In 2004, Channel 4 in the U.K. Broadcast a new comedy series from the writing partnership of the then relatively unknown comedians, Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness. It was an absurd homage to badly conceived horror fiction, TV and films, particularly of the 70’s & 80’s delivered with it tongue firmly in its cheek, that show was Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was a show within a show concerning fictional horror novelist Garth Marenghi, played by Holness, who in the 1980’s decided to make the leap from the page to the screen and develop his own TV show with his publicist Dean Learner, played by Ayoade. In ‘Darkplace’ Marenghi cast himself as the shows lead, Dr Rick Dagless, a Doctor at Darkplace Hospital which just so happens to be situated “over the very gates of hell, in Romford, Essex” and his constant fight in repelling the forces of evil whilst coping with the “burden of day to day admin”. He is joined by his administrator Thornton Reed played by Learner, best friend Dr Lucian Sanchez played by ‘Todd Rivers’ who is in turn played by actor/musician Matt Berry and Liz Asher played by ‘Madeline Wool’ who is played by the fantastic Alice Lowe.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was presented as a retrospective of the making of and reaction to this fictional show, a superbly crafted meta-comedy if you will. Presented as being rescued from the vaults of Channel 4 by Marenghi and presented to a willing new audience, Maregenhi, Learner & Shanchez intersect the show with talking-heads of their memories of it’s production, It really is an fantastically realised and original idea for a comedy. The 80’s Darkplace is spot on its playful swiping at bad TV of the era, from the original Channel 4 ident at the start, the muffled analogue synth score, bad editing, fitfully funny dialogue overdubs, ropey sets and even more ropey acting, it is an absolute joy for fans of intelligently written, witty and original comedy and a lot of fun for fans of the horror literature, film & TV genres that it sends up.
The cast of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace reads today like a who’s who of British comedy, Holness, Ayoade, Berry and Lowe all deliver note perfect performances of bad actors, a feat that isn’t as easy as it sounds when you are in fact a really good comedic actor trying to achieve gut laughs at the same time. From Holness’s deluded, pretentious and egocentric turn as Marenghi/Dagless and the comedy that lies in the fact they are both exactly the same in personality sending up Marenghi’s out of whack ego even more, Berry’s Sanchez is full of macho bravado and he has an innate ability to deliver a comedic line like no other in my opinion and Lowes simpering send up of outdated gender stereotypes really do make this show something special. Aside from the principle cast there are also wonderful cameos from the like of Steven Merchant, Noel Feilding, Julian Barrett and Graham Linehan.
Relatively unnoticed on its initial broadcast and obtaining a cult following in the proceeding year, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is a show that will appeal to fans of the horror genre and though looking for daft yet expertly crafted comedy. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend a visit to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is currently available to stream via All4.