It’s potentially the most absurd show you’ll ever watch, but the second the ear-piercing theme starts, it’s impossible not to give in to at least one episode.
“Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace,” a six-episode sci-fi-horror-parody, is as unique as it is strange. Matthew Holness (“The Haunting of Bly Manor,” “Year of the Rabbit”) and Richard Ayoade (“Soul,” “The IT Crowd”) created, wrote, directed and starred in the 2004 series that never got the credit it deserved.
If you don’t already know the show — which has become a cult favorite — it’s worth explaining before I dive into the contents.
Washed-up horror writer Garth Marenghi (Holness) gives DVD commentary-style monologues and interviews in between clips of his failed ‘90s show “Darkplace,” where he starred as Dr. Rick Dagless.
Marenghi gives out nonsense wisdom and uses fake French words in place of their alleged English counterparts between scenes of Dagless being the hero at his place of employment, Darkplace Hospital.
Dagless doesn’t take on adventures involving the angered souls of long-dead Scottish warriors or the appearance of an eye-child monster alone, though. Alongside him are Todd Rivers (Matt Berry) as Dr. Lucien Sanchez, Madeleine Wool (Alice Low) as Dr. Liz Asher and publisher Dean Learner (Ayoade), who plays hospital administrator Thornton Reed.
Despite the entire cast playing their roles so perfectly awful, Berry (“What We Do In the Shadows,” “The Watch”) absolutely steals the show. Between jumping around corners in slow motion to strike a martial arts-inspired pose and singing “One Track Lover” (featuring Dagless on keytar), it’s safe to say the man has range.
Overly stiff line deliveries are followed by exceedingly serious ones, adding to the insane pace every episode moves at. Terrible cuts aid the effort to disorient viewers amid some of the intentionally worst dialogue ever written — and it’s all bundled together with special effects that look like they were funded by my savings account.
In a scene following the mysterious death of a patient, Holness delivers a line that encapsulates the show’s campiness.
“I wouldn’t say I buy it, Liz,” Holness said. “Let’s just say I’m window shopping, and right now, there’s a half-price sale on weird.”
This is all without mentioning the absurd side plots that are just never explained, such as Dagless’ half-grasshopper child or how the creation of a freak gamma-ray accident created a human-sized eye — the latter of which Dagless actually tells viewers they will never find out.
The show is so bad it’s good, but rather it’s because Ayoade and Holness are some of the greatest television geniuses to ever grace the screen. It’s like that one kid from your high school that got a zero on the ACT — they had to be smart to do it, or at least you hope so.
Despite this, the show was never given the time of day, literally — it was put on a late-night slot in the middle of the week.
The show’s cancellation has been put alongside that of “Freaks and Geeks” — which I also wrote about because I have an odd affinity for one-season shows — in terms of the worst cancellation decisions made by TV studios.
“This show could’ve changed the world, if only the station hadn’t canceled it for a reboot of ‘Who’s the Boss?’” Holness said while in character as Dagless, unwittingly spelling out a similar fate to the show’s real one.
Unfortunately for the 10 supporters of a petition to bring the show back five years ago, it hasn’t happened and doesn’t look like it will any time soon. Some supplemental clips of the actors reviving their characters appeared on a parody-talk show, “Man to Man with Dean Learner,” but it seems the show is forced to live on in cult fame.
All six episodes of “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace” are available to stream on Amazon Prime (or for free on YouTube).