There is currently a lost treasure of a show treading in the late night waters of Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. A show that only true addicts of fringe culture are aware of, despite the fact that the show has been aired on channels such as BBC to Sci-Fi for years.
The show is Garth Meringue’s Darkplace and was originally shot and aired in 2004. It may not have enjoyed the rampant success of other British comedy imports like “The Office”, but is finally picking up steam and getting the attention it deserves.
“Darkplace” is essentially a parody of the horror genre in and a bad clich’eacute;d television production as well. The story revolves around a four doctors working at a very strange (and dark) hospital named Darkplace. The hospital is host to an outlandish array of supernatural threats, which are handled by the hilarious heroics of Dr. Rick Dagless.
The titular character Garth Meringue (who plays Dagless) is a horror writer, and a man who considers himself the greatest writing talent in the universe. The premise of the show is that Garth and his producer, Dean Lerner, made the show in the 1980s on a shoestring budget and that it has been re-released with interviews with the actors cut into the shows. Overall, the “feel” of “Darkplace” is much like an early 80s action show with terrible production values.
“Darkplace” is incredibly well written, taking trite, well worn and clich’eacute; phrases making them fresh and hilarious. The comedy of the show comes not only from the writing, but the presentation as well.
Cameras are intentionally poorly worked and scenes are framed deliberately. Richard Ayoade, co-creator of the show, is particularly brilliant in his role as Dean Lerner, who within the mythos of the show is Garth’s publisher who “brought” the show to the network and played Garth’s boss within the show as well.
The role of Dean is highlighted by particularly bad acting (as Dean explains, Garth didn’t want a real actor for the role, because he wanted “the truth.”) Ayoade absolutely excels in this role, hilariously bringing to life the worst acting ever seen on screen.
First-time viewers may initially be thrown by the sheer amount of elements of television production that are skewered at once during the show. It is incredibly jarring, at first, to watch a show at once violate every rule we think of being in place to measure the quality of a show.
Once viewers get used to the overwhelming amount of things being done to amuse the viewer, the anxiety melts away and the genius of the show is taken in. The acting is bad. The camera work is bad. Audio tracks are off and don’t quite sync with the lips. Backdrops and props sway in the wind, obviously made of nothing but foam. Long pauses break up the expected timing of jokes.
Fans of Andy Kaufman will especially understand and like this show. Not since the heyday of Kaufman have so many fundamental rules of comedy, especially timing, been intentionally “screwed with” to produce such a riotous effect.
“Darkplace” is a short run show, and has been running on Adult Swim since November. Any fan of comedy, especially British and quirky flavors, or fans of the horror genre in particular should do themselves a favor and watch this show.
Show times vary from week to week and it may take some effort to track down a viewing, but it’s well worth the effort. Never before has an entertainment form been presented with such ego and arrogance, coupled with complete (intentional) ineptitude.
The overall result is a unique, and hilarious experience that is well worth your time. Watch it, love it, and spread the word, this show is not getting nearly the amount of attention that it deserves.