Psychoville series one review
Five former inmates of an insane asylum somehow connected to a shadowy blackmailer sending mysterious messages. "I know what you did" one reads."You killed her" says another. What can it all mean? To thee and me it means that The League of Gentlemen is back and it could barely be stranger. Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton write and star in Psychoville and they are once again excavating the darker recesses of human tragedy and comedy. It’s a mystery thriller with a scary clown and a porn dwarf. The innocent perish. Keeley Hawes appears nowhere. How can it not be a winner?
First attraction in the carnival of the weird is David Sowerbutts – a special needs mong living with his mum Maureen in North London. Fat, retarded and plagued with psoriasis, serial killer obsessed David plays the butler in a murder mystery evening but is fired one night for over egging the pudding with his murder reconstruction ("See, the murderer has written "fuck pig" using his or her own excrement." he tells the appalled punters "Could be a clue"). When he runs home to tell his mother "I did a bad murder" Maureen misinterprets
the first blackmail letter and at her behest they begin bumping off everyone who witnessed the murder mystery evening fiasco. On such fatal misunderstandings are comedy legends founded.
Not that anybody is going to mistake Mr. Jelly for a comedy legend. This washed up hook handed clown has a tortured relationship with his arch nemesis Mr Jolly, the surgeon turned clown responsible for the loss of his hand and the loss of his livelihood. That probably happens more than you think.
"Blind and alone in a mansion in Yorkshire (they have mansions in Yorkshire? Who knew?) is Oscar Lomax."
A bit like porn dwarves with supernatural powers. Step forward Robert Greenspan (Jason Tompkinss), an actor playing Blusher in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs with Christopher Biggins in Eastbourne. Quite a character, Robert. Although his dwarf porn days are behind him, he has telekinetic ability that activates whenever he is angry or humiliated which, as a pantomime porn dwarf in love with the beautiful but brainless Snow White, Debbie (Daisy Haggard, the nice toothy piece of pie last seen in the underrated Man Stroke Woman), occurs with worrying frequency . Poor old Robert – he just can’t catch a break.
And some can’t catch at all. Blind and alone in a mansion in Yorkshire (they have mansions in Yorkshire? Who knew?) is Oscar Lomax. Oscar collects rare toys and struggles with the Crabtree sisters, conjoined twins from Essex, to attain the final missing piece in his collection. Snappy the Crocodile – a cuddly green monstrosity that threatens the very fabric of Oscar’s fragile sanity.
"Aerial Telly is not Dawn French’s biggest fan. Dawn French is Dawn French’s biggest fan (the biggest everything in fact). She doesn’t ruin this with her portrayal of Joy. I just think there is another actress out there looking for a break who could have done the role better."
He’s not the only one unhealthily fixated on a toy. Joy Aston (Dawn French) is a midwife in Bristol, giving eye-wateringly graphic antenatal classes and labouring under the delusion that her practice doll Freddie is a real infant. Aerial Telly is not Dawn French’s biggest fan. Dawn French is Dawn French’s biggest fan (the biggest everything in fact) She doesn’t ruin this with her lawks moi love portrayal of Joy – it is perfectly adequate. I just think there is another actress out there looking for a break who could have done the role better. It’s not like Psychoville needed an established star to sell it. The League of Gentlemen has a fan base that would turn up for the opening of an envelope.
"The League of Gentlemen take you places you don’t want to go – all of them inside our subconscious minds, buried deep beneath taboo, custom and convention."
And they would not be disappointed in this instance as Psychoville is compelling and funny. It works because it’s dramatically astute – Shearsmith and Pemberton have a deep respect for and understanding of every genre they tackle. Comedy, horror, thriller, mystery – they know the themes, settings, plotlines and audience expectations of all of them and are skilful enough to blend and subvert them as they please.
The League of Gentlemen take you places you don’t want to go – all of them inside our subconscious minds, buried deep beneath taboo, custom and convention. Once accessed, they return much easier. They will visit again without warning when you least expect it. Incest, cannibalism, sexual slavery under a wandering circus minstrel – all those things you fear most yet secretly desire above all others. You sick fucks.
The best thing about it: Fuming Carriesque porn dwarf.
The worst thing about it: Dawn French.
The verdict on Psychoville: Enjoying life on the margins.
Marks out of 10: 8