We learned something spectacular from The Toast! As of right now, you can watch every single episode (well, to be fair, there are only six) of the Greatest Television Show of All Time on youtube. And what is the Greatest Television Show of All Time, you ask? Why, it’s Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and if you’re not familiar with it, click through.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is a show within a show….within a show. In the outermost part of the onion, Matthew Holness is Garth Marenghi, “author, dreamweaver, visionary, plus actor” Richard Ayoade plays Marenghi’s publisher, Dean Learner, Alice Lowe is Madeline Wool, and Matt Berry is Todd Rivers, actor. One more layer down, early-oo’s Garth Marenghi presents his failed 1980s horror masterpiece, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, repackaged with interviews with Lerner and Rivers (Madeline Wool has, sadly, disappeared) in which the men reminisce about their times on set. Finally, in the heart of the onion, Marenghi plays Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D., the greatest doctor/necromancer since Dee himself, Rivers plays Dr. Rick Sanchez, Dagless’ best friend/rival in love, Wool plays Dr. Liz Asher, doctor/psychic/woman, and finally Learner portrays shotgun-toting hospital administrator Thornton Reed.
In a terrifying case of reality mirroring fantasy, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace only lasted 6 episodes on Channel 4, most likely because this poor Earth could not sustain such beauty for long. But what a glorious run! The plot, in case you’re concerned about something so silly, is that Dr. Rick Dagless, M.D. works at Darkplace Hospital, and unfortunately he and an old friend opened a Hellgate not long ago, and all sorts of annoying demons have been haunting the place ever since. He uses his doctor skills to keep humans alive, and his occultist skills to fight the powers of evil, whether they come as apes, evil broccoli, or the Scottish. It’s the single best ’80s parody I have ever seen, and it has the greatest opening sequence of any TV show ever:
See? It’s a perfect blend of Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital and MacGyver…and you don’t get any more 80s than MacGyver. But the true wonder of this show is the layers of characterization the actors pull off. Holness, Ayoade, and Berry all excel at playing terrible actors trying really hard to emote. And as you watch the show you see that every single actor commits to doing terribly: whether it’s by staring straight into a camera, tripping over something, or missing their cue to toss a cat into camera range. The horror parody works well, too, with Carrie-style menstrual telekinesis, Dr. Moreau-esque animal experimentation, and good eldritch-fashioned Lovecraftian Mythos all making appearances. The practical effects fill me with joy (particularly Skipper the Eyechild, seen above) and the soundtrack, based on melodies whistled by Garth Marenghi himself, always let the viewer know exactly which type of emotion they’re supposed to be experiencing. And as if that wasn’t enough they gave us this: