With Toast of London finished on Channel Four, we look back at another show to give you your Matt Berry fix on a Sunday night: the comic gem Darkplace.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace aired only for one series, but from that one series it has managed to gather a solid cult following of fans for its deliberate continuity errors, shoddy production and blood. Blood. Blood… And bits of sick.
The brainchild of Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade, Darkplace is an authentic-looking 80s horror/drama spoof. Holness plays the titular character, Garth Marenghi, who in turn plays Dr. Rick Dagless M.D. in the fictional show. Ayoade plays his publicist/publisher Dean Learner, who plays Thornton Reed. Marenghi explains that the show was made by the two of them but was hidden/lost for a number of years and that this is the first time it has seen the light of day, so they have added interviews with the key actors to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the show.
The detail in making the series look so authentic is quite impressive and also adds the majority of the humour. The crumbling sets, the bad continuity and the synth-based soundtrack all give a real B-movie style to the Stephen King-esque storylines. They even have the 80s Channel 4 logo to boot.
It’s easy to see how a cult following has developed with the series: besides it being pretty darn hilarious, there’s such a strong thread of British comedic talent throughout. Richard Ayoade has since been seen in a number of things in front of and behind the camera. The IT Crowd is his biggest hit, but he also directed the well-received Submarine and the upcoming The Double.
Alongside the two main characters are Matt Berry (also from The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh) and Alice Lowe (Sightseers). Julian Barratt, Graham Linehan, Stephen Merchant and Noel Fielding make appearances throughout Darkplace too.
Holness hasn’t appeared in either of these other two shows, although he was originally set to play Bob Fossil in Boosh (a role later taken by Rich Fulcher). He hasn’t gone onto huge things, steering mainly towards the odd appearance in a number of British sitcoms and the semi spin-off show Man To Man With Dean Learner, which also ran for one series. But if Darkplace turns out his biggest contribution to British comedy, that would be perfectly fine.
Whether you’re interested in a telekinetic woman, a giant eyeball or you just like your shows lengthened with plenty of slow-motion then you’re in for a treat.