.

"When you find that artefact, no matter how humble it is, it's electrifying. You're the first person to have touched that since whoever dropped it however many centuries ago. It's some sort of connection with the past."

Crook recently made his own historic discovery too, finding a notebook dating back to 1999 - before his success with The Office - with the entire Detectorists show mapped out in it.

"I was claiming that it happened very quickly. But I found a very old notebook ... and the idea was there fully formed, written down over three pages. It was an odd thing to find out I'd been mulling it over for a decade and a half."

And Crook proudly reports there will definitely be more Detectorists - "a series (or) another one-off or a film or something".

"I'm so pleased with how the first two series came out, I don't want to rush into a third one and spoil what we've done."

Lowdown

Where and when: Two seasons available for streaming on Neon now
What: The Office star out standing in his field