Tag Archives: tv

Wednesday Watch: ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’.


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

Enjoy pilgrims…

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Wednesday Watch: FX’s ‘Archer’.


“She’s like the Pele of anal”~ Sterling Archer.

God bless Walt Disney, not literally of course if those pesky paedophilic tendencies and Nazi sympathiser rumours are to believed, but a swift doth of the cap to the be-spectacled scribbler is just about in order.

Without his early doodles, the universe may never have been blessed with ‘Homer Simpson’, ‘Fred Flintstone’, ‘Stewie Griffin’, ‘Eric Cartman’ and now, the newly initiated clown prince of chortles, ‘Sterling Mallory Archer’.  Mr Disney remains the ‘Don Corleone’ of colouring in.

Cartoons and animation have always been close to my recently irregularly beating heart muscle. As tween Ross grew into teenage Ross before morphing hairily into adult Ross, an ever present thread ran alongside my bubbling and heaving puberty – cartoons.

As a nipper, Sunday nights followed a strict regimen:

4:30pm: Bath time (with brother until it got just a little bit too weird)

5pm: ‘All American Wrestling’

6pm: ‘The Simpsons’.

We rarely diverted from this plan, and any attempts to change channel’s to ‘The Antique Roadshow’ sparked biblical levels of fury from both my brother Glenn and I. It was unpleasant fayre.

As my shaggy life rug has been slowly rolled out, Homer has been replaced by ‘Peter Griffin’ ably assisted by doses of ‘Eric Cartman’. ‘Family Guy’ much like The Simpson family has tragically entered into a steady decline. Whilst numerous ‘lol’s’ (I just vomited blood in my mouth) can still be mined from Griffin et al, tragically, this is a comedy that is far from the giddy heights of Comedy Mountain (this infamous moutnain range can be located in Northen Cambodia) that it used to stand proudly atop. As the seasons have passed, and it pains me to say this, the quality has sloped steadily. I still adore the show but as the quality has dipped, my funny bone has been fingered by a new, younger and bustier show.

That show is FX’s Adam Reed’s ‘Archer’.

‘Archer’ is ingenius. End blog.

I could literally end the blog there in a what would be a marginally pretentious manner but, because you deserve more, I will throw you a few stale crumbs on what has fast become my favourite show. ‘Archer’ follows the adventures and non-adventures of the ISIS organisation, a bumbling spy agency populated by nyphomaniac PA’s, a homocidal professor, quasi-Bond villain bad guys and the wonderfully sociopathic lead character ‘Sterling Archer’.

The turtleneck – underated as a ‘tactical garment’.

The animation is a joy to behold with wonderful references to vintage Bond films whilst smoothly interspersing distinctive touches of ‘Mad Men’ in the attire sported by each memorable character. ‘Archer’ is smooth, vibrant and absolutely original, looking unlike any other show, let alone animation on television currently.

I’d wager that the current plague and re-emergence of the turtle neck jumper as an acceptable item of clothing has some debt to ‘Archer’.

Each twenty minute episode is stuffed full of one-liners that zing from the fine voice actor’s mouth-holes. H. Jon Benjamin provides the vocal talent of lead character ‘Sterling Archer’ supported by Judy Greer (Arrested Development), Jessica Walter (again Arrested Development) and Chris Parnell amongst others seasoned chuckle peddlers. ‘Archer’ is a slick and brilliant all round production that  warrants re-watches to simply pick up on the minute visual touches and fizzing one-liners that do get missed on first viewing; the show zips along at a furious pace.

Three seasons in and ‘Archer’ has announced itself with aplomb. Gushing critics can be found in it’s wake, legions of fans, like me, coo and cream over it’s genuine brilliance. Awards have been tossed in it’s general direction and turtle-neck sales have spiked

If you havent already, take eight minutes from your day to watch the youtube video above. It’s only a teasing taster of what the show is about but if not one solitary snigger emanates from that big gaping hole in your face, I will pay you all £10*.

Archer can be found on FX or on DVD/Blu-ray.

*Monopoly money.


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