If it is as the old Jesuit motto says (‘give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’), I am seriously beginning to wonder what kind of nightmares plagued Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton in their formative years.
Alongside Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson, they were responsible for The League Of Gentlemen, the cult BBC comedy fave that specialised in the blackest of humours. Set in the enclosed world of Royston Vasey (the real name of crude northern comic Roy Chubby Brown), the audience was presented with a series of weird, eccentric and downright demented characters who looked like they’d been interbreeding since Queen Victoria was on the throne. For all its nightmarish imagery though, The League of Gentlemen was comic genius. Albeit, an acquired taste.
Trying to move on from something that iconic was never going to be easy. So Reece and Steve haven’t moved on; they’ve merely moved location. Welcome to Psychoville and a set of characters (mostly played by the two men) that includes: an ebay-obsessed scary blind man, a twisted midwife (Dawn French, superbly cast) who treats a baby doll like a real baby, a telekinetic dwarf who’s in love with his panto Snow White, an incestuous mother and son with a fondness for serial killers (shades of Tubbs and Edward) and, my favourite so far, Mr Jelly – the bitter one-handed clown and children’s entertainer (shades of Papa Lazarou).
The first Psychoville gag was also the opening episode’s funniest: dark lighting, flickering candlelight and a gloved hand scratching away at yellowed paper with a quill. The black-bordered letters are put inside envelopes and then fastened with a wax seal, bearing the stamp of a raven. All of a sudden you hear: "Cashier number three please". There’s light and we’re in a present day post office. The figure in black skulks away and a lady in the queue observes: "’E’s left his candle." Brilliant.
The correspondence, saying ‘I know what you did’, is sent to each of the protagonists who are somehow linked. We’ll just have to wait and see what the nefarious deed turns out to be.
Psychoville swings all-too-easily between black comedy, sick comedy and comedy of the grotesque. Admittedly the humour here isn’t as consistent as it was in The League of Gentlemen; there were quite a few laugh-free moments. Then again, maybe I just was too grossed-out to laugh in places. Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have taken the phrase ‘profoundly disturbing’ and made it their own. If you’re freaked out by a mother scratching her eczema-riddled son’s back just before she fiddles with his trousers in an inappropriate way or dwarf porn, this isn’t for you. It will test your mind and your funny bone – but it will also test your stomach.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – The return of The Wire to BBC2. We are now into season 3 of this excellent series and if you want to catch-up, tune into digital channel FX for season 2.
Today I am mostly hatin’ – I love House. For me, Hugh Laurie can do no wrong; he is beyond superlative in this show. But I am getting increasingly annoyed at the amount of screen time devoted to Olivia Wilde. I don’t care how hot she looks, the actress (who plays 13) has the charisma of a paper bag. She couldn’t act her way out of one either.
MSN Editor Coops
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