“I’m Garth Marenghi. Author. Dreamweaver. Visionary. Plus actor. You’re about to enter the world of my imagination. You are entering my Darkplace.”
Either you will enjoy very much a short-lived BBC [ED. NOTE – Apparently you people have something called “Channel 4” which sounds very much like the BBC’s fourth channel but I will take your word for it] horror parody series about a television show that never ran in the 1980s featuring stage directions like “The shovel he was holding has changed to a cup of coffee” and “cup is now the shovel again,” or you won’t. It’s as simple as that. If you think you might (let’s say you found The Mighty Boosh “too accessible”), the entire six episodes of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is now available on YouTube.
“Something was pouring from his mouth. He examined his sleeve. Blood? Blood. Crimson, copper-smelling blood, his blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. [Checks script]…And bits of sick.”
It’s so joyful! And Richard Ayoade is a delight and a treasure to my heart. I feel a little ridiculous recommending a show that only ran for six episodes – so precious! so pretentious! “The show ran for one episode, which was 23 seconds long. It is generally considered one of the greatest programs in the history of British television” – but I must recommend it all the same.
Such was Darkplace’s Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker-esque zeal for a laugh that even its failure to secure a second series counts as a punchline. Purporting to be the lost TV effort of “author, dream weaver, visionary, plus actor” Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness), the series doesn’t just parody blowhard literary types like the one played by co-creator Holness—it riffs on the entire “brilliant but canceled” myth. The show-within-a-show structure of Darkplace presents a loser’s history of a lost “classic” that was lost for a reason. In pre-episode introductions and talking-head interludes, Holness’ character claims that his series was buried due to its radical nature and startling predictions, but the evidence on hand argues otherwise. The fictional Darkplace never saw the light of day because it’s terrible, and Marenghi’s just too egomaniacal to acknowledge that fact.
Holness as Marenghi plays Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D., dashing star physician of Darkplace Hospital, a collection of anonymous hallways, offices, and exam rooms besieged by paranormal phenomena. As presented in the series, Darkplace was originally produced in the 1980s, and Holness and his collaborators went to great lengths to sell that origin story: Grainy film stock and a chintzy synthesizer score (“based on melodies originally whistled by Garth Marenghi”) mark the faux-archival footage, in which co-stars Matt Berry and Alice Lowe respectively sport Sonny Crockett’s ’do and Diane Chambers’ blouses.
(Don’t forget Horrifica Illuminata and the DVD extras.) (It’s better than Children’s Hospital, and I say that as someone who loved Children’s Hospital.)
(Don’t tell anyone, but I didn’t think The IT Crowd was very good.)
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.