Channel 4 (UK)
January 29th – March 4th, 2004
2 hrs 30 mins
Calling all fans of sci-fi, horror, and 80’s spoofs, boy do I have a treat for you.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is all of this and so much more. Created by Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh), this 2004 comedy show-within-a show has been so unfairly overlooked that it’s time someone pulled it out of the archives to be appreciated in all its horrendous glory.
The premise of the show is like a DVD commentary on an 80’s cult classic, though in this case it is one that was never aired. Horror writer Garth Marenghi (Holness), who prides himself on being “probably the only person who’s written more books than he’s read,” is the creator of 80’s horror-drama “Darkplace,” set in a spooky hospital frequently visited by unwelcome paranormal guests.
“Darkplace” stars Marenghi as Dr Rick Dagless, the brooding and scarred hero of the show, Marenghi’s publisher/publicist Dean Learner (Ayoade) as horrifically portrayed administrator Thornton Reed, Todd Rivers (Matt Berry) as suave and sassy Dr Lucien Sanshez, and Madeline Wool (Alice Lowe) as Dr Liz Asher — the most stereotypical and offensive portrayal of a female doctor one could imagine.
A handful of other (real) British comics also guest star in the show, such as Stephen Merchant (Extras, Hello Ladies) or the boys from The Mighty Boosh. Additionally, “Darkplace” is interwoven with an introduction to the episodes by Marenghi and interviews with the “actors” about their time in the show.
I’m not a particular fan of the original genres, but even so, the spoofing of sci-fi and horror here is absolutely spectacular. Each week Darkplace Hospital is plagued with something unsavoury, be it a portal to hell, a giant-eyeball baby, or a disease transforming everyone into apes.
“Darkplace” is drenched in terrible editing, horrific dialogue and ridiculous storylines, and is the most painfully pleasurable watching experience. However, the entire premise including all the reflections of the manically egotistical author is what makes Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace so hilarious, and the utterly delusional commentary takes the whole show to another level of funny.
It’s also formatted beautifully — at the time of release Darkplace was framed as a genuine airing of a long-lost masterpiece with commentary from the genius creator, and each “episode” even features the correct period’s Channel 4 symbol and music.
Garth Meranghi’s Darkplace is difficult to describe due to the complicated layering of the show, but just give it a try and you’ll see instantly how great it is. For extra laughs, introduce it to a friend as Marenghi himself would, and enjoy the few minutes of disgust and confusion it’ll generate.