Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace: the great cult bizarre comedy

Cult status is usually reserved for series that have not had a long history but are still remembered and idolized, years and years after their broadcast. The best example is undoubtedly ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’, a brilliant parody of the British sci-fi and horror genre of the eighties, which with just six episodes aired has become a true cult comedy.

Their complex structure full of meta-references allowed them to do all the nonsense that came to mind, in a completely unbridled way and breaking all the usual conventions of those classic genres, in addition to allowing us to discover people as influential later as Richard Ayoade and about everything, the audiovisual debut of the unclassifiable and great Matt Berry.

I have not hesitated to see it again in its entirety to write the article and it is still as grotesque and fun as it seemed to me when I saw it at the time, so it will be a real pleasure to discover or remind you of the genius that is ‘Darth Marenghi’s Darkplace’

File: Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace 6 ep 23 min Jan 2004- Mar 2004 Channel 4 (UK) -Youtube (E)

Synopsis: Garth Marenghi is a writer of horror novels who has achieved some success, which is why he has decided to resurrect an experimental series ‘Darkplace’ that he made with his editor Dean Learner in the eighties and that was never broadcast due to the refusal of the Channel 4 to broadcast it at the time.

The series took place in a rather peculiar and picturesque hospital with the creators themselves playing the main characters, Dr Rick Dagless and the hospital administrator Thornton Reed, who are going to face all kinds of paranormal dangers, while remembering anecdotes and aspects of the filming with interviews in the present tense

The beggining:

Matthew Holness (front) was an absolute fan from his earliest childhood of the legendary Hammer production company films starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. During his stay at the University of Cambridge he became part of the centennial theater group Footlights, birthplace of half of the Monty Python group.

In that group he met Richard Ayoade (behind) and the two began to collaborate on the writing of a play that collected from a parodic point of view that love they shared for the horror movies and series of the seventies and eighties, starring that writer Garth Marenghi, a sort of British offshoot of Stephen King.

Their first play was called ‘Garth Marenghi’s Fright Night’ and was presented to great acclaim at the Edinburgh festival, which asked for a sequel for the following year ‘Garth Marenghi’s Netherhead’ where it won first prize.

The success caught the attention of the irreverent and risky Channel 4, who did not hesitate to commission a series based on these two characters of the writer and his editor.

His approach was to take that parody much further, recovering that series never seen before, with a production that was consciously crappy and with such ridiculous poverty of means that it was a great contrast to the quality of production at the beginning of the 21st century.

The promotional trailer for ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ was quite a declaration of intent before the accumulation of gags that was going to fall on us.

Such a bizarre proposal disconcerted everyone a lot because they didn’t know what they were seeing with that mixture of genres completely unusual at that time, but little by little it rose to the status of a cult series that it has today.

The plot: ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ begins each episode with Garth Marenghi himself boasting himself as a great writer and creator to present us with an episode of that series with the same name that he shot in the eighties and that he has had the opportunity to recover from the drawer where it was saved to be able to finally broadcast it on Channel 4.

In fact, the delirious introduction of ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ is that of the crappy eighties series with the credits of the characters who play other characters, as if it were a game of Russian dolls that we are discovering in this great header.

After that introduction with the character of Garth Marenghi reminiscent of those made by people in his series like Roald Dahl or Alfred Hitchcock, the action moved on to the corresponding episode that took place in a hospital in which Dr Rick Dagliss (right, the alter ego of Garth Marenghi, in turn the alter ego of the creator Richard Holness) had to fight against the forces of darkness in the hospital that could appear at any time and in any way.

blankThe dangers covered the entire catalog of monsters in the genre from zombies to Scottish ghosts through monkey men or characters with all kinds of telekinetic powers.

The consciously sought poverty of the production stood out above all else, from provoked synchronization errors in the voice of the actors, to the appearance of filming material in the middle of the shot, all linked to a production design made up of miniatures bought in the store. of toys in the corner.

In fact, that cutrez was so successful that it continues to be one of its main values ​​at the level of the following video that presents a chase so delirious that it is difficult to even imagine how they came up with such nonsense with the image and sound going completely free.

On other occasions, a funeral was staged where they parodied all the usual topics of this type of celebration with some unexpected surprise.


On some occasions they did not hesitate to resort to friends like Stephen Merchant to make a wild cameo, in this case as an unlikely cook from the dilapidated hospital canteen.

The two creators did not hesitate to appear in the present explaining things about the shoot, such as the fact of interacting in the series as the experienced doctor and the hospital administrator, overacting as much as they want and more like in this cut.

Anyway, from the beginning, my favorite character was one that appeared exclusively in the hospital series, Dr. Lucien Sanchez (the alter ego of fictional actor Todd Rivers), a narcissist delighted to meet who has the recurring gag of always appearing with his voice doubled and out of sync.

Such nonsense only works with an actor like Matt Berry in the role that launched him to stardom in which he is now. An example of that sound chaos is found in this selection of the best scenes of Matt Berry as Dr. Sanchez.

At another time they did not hesitate to make a video clip with Matt Berry singing ‘One Track Lover’, another of the highlights of ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’.

I had never seen anything like ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ when a British friend gave me the DVD with his most effusive recommendation and I admit that I keep it as one of my most precious television possessions and it is one of the few series that I usually review when I want to laugh my head off. open jaw.

I do not know if it has been broadcast in our country, although I have been able to verify that it is complete on YouTube, so if you speak English, do not miss it, although it is visually so powerful with that eighties style, that the dialogues are at service of that cutrez and the overacting of everyone.

Actors:

Richard Ayoade (right) is the son of a Nigerian and a Norwegian and after studying at Cambridge, he decided to start a career as an author and actor, creating with Matthew Holness the character of Garth Marenghi, a parody of the horror anthology series, which opened the television doors, until his consecration with the character of the computer freak Moss in ‘The It Crowd’.

Her subsequent career has channeled her towards directing films such as ‘Submarine’ or ‘The Double’, while on television she works mainly as a presenter of informative programs or contests with a certain geek touch such as ‘Gadget Man’, ‘Travel Man’ or ‘The Crystal Maze’, in a more than curious twist to his career.

blankOn the contrary, in the case of Matthew Holness, his career is defined almost exclusively by his character of Garth Marenghi, from which he has not been able to detach himself in his few television appearances, almost always in the series of his friend Matt Berry, focusing his work on comedies. plays and monologues of all kinds.

Matt Berry (right) has cemented his career thanks to excessive and completely off-the-wall characters like in this debut as Dr. Todd Rivers, and later thanks to the recommendation of his friend Richard Ayoade to enter The It Crowd’ when they were looking for someone craziest to run the computer company.

His career has continued in style in another memorable series ‘Toast of London’ where he played a third row failed actor who is thought to be Sir Anthony Hopkins and later in ‘House of Fools’ always in his eccentric tone in this occasion as a nostalgic seventies, in addition to even appearing in ‘Community’ in his usual crazy line.

In any case, for many he is better known for his rampaging vampire in ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ doing Matt Berry like always

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Alice Lowe played Dr. Liz Asher (actress Madeleine Wool’s alter ego) and stood out for her telekinetic powers and for those impossible hairstyles where her hairspray consumption probably affected the ozone layer.

Being a friend of the creators in Cambridge, she entered the cast from the plays and after the series she has continued working but without going beyond a discreet background.

The sequel:

The hearings were quite poor, although in its defense it must be said that Channel 4 broadcast it almost at dawn, afraid of scaring the oldest part of its audience, so they decided to cancel it at the end of that 1T.

However, when they began to gain popularity abroad thanks to the Internet, the network finally decided to order a sequel from them entitled ‘Man to Man with Dean Lerner’ where both took up their characters in a conversational tone ‘Banco de Sabadell’, where they could go from all.

The hilarious promo revisiting writer Garth Marenghi is a fabulous spoof to keep you going for six bonus episodes of these characters.

Epilogue:

‘Gareth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ is an absolute cult comedy among fans of cult comedies, for its ability to laugh at its own shadow with numerous meta-references, so I hope I have whetted your appetite to discover this forgotten gem of comedy British.

We await your opinions and comments, here or on our twitter account (@lmejino). Until next time

Lorenzo Mejino

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace: the great cult bizarre comedy – Series for gourmets