Last night, it came to my attention that Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, the most significant televisual event since Quantum Leap, has become available to stream via Hulu Plus. At first I didn't believe it - this sounded like the setup for a particularly cruel practical joke - but a quick visit to Hulu quickly disabused me of that notion. There it was, just sitting there, waiting to be rewatched. Or discovered!
Which is the position I imagine many of you are in (then again, maybe not; the BMD crowd is generally a savvy lot). I'll explain to you what Darkplace is, but be aware: the less you know going in, the better. If you trust the recommendation, great. Please proceed directly to Hulu, sign up for their one-week free trial (don't forget to cancel on day six, if that's your plan!), and bask in one of the most miraculous six-episode TV series ever made. Those who need convincing are encouraged to stick around for clips and a convoluted explanation as to what Darkplace is.
Above, the intro to Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, a "horror-comedy" which aired on the UK's Channel 4 back in 2004. The setup for the series: Garth Marenghi (played by series co-creator and writer Matthew Holness) was once a hacky horror author of some renown. His popularity peaked sometime in the mid-80's, at which point Channel 4 approached him about creating a primetime horror drama, something that'd capitalize on his current fame and fill a hole in the schedule. Marenghi has zero experience writing for television, but he's possessed of the sort of ego that allows him to set that inconvenient truth aside. He joins forces with a low-rent, would-be uber-producer named Dean Learner (the great Richard Ayoade, who also co-created and -wrote here), churns out half a dozen scripts, builds sets, hires a cast, and promptly creates the worst television show of all time. It never airs.
But there's another layer to the series: Garth Marenghi's Darkplace isn't comprised solely of those six unaired episodes. It's presented as a series of "Looking Back"-style interviews with the cast and crew of the series, all of whom are in complete denial about the awfulness of the show they made together. There's Marenghi and Learner, but there's also an insufferable Capital-A Actor named Todd Rivers (the also-great Matthew Berry), as well as a put-upon love interest of sorts named Madeleine Wool (the, yes, also-also great Alice Lowe). Most of this crew offer talking-head interviews between glimpses of Marenghi's ill-fated series, which we see has aged terribly.
In other words: Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is at once a savage mockumentary, a terrible 80's horror drama (complete with jaw-droppingly bad practical effects), a loving roast of Stephen King circa 1985, and a merciless parody of ill-advised vanity projects. It is presented straightfaced, as though all of its bizarre mythology were real, and it is jam-packed with quotable dialogue, brilliant performances (virtually everything Ayoade does here is pants-wettingly funny), and the kind of out-of-left-field moments that will leave you stunned that this show - the actual, real Garth Marenghi's Darkplace - ever made it to air. Look, here's a scene from an episode where gang finds Darkplace Hospital under seige by the ghosts of Scotish highlanders:
Discovering that Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is available via Hulu Plus is one of the most delightful surprises I've experienced in months. I've been complaining aloud for years about the show's absence from Netflix, convinced that if it were readily accessible in the States (and yeah, yeah, I know: it's not hard to find online if you want it, but this series deserves better than being watched via YouTube on your laptop) that it'd get an all-new lease on life. Well, here it is, readily accessible to anyone who wants it. And you should want this: without exaggeration, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
Go forth, my friends. It's time you met the world's most accomplished author, dreamweaver, and visionary (plus actor).