Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is a comedy TV series created by and starring Matthew Holness, and Richard Ayoade. The show is a parody of 1980’s TV shows, which focuses on the many gaffes of low budget TV show’s from the 1980’s; such as fashion, special effects, and music.
The show almost has two parallel programs running through it. One is the actual show itself, and the other is a commentary on how the show was produced in the 1980’s. The shows stars, Holness, Ayoade, along with Alice Lowe and Matt Berry, are practically playing two sets of fictional characters. Probably the best way to explain it, would be to talk about the commentary side first!
So, Matthew Holness plays a fictional Horror author known as Garth Marenghi, who claims to have written more books than he has read. During the 1980’s, he produced a TV series along with his publisher Dean Learner (Ayoade). The show was set in a fictional hospital supposedly in the middle of nowhere, with a setup very similar to that of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Many episodes were produced, but Channel 4 dropped the show in favor of repeats of Who’s the Boss?. However, in 2004, during an ‘artistic drought’; Channel 4 decided to show six episodes out of the supposed 67 episodes produced.
At the start of each episode, there was a prelude to the episode with a description of what was to come, plus an opportunity for Marenghi to advertise one of his books, by reading a passage from it. The actual episode of Darkplace would then be shown. The show carries a really cool opening title sequence and theme, with the incredible image of an Ambulance exploding! There is then a few credit pieces about the show’s production, including the note that the show is based on melodies whistled by Garth Marenghi himself.
The show stars Garth Marenghi as Dr. Rick Dagless M.D who is a Vietnam and Falklands War veteran, as well as former Warlock. Given the hospital’s location, each week, Dagless and his colleagues will be threatened by a supernatural force appearing within the hospital wards. He is assisted in his endeavors with help from Dr. Lucian Sanchez (Berry/Todd Rivers), Dr. Liz Asher (Lowe/Madeleine Wool), and hospital administrator Thornton Reed (Ayoade/Learner), who answers to the mysterious hospital boss known as Won Ton! Each episode focuses on a different plot, with no real connection to each other than through characters alone. Stories include a new born giant eyeball, an extraterrestrial Broccoli infection, and a dystopian vision of Apes retaking the Earth!
The show is a parody of 1980’s TV shows of the same nature, and as such the production makes the show look as bad production wise as back then. It also features the look of TV shows during that time, even running down to the quality of the camera and a few continuity issues. But because it’s made to look bad in the first place, it’s both clever and very funny. It has ridiculous ideas such as a hospital having an underground highway, just so that the show can feature internal monologues while people are driving. It also features a very slow and silly, but weirdly cool hospital fight scene, and a high speed bicycle chase with cool music, and dirt bike sounds dubbed over it.
The show is ridiculous in many respects, but it’s ridiculous production makes it a really fun watch and a cool comedy series. It features a unique soundtrack which is fun to listen to when you are both watching, and not watching it also. It’s daft, very silly, and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before!