You guys, IT IS THE GREATEST THING EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS.
"I've always loved the great tragedies: King Lear, The Poseidon Adventure, Superman II..."
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a metafictional parody of '80s supernatural soap operas. The show-within-the-show was supposedly too brilliant and progressive at the time and is only now being aired, complete with introductions and commentary. Each introduction features the exact same camera angles as Garth Marenghi talks up himself and his show, sometimes spoiling the ending, and prepares the audience for what they are about to witness. And, oh, what are they about to witness is awesomely terrible.
Matthew Holness IS Garth Marenghi IS Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D. Excuse me, Matthew Holness is Garth Marenghi: author, dreamweaver, visionary, plus actor. Garth Marenghi is a self-important horror author who truly believes his show is full of amazing metaphor and symbolism, a true work of art. Rick Dagless is a war veteran/former warlock/current doctor who says things like "Can you run these ECG results past the boys in radiology?" It's up to him to fight all the evil, dark forces that constantly threaten Darkplace Hospital.
"Maybe the gates of hell had closed once and for all. Maybe they hadn't. It was a double-edged point."
Matt Berry IS Todd Rivers IS Dr. Lucien Sanchez. Todd Rivers is incredibly dashing, and Lucien Sanchez is somewhat of a lothario, which is what Matt Berry plays well, but he's also Rick's best friend. And he's also kind of a dolt.
"My aunt lives in Scotland. She says it's quite nice."
"WELL SHE'S WRONG."
Richard Ayoade IS Dean Learner IS Thornton Reed. Dean Learner is Garth Marenghi's publisher, and he is not an actor. Oh, boy, is he not an actor. His acting is wonderfully bad, as he just spouts out all his lines in one breath with no change in intonation. Thornton Reed is the hospital administrator, who answers to the mysterious "Wanton," and he's always answering phones and speaking in literal phrases.
"I've yet to see any demons on the ward, and I'm particularly observant."
Alice Lowe IS Madeleine Wool IS Dr. Liz Asher. Madeleine Wool is the only actor who doesn't provide commentary. Why? I will not say. (But Dean Learner will: "Then again, she was like a candle in the wind: unreliable.") Liz Asher is new to the hospital, and she is a stereotypical dumb blonde psychic, used to poke fun at such portrayals ("Go put on some more makeup," a character says consolingly). Her hair is ridiculous.
"I wonder what brought them here, Liz. Was it Rick, or was it this hospital? Or was it both?"
"Or all three?"
It is hard to explain all the ways in which Darkplace is amazing, but I've never seen such brilliantly bad writing before. It's not only full of self-aware cleverness, but it also replicates actual bad dialogue so well at times that it's no surprise some people fell for the ruse and thought it was a real show. And it doesn't stop at the writing, though, oh no. The camera angles are terrible, characters walk into frame from nowhere, the audio goes out of sync sometimes, and, of course, the special effects are laughable. To my surprise, they never went for the easy joke of showing the boom mic or a crew member in frame; no, they were much more sophisticated than that. There's so much subtlety in the construction, such that it walks a line between satire and full-on parody.
"We stood transfixed for what seemed like forever, but was probably closer to twenty minutes or half an hour."
The show is completely ridiculous, but they take it all completely seriously—both in the show as their characters and when discussing the show as the actors—that it just makes it all that much more hilarious. I cannot believe that I did not have this show in my life until now, and I am sad that there are only six episodes (not available on US DVD but available on YouTube). It is a mystery to me why there are not more!
"But we'll never know. Just to restate that, we'll never know. You're not gonna find out later."
DAMN YOU GARTH MARENGHI.