“ Genre: Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2009 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Matt Lipsey / Actors: Reece Shearsmith, Dawn French, David Bamber, Eileen Atkins, Janet McTeer ... / DVD released 2009-08-03 at 2 Entertain Video / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Appearances in Benidorm, Shameless and Whitechapel have cemented Steve Pemberton as a firm favourite in my mind of recent English comic actors, his facial expressions alone and ridiculous haircut as childish serial killer fanatic David are worth buying Series 1 of Psychoville!
It's Pemberton that teams up again with Reece Shearsmith to produce this unbelievably dark yet entertaining piece of television. I genuinely thought that the 3rd series of The League of Gentlemen was a series too far, it seemed to become unnecessarily sick and the characters strayed a little too much from the way they way originally introduced.
Psychoville is a breath of fresh air though, not only have they created several truly great characters but they've managed to intertwine them in to a pretty interesting story line that borders on a who done it, that gets more complex with every episode and never ceases to amaze.
Admittedly there are a few pretty freakish moments in the series that made me wonder whether I really wanted to watch it but almost like a good horror film, if you grin and bear the moments of sadism you are usually rewarded. I like the variety in characters who may all be psychos but are in fact very different personality wise, I'll try to summarise them without giving away any of the plot.
David and Maureen (played by Pemberton and Shearsmith) are a mother and son, David is obsessed with serial killers and sports a bizarre hairstyle like a monk that got a bad deal. Episode 4 is completely dedicated to the duo and I have to say that I prefer the format of the other episodes, the other characters are too interesting not to be able to show in an episode and it has that feel of a soap opera that runs an episode focussed on one story line and only a few characters and fails to match expectations.
Dawn French plays Joy Aston, a midwife/doting and obsessive mother of a practice doll, I think that her role is perhaps the most frightening of them all and it makes a fantastic change for someone who has become a bit typecast as The Vicar of Dibley and Terry's Chocolate orange adverts!
Oscar Lomax is the most likeable character, an elderly blind man with a husky Yorkshire accent, he has a prized collection of stuffed toys and requires one more to make it the best collection in the world, his rivals are the grotesque Crabtree sisters and his helper is fondly referred to as 'tea leaf'
Mr. Jelly is a sarcastic, grumpy old clown from Salford who often gets mixed up with Mr. Jolly, his dry sense of humour brings a great deal of the humour to the show.
Robert Greenspan (Tompkins) is a dwarf playing the role of Snow White pantomine, arrogant yet also looked down on, he's trying to woo Snow White, however one of the other dwarves (Kerry) is vying for his attentions.
I should add that there's a really strong support cast, everyone no matter how small a part, really does a great job, right down to the old man that merely shouts "Wipe My Bum", it's a very dark comedy so it's not the kind of thing you'll be laughing out loud at but I find myself constantly sniggering to myself whilst watching it and marvelling at the cleverness of the script. Made up of 7 episodes, I can't wait to watch the Halloween Special and the 2nd series now.
I saw this box set on offer in HMV around Christmas time and debated picking it up for my boyfriend, I decided in the end that he wouldn't like it but, when a friend borrowed it us on DVD, we both really got into it.
== SHOW ONLY REVIEW ==
** Psychoville **
Psychoville is a 2009 BBC series starring Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Dawn French.
It starts out by introducing us to a group of characters that seem to be unconnected. We meet Joy Aston, a nurse who seems to be strangely attached to a baby doll. Oscar Lomax is a blind man who enlists the help of his care, 'Tea Leaf', to track down a limited edition beanie baby. Mother and Son, Maureen and David Sowerbutts, are over interested in serial killers and David aspires to become a serial killer himself. At the rehearsals for Christopher Biggins theatrical version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, we meet dwarf Robert who seems to have a strange power. And at a child's birthday party, we meet Mr Jelly, who is rival to Mr Jolly.
When these characters all receive the same letter stating 'I know what you did', it becomes obvious that these characters are connected in some way and all want to forget their past.
With its dark humour and strange happenings throughout, Psychoville has enough going on to send a crazy man sane! It is impossible to guess what is going to happen next and the quick-witted, sick humour provides giggles from start to finish.
As we join the search for a stuffed crocodile, meet some Siamese twins and visit an old people's home, you become gripped with everything and cannot get enough!!
Many of the characters are paid by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, however, it is difficult to tell that the same people lay many characters and I was surprised when I looked into it and realised how many of them were played by them.
Psychoville is definitely a new favourite in our house, and with many of our friends, and has got us all talking and discussing what they can come up with next!
Watch this if you love programmes that provides lots of laughs but tried to keep work your brain along the way!
A review of just the show, the region 2 DVD presentation of the BBC TV series, Psychoville can be found online for around £15.
When midwife Joy Aston goes to work each day, happy to help couples on their journeys into parenthood, she raises more than a few eyebrows. Protectively cradling her 'baby', Freddie, Joy seems blissfully unaware that the child she is carrying is nothing more than a maternity doll. Or is he?
Oscar Lomax, a blind reclusive millionaire is waiting for the right person to come along when Michael comes into his life. Initially coming to Mr Lomax's home to read to him, Michael sees an opportunity when learns of Lomax's lucrative commodities - but old man Lomax is one step ahead of him.
David Sowerbutts still lives with his mother and earns a living helping a local hotel enact murder-themed dinners. When David goes a bit too far, he tells his mother that he has 'done a bad murder', catalysing a bloody trail of carnage as Maureen Sowerbutts proves the lengths she will go to in order to protect her only son.
There's only room in town for one children's entertainer and since poor Mr Jelly lost his right hand in an accident, a new clown has taken over his pitch. But that's not going to stop the chain-smoking, alcoholic, foul-mouthed Mr Jelly from trying to keep his business going.
In a seaside production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one of the seven, a young actor named Robert, is in love with the actress who plays Snow White. But his every turn is thwarted, generally resulting in humiliation, but those who humiliate Robert had better watch out because when Robert gets mad something bad usually happens.
A group of seemingly unconnected strangers, each experiencing his/her own problems but that's just the beginning of the story. A shadowy figure lurks around every corner watching and waiting for his turn. Soon, each of them receives a hand-written letter, containing the words 'I know what you did' and then life will never be the same again.
Originally screened on the BBC's 'youth' channel BBC3, Pyschoville is a seven-part comedy drama penned from the same hands that brought us The League Of Gentlemen. Curiously, I've never really taken to League and although many disagree, it retains a cult following that is possibly matched only by the number of people who will add Psychoville to their list of all-time favourite television shows. Displaying the same macabre sense of humour and bizarre collection of characters, Psychoville is easily the superior of the two, given only that the narrative running throughout the season is more entertaining and much better structured. Stuffed full of subtle in-jokes and crammed even further with laugh out loud moments; this is easily the best that television could bring in 2009.
The strength of Psychoville is perhaps the way in which the narrative comprises a neat selection of sub-stories that gradually come together to show how the lead characters are linked. Part who-dunnit, part farce and part horror story, the humour here is easily as dark as the aforementioned League, but seems to have more purpose and direction than the events of Roysten Vasey. But The League and Psychoville definitely have one thing in common and that's the bizarre collection of characters inhabiting their streets.
But there is, of course, much more to it than that. The comedy works on a number of levels, poking holes in various aspects of society but largely tries to blur the lines between sanity and insanity. The eBay selling antics of Kelly-Su and Chelsea Crabtree, for example, may be represented by a pair of gargantuan Siamese twins, but the fact remains that a lot of people behave like this. Maureen and David Sowerbutts best represent those who are 'misunderstood' in a number of different way, and Oscar Lomax is there simply to remind us how we still laugh at those who are perhaps a little less fortunate than ourselves. It's not particularly politically correct on one hand (Michael gets labelled as Tea Leaf because he's a black youth) but then shows how the characters can all be united regardless of their skin colour, age or gender.
The comical writing is spot on, perfectly timed both visually and in word. Some of it's quite grotesque (there are various murders throughout the show) but not particularly disturbing because it's all so tongue-in-cheek. The format of each of the seven episodes is almost entirely consistent, with the action switching from one location/character to another until they finally end up together towards the end of the series. The only exception to this takes place in episode four where the whole thirty minutes is focused on Maureen and David Sowerbutts. It's an entertaining enough episode but arguably not very welcome in the midst of everything else that's going on and it has been suggested that the show lost a lot of viewers at this point when it was originally scheduled. The break in format stands out on the DVD just as much but can, at least, be fast forwarded if necessary.
In multiple roles throughout the series, it's often left to the writers (Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton) to bring them to life. Pemberton is perhaps the more versatile of the two and triumphantly steals the show with the hilarious creation that is Oscar Lomax. Completely blind, old man Lomax staggers around his sprawling mansion with a host of well-timed one-liners that combine perfectly with hilarious visual comedy. As we learn about his 'commodities', Lomax and his new assistant Michael (affectionately nick-named Tea Leaf) find themselves in increasingly bizarre situations, but it's the simplest moments that raise the biggest laughs. It STILL has me in stitches to think of old man Lomax trying to take a telephone call on a Jacob's Club bar and referring to a grotesque set of fully-grown Siamese twins as The Cheeky Girls. Shearsmith is on excellent form in a variety of roles too, notably a disturbingly psychotic mother named Maureen but more strikingly as the one-handed clown Mr Jelly ("look at the red raw stump"). Shearsmith's roles are clever and well scripted but far less likeable in comparison with the likes of Mr Lomax by design more than anything else - and you can tell they're all Shearsmith too. The differences between Pemberton's roles are striking too. David Sowerbutts and Mr Lomax are, in contrast, quite astounding - you'd never know it was the same person behind the make-up.
The supporting cast are excellent too. Dawn French is on fine form as nurse Jo who has, shall we say, a few issues. Initially quite superficial, French manages to bring a slightly sinister edge to the character, rather like some of her Murder Most Horrid roles and it's great to see her away from the Vicar of Dibley. Anyone with a phobia of dwarves should look elsewhere - there are seven of them here and there are some nude scenes too (yoikes!). Jason Tompkins has a ball as lovelorn Robert but some of the others have cards hidden up their sleeves too. The aforementioned 'Cheeky Girls' (Chelsea and Kelly Su Crabtree) are wonderfully grotesque
Psychoville was 2009's unexpected TV triumph. Clever, funny and macabre in equal quantities, this is something I could (and will) watch several times over. Rumours abound that a second season will follow, but if it doesn't, season one will stand as a classic for some time. Brilliant stuff - highly recommended.
This is a review for the DVD itself, not the show as I have already left a sickeningly gushing review of the programme on this site.
The packaging itself is beautiful, it's clearly been put together with love and the sketches of the characters inside the case and on the main menu are a lovely touch. I suspect they were drawn by Reece Shearsmith, one of the writers and actors. It certainly looks like his doodles and they are a lovely touch. If you're familiar with The League of Gentlemen you'll know that the DVDs are choc full of extras, and it's the same here for Psychoville. There is a commentary on all of the episodes, with some amusing anecdotes (the original idea for the panto storyline is pretty disturbing!)The commentaries on this are pretty good but since on all of the episodes bar one Steve and Reece are joined by other people including the producer and director, it's far more muted than the raucous League commentaries. The boys seem to come alive on the commentary for the last episode when it's just the two of them. There's a great feature on the 4th episode with a chance to watch it split-screen (which I highly recommend). If you're hoping for Mark Gatiss to join Steve and Reece on the episode 4 commentary, you will be disappointed but there is some nice footage of the Gents rehearsing together.
There are also some interviews with the crew and cast members, including Dawn French and a photo gallery. Considering they got the DVD out so quickly after the show aired, it does seem to have been very carefully and lovingly put together. The art work is utterly gorgeous and sad as I am, I like playing around with the menu because it's so pretty!
Personally I would have preferred to have waited and had Reece and Steve do the commentaries after the show had aired, because they no doubt would have been rather scathing against their detractors after the controversial final episode aired. It seems they had a rather enjoyable time filming Psychoville and there is less bite to the commentary, so if you're a League fan be prepared for some quite sweet gushing as opposed to the usual very funny and slightly mean comments the boys usually dish out on League commentaries.
Not sure what it says about me that I'd prefer them to be slightly peed off on the commentary but there you go!