What the Heck Are We Watching, Tom?

In the days before Wrappy, we used to watch television shows and movies while hand-packaging at the end of long evenings at the kitchen. During that time, we absorbed the wisdom of President Jed Bartlett through all seven seasons of The West Wing, nearly had our spirits broken by the inane, annoying babble of Jar Jar Binks while watching all six episodes ofStar Wars, and cheered Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum as they beat back an alien invasion of Earth in Independence Day.

Generally, we’ve stuck to the mainstream, but a couple months ago, at the suggestion of Tom, we forayed into the unknown… into a Darkplace.

Nobody is entirely sure how Tom stumbled upon Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, a “dark horror sci-fi sit com” that ran for a single season on Channel 4 in Britain due to the “worst artistic drought in broadcast history”; Tom isn’t sure, either. But what is certain is that we watched all six episodes, and loved it.

Whoever wrote the Wikipedia synopsis is clearly a devoted fan, because they captured the show’s impossibly intricate essence in a tidy two paragraphs:

The spoof comedy series, released in 2004, lampoons 1980s television drama,[3] particularly horror, sci-fi, and “the rampant egotism of self-appointed ‘mastermind’ authors.” [4] The show presents Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace as though it were a real, low-budget television series, produced in the 1980s, and now getting its first screening; this hoax is the show’s fictional frame. Darkplace’s fictional show-within-a-show includes deliberately poor production and special effects, sub-par acting, choppy editing and storylines that are “severely flawed and open-ended.”[3][5] This is interspersed with “present-day” interviews with the “cast”.

The series’ fictional premise is that some time in the 1980s, best-selling horror author Garth Marenghi and his publisher/publicist, Dean Learner, made their own low-budget television series with a single intent: “to change the evolutionary course of Man over a series of half-hour episodes.”[6][7] Set in Darkplace Hospital, “over the very gates of Hell,” in Romford, Essex,[4]Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace shows the adventures of Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D., as he fights the forces of darkness while simultaneously coping with the pressures of day to day admin. Within this fictional context, Marenghi wrote 63 teleplays from which 50 shows were produced;[7]however, Channel 4 was eventually forced to reject the show due to its “radicality”,[4][7] though Marenghi also cites possible government suppression: “MI8, which is actually three levels above MI6, pulled the plug. And they did it because I knew the truth.”[3]

Featuring insane antics, unthinkable plots (women turning into broccoli and zombie Scotsmen?), and memorable quotes, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace will surely fuel inside jokes at Fresh bar for weeks to come. Okay, maybe months. Possibly years.