Friday, August 9, 2013



If you have ever seen "The Simpsons" famous "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween specials 

and ever wondered what a live action series done in the vein of  Simpsons Halloween would be like, well today is your lucky day because today I'm going to cover a little seen 2009 British (very) dark comedy PSYCHOVILLE.  The series features a diverse set of five characters who live in different parts of England, all of whom have been blackmailed by the same individual (referred to in the credits for episode seven as "Black Gloved Man"), who has given them each a letter with the message "I know what you did…".

Like another British comedy series "Spaced," Psychoville ran for fourteen episodes spread out over two seasons, with a Halloween special in between the two seasons that served as a "mop up" episode to link the two seasons together.  The show was highly acclaimed and rightly so, but series creator Reese Shearsmith said that a series three would not be happening simply because "nobody watched it."  The series only topped 1.4 million viewers, which is probably standard for such genre shows on the BBC if it doesn't have "Dr. Who" in the title.

The series was created by created, written and acted by Reese Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton who had previously created the British comedy series "The League of Gentlemen.  Like "League," Pemberton and Shearsmith do practically everything themselves, producing, writing, and acting in multiple roles.  

The series shines in the eclectic performances of Pemberton and Shearsmith.  They both become the characters that they created.  Shearsmith's best character would have to be that of "Mr. Jelly", a children's clown who lost a hand apparently to his rival "Mr. Jolly and who is constantly confused for his arch rival, much to his chagrin.

But the best performances of the entire series belong to Pemberton and Shearsmith's David and Maureen Sowerbutts.  Pemberton plays David, a "slow" serial killer obsessed man who lives at home with his elderly mother played by Shearsmith.  Maureen is constantly having to be a serial killer by proxy; killing off people that ironically she thinks are a threat to David.  The two form a creepy, yet touching bond that carries throughout the series.

In the tradition of "Arrested Development's" fake websites linked to the show, such as "IMOSCAR.COM"

Shearsmith and Pemberton collaborated with Rob and Neil Gibbons to produce fictional web content to accompany the show including an interactive treasure hunt.  Fake websites and promotional websites were created for many of the characters to allow viewers of the program to get "an overall Psychoville experience."

A new Psychoville Experience was created for series two, with a new interface and a selection of new fictional websites released after each episode. Viewers were asked to find a number each week and input them into a keypad to unlock a 'secret chamber' at the end of the series.

The chamber once opened reveals the revived head of the Nazi Doctor Ehrlichmann (Kenchington's father). Five questions are asked and a certain amount correct gets you a free 'freeze and reanimation ticket' from CG Medistore and andrewsnanotech to print out. The websites were again written by Shearsmith and Pemberton.

Here's a complete listing of the depth the of "fake" websites created for the show's characters and businesses. (all still active at the time of this writing)
Unfortunately, I could not find Psychoville on Netflix, however, the episodes are available streaming on the net, in one form or another if you search for them.  However, you can purchase the dvds from, for about twelve pounds. It's very well worth the import if you have a region free dvd player (which can be found for like $30 bucks or less today.)

There are so many fantastic characters and so many plot twists in the series it's hard to cover them post mortem (ha a pun) after the series has no ended without massive spoilers.  So please hunt down the series so you can enjoy it fully sans spoilers.

No comments:

Post a Comment