A decade after it originally aired, we take a look back at Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Channel 4’s spoof of bad 80’s horror television.
What was it about?
Running for six episodes in early 2004, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace focused on ‘a show within a show’ as fictional horror writer Marenghi introduced his show Darkplace.
To quote the author himself, Darkplace was “a television program so radical, so risky, so dangerous, so goddamn crazy that the so-called powers that be became too scared to show it.”
The titular Darkplace is a hospital that amongst other things suffers from exploding patients, flying cutlery and a peculiar mist that turns people Scottish. Each episode sees the fictional cast interject with various comments and memories of their experience making the show.
Who is in it?
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was the brainchild of Matthew Holness who played Marenghi (who also then stars in his own creation as Dr. Rick Dagless) and The IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade who plays publisher Dean Lerner and hospital administrator Thornton Reed.
Joining them in the regular cast are Alice Lowe and the wonderful Matt Berry. During the series a number of famous comedy faces appear in roles of varying length including, Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding, Graham Linehan and Stephen Merchant.
The show is packed full of so many bizarre comedy moments that it is difficult to single any out. For shear madness though the bike chase involving Noel Fielding’s super intelligent ape has to be considered.
Stephen Merchant’s cameo as the chef in Episode 2 is also a treat as he rants about Liz’s impatient demands for chicken.
Dean: “I don’t know, whether someone close to Garth had exploded, um, whether it was a colleague or a pet, but you could tell that scene meant a lot to him, there were tears on set. Not from Garth – he was strong for the crew, um, but I wept. I’m not ashamed of that.”
Dagless: “Look, I’ll level with you: Linda’s dying, she’s turning into broccoli. It’s very contagious, she must be boiled.”
Padre: “You’ll know what to do. You’re the most sensitive man I know… and I know God.”
Dean: “I said: ‘Garth, this is a very ambitious script for the money we’ve got. Seeing as we’ve got no money, it’s extremely ambitious.’ We were filming it in my garage. I had a big garage, but still it was ambitious to film a TV show in a garage.”
The series developed a cult following despite reaching a relatively small audience on first broadcast, later airing on the Sci-Fi Channel and Adult Swim in the US. Film Four reportedly asked Holness and Ayoade to write a script for a movie version of the show in 2005, but the project never came to fruition.
Man to Man with Dean Learner, a short-lived spin-off spoofing the chat show format, launched in October 2006 on Channel 4, with Garth Marenghi appearing as Dean’s first guest.
Ayoade and Berry have gone on to more high profile success in shows like The IT Crowd, Toast of London and Vic and Bob’s House of Fools.
Holness worked with Ayoade again on Man to Man with Dean Lerner and made appearances in Friday Night Dinner and Life’s Too Short, while Lowe has appeared in numerous successful British comedies including Black Books, Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh.
Where can I find it?
What was your favourite moment in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace? Let us know below…