Recently, as I often do, I was discussing Game Of Thrones with some friends. Talk of course turned to one of the many characters who are no longer in the series, on account of them having been killed off. I wowed the room with my wit, insight and two decade old references when I dropped the line:
“He lived his life like a candle in the wind……unreliable”.
Naturally, I stole it.
It’s one of many excellent jokes that stick with me from the all too short lived TV comedy Darkplace, which was on British TV circa 2005. It’s about Garth Marenghi, a prolific schlock horror writer who believes he’s a creative genius – “If I ever need inspiration I just reread one of my old books. There’s usually something profound in there I missed first time around.” During the 80s, Marenghi wrote, directed and starred in a TV horror series set in Darkplace hospital that was so revolutionary, so shocking that the network refused to air it “Although it did have a brief run in Peru”. Now, years later it’s finally being broadcast, with bonus commentary from Marenghi and the other actors.
Of course, the whole thing is a satire. Matthew Holness plays Garth Marenghi who in turn plays Dr. Rick Dagless MD, who is clearly supposed to come across as a saintly medic who has to deal with supernatural weirdness using only his charm, wit, brilliance and gun. In practice…
He’s joined by Matt Berry, who clearly has a whale of a time overacting like crazy as Dr Sanchez, and Richard Ayoade, who equally enjoys playing Garth’s producer who also has the role of hospital administrator despite not having any acting talent whatsoever. You might know both of these from the much bigger Channel 4 comedy The IT Crowd. There’s cameos from other British comedy stars and also a woman doctor – “This is the 20th century after all”.
The show within a show is clearly lovingly made – there’s a bunch of little touches that are authentic to the decade it was supposedly made in – and is a spot on parody of a show whose ambition far exceeded it’s budget. Sound effects don’t match, there’s poor dubbing, poor continuity and above all some instances of “acting” that are so appallingly bad that it takes real acting talent to intentionally be that awful at it. And the “bad writing” is so well written it’s all incredibly funny.
The fake commentaries allow a completely different level of joke to be made, like the overarching running joke that the show was never broadcast because it’s completely terrible, but none of them can see it. It’s a hilarious send-up of the creative industries that I’m sure was drawn from real life experiences and despite the opportunities afforded by the daft scenarios and dodgy script of the “proper” show, some of the best lines are from the commentary.
Sadly for us, it only ever had 6 22-minute episodes, but that just means you’ve got no excuse not to check it out if a show that puts the “terrible” into “terribly funny” sounds appealing to you.