“I had a cat once. I dropped a sofa on it. It was a write-off, so I stood on its head.” – Dean Learner
You would be forgiven for not having been aware of today’s recommendation. Criminally, this excellent and ground-breaking televisual feast was given a graveyard slot on channel four, subjected to a piss-poor marketing campaign and lost in amongst the dank fug of tripe being peddled out by mid 2000’s channel four.
Thankfully, in this case, quality lasts and inevitably shines through, and no other show that I can think of glistens with the comedic sheen that ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ does. Broadcasted in 2004 ‘Darkplace’ was and remains a cult show that truly defines the term, clasped lovingly to the collective breasts of its loyal fan base and revered by many as the funniest show to grace UK screens of the last decade. High praise indeed when we consider this a time of relative success in terms of UK comedy – think ‘The Office’ and ‘Peep Show’.
There will be some reading this who know of ‘Darkplace’, and it is likely that they are already fervent fans. However, as mentioned earlier, this slipped under the radar of many. Mostly due to a minimal advertising campaign that failed to translate exactly what the show was about and also a late night slot apparently designed promote to failure.
‘Darkplace’ is the twitching brainchild of creator Matthew Holness and is presented as a lost classic: a television series produced in the 1980s, though never broadcast at the time. The presentation features commentary from many of the “original” cast, where characters such as ‘Garth Marenghi’ and ‘Dean Learner’ reflect on making the show.
The beauty of the comedy is how the entire debacle is played completely straight, the talking head interviews are note perfect and exhibit the acting brilliance of Holness as well as ‘editor’ Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade) and Todd Rivers (Matt Berry). What makes things massively hilarious is how terrible the original show was. ‘Darkplace’ parodies numerous aspects of ’80s low-budget television, including fashion, special effects, production gaffs, and music. The dubbing, jump cuts, wooden acting all create a heady mix of pure comedic genius, allowing for very little respite to collect air from guffawing so much. It’s that good folks.
In the eyes of ‘Marenghi’ and ‘Learner’ this was cutting edge, era defining television. The joke lies within how it most certainly was not.
Unfortunately, ’Darkplace’ only lasted a meager six episodes. In some ways this is probably the perfect way for the show to remain as each episode is a comedy classic with stories ranging from a mutated eye-child called ‘Skipper’ to Sanchez falling in love with a woman who turns in to a stick of broccoli. To continue would potentially have led to a drop in quality albeit unlikely with the talent involved. Channel four in an admission of their almighty balls up, re-ran the series and cobbled together a fantastic DVD package a couple of years after the show aired – definitely worth picking up for a few quid.
Since its release, Ayoade has moved on to ‘The I.T Crowd’ and directing with the brilliant ‘Submarine’ and recently starring in a Hollywood comedy with A-list big dicks Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill. Similarly, Matt Berry also starred in ‘The I.T Crowd’ taking over the enormous shoes of legend Chris Morris.
I cannot recommend this show enough, it is utterly exceptional and sits amongst greats such as ‘Alan Partidge’ and ‘Brass Eye’ in my personal, awesome opinion.
I will leave it to Garth sum up…
“Greetings traveler. I’m Garth Marenghi, horror writer. Most of you will probably know me already from my extensive canon of chillers, including Afterbirth, in which a mutated placenta attacks Bristol. Back in the 1980s, I wrote, directed and starred in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, a television program so radical, so risky, so dangerous, so goddamn crazy, that the so-called powers that be became too scared to show it, and gypped me. Much in the same way women have done ever since they sniffed out my money.” – Garth Marenghi