“ Psychoville is a dark character comedy mystery featuring characters from all over the UK, who each receive a mysterious letter. „
Psychoville passed me by last year, it was shown on BBC but I heard nothing about and saw no advertisements for it at all, now I cant claim to know why (I have no idea what television executives think at all - in fact I'm often baffled with their decisions), but with the people involved in this show I'm still surprised. I came across this show on a websites run down of the top shows of the year (it was number 2 on their list) and after some investigating went to Amazon to buy it.
The show was written and starred two thirds of the cult show, The League of Gentlemens, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemperton, and is just as darkly funny.
The series revolves around five characters: Mr. Jelly (Shearsmith), a one-handed children's entertainer who's quite dissatisfied with the world (the scene with him going to the toilet with an old woman he's handcuffed too, is fantastic.); David Sowerbutts (Pemberton), a serial killer-obsessed simpleton who lives with his mum (played by Shearsmith); Oscar Lomax (Pemberton), a blind millionaire who collects stuffed toys and is searching for the one toy that keeps slipping from his grasp (I love the cliff ending); Robert (Jason Tompkins), a dwarf in love with the woman who plays Snow White in their panto, he is possibly telekinetic; and Joy Aston (the surprisingly great French), a midwife who keeps a plastic doll as if it is a real child (this is very creepy)
All are connected to a blackmailer who has sent them all a letter; which contains the same message: "I know what you did" and what did they do? Well that's not for me to say but you'll be gripped and stay until the finish like I was.
The show won an award at the British comedy awards 2009 (best new TV comedy)
The season consists of 7 half hour episodes. And has recently been commissioned for a special one off AND a second season (yay) to be shown in 2011 (boo). It's a fantastic show which I'm just glad I came across at all. The jokes are all character based and like the league of gentlemen doesn't feature catchphrases or much slapstick, it's very subtle in its humour, as well as being quite surreal. I would recommend it to all league of gentlemen fans.
I'll be looking forward to the next batch of episodes. Will you give it a go?
Psychoville is the brainchild of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith who are most famous for their "League of Gentlemen" series that was popular on BBC 2. Renowned for their grotesque characters this series was originally screened on BBC2 earlier this year and I have just got round to watching it thanks to my online DVD rental company sending me the discs.
The story follows a group of people all linked to a specific act that took place a couple of years ago, they each start receiving anonymous notes through the post that simply say "I know what you did" and as the episodes progress they end up being back together having being manipulated by the unknown letter writer. I dont want to give too much away as to the nature of the incident that they all were part of nor too much about the characters themselves as this will spoil it for those who haven't yet seen it.
To say the series is a black comedy wouldn't really do it justice. Yes its comedic and it certainly is dark but the comedy works on all levels from being laugh out loud funny to very black, gallows humour and some of the situations the characters find themselves in are literally unbelieveable.
Both Shearsmith and Pemberton play multiple roles in the series and the make up effects are very convincing, all the actors including the fabulous Dawn French play their parts with conviction and the highlight for me was Mr Jelly the clown played by Shearsmith himself.
In-jokes and film references are played throughout the series and whilst you may miss them on a first viewing you will find yourself remembering these later on. Episode 4 is particularly noteworthy as this is primarily a two hander episode with just Shearsmith and Pemberton (a 3rd party does joins in mid way through) the episode was recorded in 1 take with no breaks for scene changes or continuity, so the whole 30 minute episode is 1 continuous shot of the characters and their dialogue. Watching the DVD extras they show you the multiple camera angles of footage from the episode which show props being pushed into shot and removed whilst the main camera focuses on the action taking place. All the actors and film crew deserve credit just for this one episode.
So if a mixture of telekinetic dwarves, psychotic nurses, grotesque clowns, mother and son serial killers and a blind beanie collector sounds appealing to you along with a supporting cast that find themselves at the mercy of a blackmailer dressed from head to toe in black then this is definitely the show for you.
I thoroughly enjoyed the episodes, I did have the advantage of watching them back to back though so didn't have the annoyance of having to wait a week inbetween each show. My only concern was the last episode which ended the series quite abruptly, Im hoping it was a cliffhanger and not a final ever episode as many unanswered questions were left open and the finale was a bit underwhelming, no news has been announced if a second series will follow but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will.
To conclude then, I would recommend this series to anyone who is a fan of dark comedy and horror, it isnt all that explicit but does contain some strong language, It is certificate 18 on DVD so obviously not suitable for youngsters and given the nature of some of the scenes I wouldn't recommend that children watch it anyway. Those with a clown phobia may find it a bit un-nerving too especially some of the "dream sequences" - I personally dont like clowns and I must confess having a very weird dream after watching one of the episodes, so be warned!
Psychoville gets 4/5 Dooyoo stars from me, losing a star for its ending as explained above. The series isnt available on the BBC's I-player anymore but the DVD is available from online rental companies and the cheapest place to buy it online to own is from Bang CD for the price of £10.99. Amazon stock the title for £12.88 but may be cheaper on Market Place.
Psychoville is quite simply a genius work of comedy, written by two of the writers from League of Gentlemen - Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. It is initially a sketch type show, starring many characters whose lives become increasingly intertwined as the series progresses. The characters include Mr Jelly (my favourite) - a clown displaying psychotic tendencies, Joy (Dawn French) - a midwife who has a doll which she believes is alive and treats as such, and also Robert - a panto dwarf in love with his real Snow White.
The comedy is very dark and quite subtle, rather than your more obvious slapstick. As the series progresses, the plot becomes more central to the series, which I saw as a bonus although it sometimes seemed to make the storyline slightly contrived.
Highlights of the series were almost all of Mr Jelly's performances, and the first few appearances of Joy Aston, a midwife played by Dawn French.
The series consisted of seven episodes, and was originally aired on the BBC in June and July 2009. You can't watch the series on BBC iPlayer anymore, unfortunately, but you can buy it very reasonably from Amazon.
If you are a fan of Leauge of Gentlemen, then you may feel that this series does not live up to its predecessor, however as a newcomer to this comedy duo, I have nothing but praise for Psychoville.
After the ground breaking success of the League of Gentlemen I was expecting great things from Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, two of the surrealistic masterminds behind the timeless dark comedy, and I pleased to say that they didn't disappoint.
Psychoville is a dark comedy/thriller that follows the slightly nightmarish lives of five British residents, all in various stages of virulent insanity. There's a brutally straight forward nurse (Joy Aston), who's under the increasingly hysterical belief that her maternity doll is actually alive, a visually impaired millionaire with an alarming obsession for beanie babies (Oscar Lomax), a love struck pantomime dwarf with telekinetic powers (Robert Greenspan), a chain smoking one-handed clown (Mr Jelly), and a serial killer obsessed man child who shares an affection with his mother which is occasionally beyond the limits of your average platonic relationship (David Sowerbutts). Whilst the series mainly focuses on the characters own sub-plots, such as Robert's doomed affection for the bubble headed leading lady, or Oscar's ongoing search for a limited edition Snappy the Crocodile, the seemingly un-related cast are drawn together by a dark event in their distant past, and are being individually threatened by a series of 'I know what you last summer-esque' letters.
One of the reasons why Psychoville's so brilliant is because of the multi-layered design of the plot. Superficially it may seem like a disjointed sketch show, when it's actually an incredibly well written dark thriller which succeeds in connecting the most irrelevant sub-plots together in an astounding crescendo. Part of the charm is Pemberton and Shearsmith's trademark sense of humour, which similar to the League of Gentlemen takes a wonderfully bleak and slightly cynical view of human nature. Although the majority of the characters are borderline disturbing, and in some cases downright psychotic, they are portrayed with a surreal air of irreverent disconnection that makes even the most graphic acts, such as the near fatal exsanguination of a hapless nurse, seem bizarrely humorous. Even highly controversial content matter, such as serial murder and accidental dismemberment, can be made to be absolutely hilarious with an appropriately upbeat soundtrack and few tongue-in-cheek quips, even if you do feel guilty for laughing afterwards. The icing on the Psychoville cake definitely lies within the characters. In contrast to the League of Gentlemen, in which the characters are brilliant but slightly two dimensional, the cast of Psychoville are masterpieces. Whilst many have a strange anti-hero tint to them, and are often so stomach churningly grotesque it's near impossible to connect with them, they all have such an in depth background that you can't help but feel for them, especially since some of their pasts are genuinely moving.
In my opinion Psychoville is one of the best comedy series of the year, and the cliff-hanger ending has left it wide open for a second series, although I wait with baited breath to see how on earth Pemberton and Shearsmith will be able to top the sheer brilliance of the first instalment. But knowing them, they'll manage it.
This was a BBC 2 series written and directed by Reece Shearsmith and
Steve Pemberton, who were partly responsible for the epic series The League of Gentlemen. This series had similarities to The League of Gentlemen, especially the style of dark, black comedy although Psychoville was ever so slightly more upbeat/comical.
The series revolves around five different characters : David Sowerbutts (Pemberton)who is a serial killer obsessed man who still lives with his mother Maureen (Shearsmith). Maureen very much controls David, treating him like a child (he in turn acts like a child) and occassionally the relationship crosses over into something that makes for uncomfortable viewing (you have been warned!). Mr. Jelly (Shearsmith) is a bitter children's entertainer with only one hand due to an incident in hospital. Oscar Lomax (Pemberton) is a blind millionare who collects stuffed toy animals and gets quite scarily obsessed with them. Joy Aston (French) is a midwife who has a doll, Freddy, who she treats like a real child and sometimes takes the fantasy too far. Robert Greenspan (Tompkins) is a dwarf cast in panto who believes he has telekenetic powers. All five receive a strange letter with 'I know what you did' written on it.
The characters all start with their own stories which eventually start to intertwine with each other; starting with a series of flashbacks that reveal more as the storyline develops. Each individual story is fascinating; you feel almost wrong for watching the characters - uncomfortable, entertaining viewing in the same style as League of Gentlemen. The episodes usually concentrate on a different character each time; the one based around Joy is one of my personal favourites.
The only critisicm I have of this series is the ending. I found it dissapointing, especially after the amazing build up of story and the character development. The ending seemed to be a little rushed and did not reveal anywhere near the amount of information I was hoping for. Fingers crossed for a second series that will tell me more about the intreguing characters of Psychoville!
I don't quite see how a team of comedy writers as talented as the guys behind the long, lamented TV series 'The League of Gentlemen' can have gone from the likes of the sublimely-scipted 'yes, Mrs Levinson' routines to, well, the gratuitously grotesque, cliche-ridden tat I saw last week featured in the BBC2 series 'Psychoville'.
Have the people responsible for this been taking their lead from the bafflingly successful TV series 'Little Britain' - which itself was a blatant, unnecessarily cruel rip-off of the 'League of Gentlemen' series? The inexcusably awful 'Little Britian' featured a cast of 'comedy grotesque' characters who were subjected to mean-spirited, mercilessly spiteful - and actually, over-ridingly humourless - ridicule each week on account of their appearance / behaviour / physiological difficulties. The mentally-challenged old lady from 'Little Britain' who wet herself constantly, for example; I still can't believe we were all supposed to laugh at that. But I find the overall tone of 'Pyschoville' is much more in that vein than it is from the original 'League of Gentlemen' which, though it certainly featured a cast of highly unusual characters, generally dealt with them with surprising sympathy and humane-ness throughout.
Some of the regularly-appearing characters I saw in last week's episode of 'Psychoville' were as follows. There was a pair of co-joined twins who have personal hygiene problems, one of them that big lass off the 'Katherine Tate' show. Are co-joined twins - even smelly, tracksuit-wearing ones - as a subject for comedy still 'edgy' or 'radical' enough any more, given that such people are even featuring as characters in mainstream Hollywood movies these days? Then there was yet another batch of sinister circus /panto(?) performers, including Christopher Biggins as head clown. Yeah. We get it. Over-the-top clowns are inherently a bit sinister, aren't they? But everyone from Stephen King to Terry Pratchett - including of course, the 'League of Gentlemen' writing team themselves in their better, quality script-producing days - has been banging on about that for ages. Scarey clowns is not exactly cutting edge, is it? Then we had Dawn French was a psycho Mum-wannabe type, a bit like the nightmare pregnant lady who was in the Christmas special of British version of 'The Office,' only we saw her here in a Roald-Dahl-esque skit straight out of - I mean, directly lifted from - Ray Bradbury. An homage it was not, because it was Dawn French involved, for fecksakes. Dawn French! I mean, Dawn French. Enough said. The icing on the cliche cake appeared to be some joking about 'little people' and the relative size of their male members - but that was before the team went into their all-singing, all dancing serial killer night-in-the-waxworks-museum routine. Like 'Springtime for Hitler' only even less intentionally funny / disturbing. I haven't seen the prequel to the 'Silence of the Lambs' flicks but suspect they could've played the adventures of young Hannibal Lecter more successfully for laughs.
Yes, all in all worst_trip sees you, Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton, and she's disgusted with you.
I don't know where it all went wrong, really. I still think the first two series of 'League of Gentlemen' count some of the hands-down, best telly programmes I've ever seen, ever - and so perhaps it is unfair to compare 'Psychoville' with what these guys are capale of producing on their good days. There are still odd highlights certainly - the previous week's episode for example, which had no Christopher Biggins, Dawn French, or anyone in it but the three 'League of Gentlemen' regulars was definitely above average. It focussed entirely on the series' best written and acted character - a middle-aged cardigan-wearing serial killer who still lives with his equally deranged Mum, and was really rather good - but occasional points of brightness aside and even given the most level of playing fields, this series as a whole is looking decidedly below-parr.
I don't like to review things before they're actually finished but with Psychoville I just can't help myself! After The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse the gents decided to take a break and go off and work on separate projects. Mark and Jeremy went off to write more excellent novels and Steve and Reece decided to try and write something new together. Apparently they wanted to write a "normal" sitcom but funnily enough, couldn't do it. I wonder why! Perhaps it's because normal has never been their shtick. So they wrote Psychoville.
The name itself is a joke; it's what The League of Gentlemen was called when shown in Korea. But it perfectly describes the comedy-thriller and the characters we meet.
If it's not on your radar then basically it's a comedy thriller about a mysterious blackmailer, sending messages to 5 seemingly unconnected people with the words "I know what you did". Each episode gives us a slither of information about the characters, how they're connected and this crime they have been accused of committing.
I had reservations when I heard about it; I LOVE The League of Gentlemen. I thought it's probably just going to be a pale imitation. I couldn't have been more wrong. There are of course similarities to The League, but that's no bad thing. In an effort to establish Psychoville as it's own show, Steve and Reece brought in other actors so unlike The League, they wouldn't be playing all the parts themselves.
The cast all work well together and make the whole thing seem more 'real', although I must admit my favourite characters are the double act of Steve and Reece's David and Maureen Sowerbutts. Episode four was dedicated completely to them (with a marvellous cameo from chum and fellow Gent Mark Gatiss) and it was shot in two takes. An absolutely astonishing achievement and it was wonderful to see them pushing the boundaries and doing something spectacular with an episode they didn't even want to write in the first place. In fact, the episode was so good I worried that episode 5 would be a bit pants in comparison. Again, I was proven wrong.
Episode 5 focused mainly on Freddie and Joy's storyline and it was genuinely chilling stuff, and we were treated to several twists and revelations. And the waxwork musical? Just insanely brilliant. Watching famous serial killers throughout history toe-tapping and singing an hilarious ditty with lyrics like 'If you want to make a ripple, make a belt from ladies nipples, and wear it as you dance round in the woods' was a real highlight for me and made me realise just how talented these guys are. They have a creativity that seems lost on UK tv these days and it's great to watch something so bizarre and wonderful and hilarious and terrifying and oh god just watch it!
Psychoville is a new black comedy series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, two of 'The League of Gentlemen. Although the creation of these two and both star in multiple roles, the third 'Gentleman', Mark Gatiss also pops up for a starring role in one episode.
I guess for of TLOG will be drawn to this. The show after all named after the title given to the Japanese version of 'The League of Gentlemen'. It is as dark and twisted, perhaps more so, with equally fantastic and somewhat frightening characters. None of the people in this are some one you would want to meet down a dark alley. However, this series is more than just a dark comedy series, but there's mystery to unravel, a whodunnit element as well as homages to great horror films and characters from history.
Psychoville is clever in it's presentation, although keeping with a sketch show type format in a way, where we have a collection of different characters, that we drop in on and see what they are up to each week, and ultimately provide us with a few laughs, Psychoville has a lot more to it than that. In the first episode, each character we are introduced to receive and anonymous letter, which reads 'I know what you did.' Already I was hooked, so not only do we have some great characters with mini storylines of there own, there was clearly a bigger plot here to unravel. Who is sending the letters? And what terrible thing is it referring to? How are all these characters linked?
Psychoville, at the time of writing is into it's fifth episode, and many clues have now been given, but there is still a lot more to be revealed. I will not let on too much of the plot in case readers want to start watching from scratch. (It's on iplayer on no doubt a DVD to follow!)
The ingenious characters they create are what makes Shearsmith and Pemberton such great writers. The characters that make up Psychoville, and the exceptional cast bringing them to live are superb. They are as follows -
David Sowerbutts - A simple soul, who still lives at home with his mother in London. Is unemployed after a rather unsuccessful job working as an actor on murder mystery weekends. He has an obsessive interest in serial killers and has done 'a bad murder' of his own. Played brilliantly by Steve Pemberton,
Maureen Sowerbutts- David's mother. Has a very close relationship with her son, perhaps a bit too close. Played by Reece Shearsmith.
Joy Aston - A fantastic character played by Dawn French. Joy is a midwife, who believes her practice doll, Freddy is a real child.
Oscar Lomax - Played by Steve Pemberton, Lomax is an blind old man, who collects beanie babies. He is visited by ex con Michael, who comes to read to him. They embark on a mission to get the final missing beanie baby to Lomax's collection, Snappy the crocodile with some bizarre consquences.
Mr. Jelly - A one handed clown from Manchester played by Reece Shearmith. He used to be a successful children's entertainer, until the loss of his hand and now has a hook in it's place, and frightens the children he is supposed to entertain. He blames the loss of his hand on rival clown who stole his act, who goes by the name of Mr Jolly. It's soon clear that although Mr. Jelly is receiving the blackmail notes sent to the other characters, but there my actually be a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Jelly is by far my favourite character in Psychoville, even though I have a fear of clowns, for some reason the fact he is miserable rather than that painted false happy face, makes him less scary to me! One of the best scenes of the series so far is a fight between Mr. Jelly and Mr. Jolly in a ball pool!!
Robert Greenspan - A dwarf playing panto in Snow White in Eastbourne. He plays the role of Blushy, the names of the dwarves are all a slight change to the one we all know, but couldn't be used due to copyright reasons! The pantomime is directed by Christopher Biggins, who stars as himself and Robert has a crush on the woman playing Snow White, though he his the object of the affections of one of the other dwarves, Kerry who plays Sniffy. He has a past in porn films and is humiliated when his shady past is revealed to the rest of the cast. Robert is played by Jason Tompkins.
The stand out episode of the series so far is episode 4, which is a homage to Hitchcock's 'Rope' and features the characters David and Maureen. This is also the episode where Mark Gatiss guests. In an interview with the creators on the Psychoville website they explain that the entire programme was done in one single take from one camera. After hearing this I watched the entire episode again and it's amazing how they managed it. Even if you don't watch the whole series, this one is worth a watch, and probably the only one that makes sense entirely on it's own.
In addition to the programmes themselves, the website(s) that accompany Psychoville are brilliant. As with all websites that accompany films or TV series there are extras to treat fans such as interviews with the writers, idea sketches, gallery pictures and overviews of the characters and episodes. In addition to all this however is a real interactive way to get further into the plot and learn more about the characters. Each character from the show has their own website, which there are links to through the main Psychoville section of the BBC site. These are mock sites that each character has created themselves, for example, there is a site for Biggins Panto, one for maternity advice by Joy, and one on facts about serial killers by David. Mr Jelly and Mr. Jolly each have a site to promote their businesses and each are linked to each other in some way. On the main Psychoville site there is an inbox, where you receive mystery messages from the characters which ask you questions to which you must find answers by visiting all the sites. I visited the site briefly to get some cast information for this review and spent hours on this 'game!'
Overall, this series and interactive element that goes with it is like nothing I've seen before. The way it combines a classic comedy show with horror and mystery is genius and the characters and cast are imaginative and although crazy and terrifying, bizarrely likeable. Can't wait to find out the twist in the tale but hope they don't give too much away as I'm hoping for a second series!
Psychoville is on BBC2 on Thursdays at 10 or 10.30pm (the timeslot changes so check!). The website is www.bbc.co.uk/psychoville and you can catch up on iplayer too. I thoroughly recommend if you like a good mystery and have a bit of a dark side! Don't expect laugh out loud gags one after the other but for a show about blackmail and murder, it does well to remain a comedy show at heart.
WHAT IS IT: Psychoville is a dark comedy/thriller written by and starring Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton from The League of Gentlemen. Unlike LoG, Psychoville is not set in a fictional village but in a number of locations in England and follows the lives of 6 main characters all of whom receive notes from a masked man (or woman) which state 'I know what you did'. As it is in part a mystery thriller, I'll try not to give too much away about the plot so far. Four episodes have aired so far which can be watched on BBC iPlayer. Rather than explaining what is going on and running the risk of giving you spoilers, I'll give an overview of the characters and my thoughts on the show in general.
JOY: The most terrifying midwife a prospective parent may ever have the misfortune to meet, Joy lives in Bristol with her husband and her son Freddie. But with this being dreamed up by Shearsmith and Pemberton, there is a twist: Freddie is a doll that Joy treats like a real baby. Joy also enjoys telling mothers-to-be exactly how unpleasant the birth is going to be, showing them gruesome videos and saying things like 'You have to split the pod to get the peas out'. Dawn French is superbly cast in this role which switches from jolly and maternal to psychotic in the blink of an eye.
MR LOMAX: A blind old recluse, Mr Lomax is classic horror fare and the first episode in which a teenage boy is sent to help Mr Lomax is brilliantly suspenseful, climaxing when Mr Lomax reveals his 'collection' to the boy he constantly refers to as Tealeaf. Steve Pemberton comes out with some great lines as this character and the scene in which he complains about his mobile phone never ringing is very funny; no surprise that it never rings, it's a Club bar. His 'rivals' - a pair of conjoined twins also set on completing a similar 'collection' - seem a bit too cliched and a little tacked-on for LoG which makes that storyline a little weak for me.
MR JELLY: Not to be confused with his nemesis Mr Jolly, Mr Jelly is a hook handed clown and a very bitter and angry one at that. This is Shearsmith at his angry best but he still manages to bring pathos to the character. My favourite thing about Mr Jelly is the slogan on his car 'Keeps Kids Quiet'.
ROBERT: Performing in panto in Eastbourne, dwarf Robert meets the girl of his dreams in Debbie who is playing Snow White. Things do not go according to plan and poor Robert is humiliated but swiftly gets revenge on those who mock him with his special powers. Jason Tompkins plays Robert completely straight which works brilliantly as a contrast to the other weird characters in the show. Some of my favourite scenes in the show have come from Robert and Debbie including their date in which Debbie goes on at length about her love of dwarf porn. Very funny indeed.
MAUREEN and DAVID SOWERBUTTS: Played by Shearsmith and Pemberton, these are the two standout characters of the show. Mother and son, they live in a small flat in London and have a disturbingly close relationship. David is obsessed with serial killers and an unfortunate incident at a murder mystery night leads Maureen to believe that her son has committed a real murder. These characters are absolutely fantastic and completely grotesque. Their intimate relationship often makes for rather uncomfortable viewing but it is worth sticking with it to see the joyous homage to Rope (a Hitchcock film) in episode 4. This episode is outstanding in its intricate script and plotting and there does not seem to be a single cut in it. It is truly fantastic to watch.
So there you have a broad overview of the characters and some highlights. I don't really have many negative things to say about this programme as I am really enjoying it so far. Fans of LoG may find the pace of this show a little slower and less joke-y but I see this as more of a mystery that happens to be full of dark humour rather than a comedy that hapens to have mystery in it. Currently, Mr Lomax seems a little underused as a character and I would like to see more of Joy but hopefully this will be remedied in future episodes. I really would recommend this show to anyone that likes dark humour. It's in the same sort of vein as Murder Most Horrid so it is good to see Dawn French as part of this show as she plays that 'smiling psychopath' character brilliantly.
Psychoville is a new BBC 2 programme created from the minds of two of the three League of Gentlemen, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Apparently the name is derived from the name given to 'The League of Gentlemen' when sold to Japanese television. It follows five disparate characters who all have secrets to hide.
The characters we follow are Mr Jelly (Shearsmith) a psychotically angry one armed clown, David Sowerbutts (Pemberton), a serial killer obsessed man-child who still lives with his scarily overprotective mother Maureen (Shearsmith). Oscar Lomax (Pemberton) a blind millionaire obsessed with collecting beanies. Joy Aston (Dawn French) a midwife with an unnatural fixation to her training dummy and Robert Greenspan (Jason Tompkins) a pantomime dwarf with telekinetic powers.
All five start receiving notes first stating 'I know what you did' and then 'You Killed her', the story follows these five characters as we learn more about them and discover what they did and why and hopefully find out who is sending the blackmail notes and why?
It is a dark comedy which is brilliantly observed, Pemberton and Shearsmith play multiple characters and really have created another wonderfully weird universe of strange people.
Mr Jelly is an amusing character a man who once loved performing for kids but now hates them almost as much as his arch enemy the famed childrens entertainer, Mr Jolly.
David Sowerbutts and Maureen are disturbing, firstly in their slightly inappropriate relationship and also in their shared obsession with serial killing, he is a man child, unable to think for himself and she is happy to stay with her beloved son, both are confused and seem ill equipped for todays world. We discover more about their relationship especially in the wonderful episode based on Hitchcock's 'Rope'.
Dawn French is excellent as Aston playing against type she is disturbed and obsessive and it is clear that something far darker is afoot with her dummy which she believes is real. The fact we have seen one single movement from it is an indication of something very strange.
Finally Robert Greenspan is a sympathetic character who is bullied partly due to his size, but also due to his former career as a porn star, he clearly has anger issues, using his telekinetic abilities to hurt people who make fun of him, it will be interesting to see how his character develops.
The show looks great it has a dark air to it, and some of the characters are grotesque to the extreme. There are many dark, dingy houses which suit the characters and its good to see the return of Christopher Biggins wholly inappropriately as Christopher Biggins.
Shearsmith and Pemberton are brilliant they've produced this show too and really have thought this through, they've created horrible characters who you start to understand and either dislike or feel compassion for, whilst some of their actions are reprehensible, the story develops to explain each character and what has created them and their actions, all seem to stem from a spell in a psychiatric home, although this is yet to unravel.
It is a black comedy but could just as easily be described as a drama with some humour, I find the programme brilliant, occasionally laugh out loud funny, the drama and acting take this above most other programmes on television right now. The brilliance is in its subtlety and willingness to create multiple layers around the characters.
I was astounded by the episode totally devoted to the Sowerbutts which made perfect sense in view of the plot and creates both a grotesque caricature image of the characters and a really good explanation of why David and Maureen are how they are, we understand suddenly the dynamic of their relationship and just as it is about to change forever something happens to ensure it remains.
Because it is a tribute to 'Rope' it is all set in one room and with Mark Gattiss (The Third League of Gentlemen creator) making an appearance as a policeman it is a throwback to the bygone age of three actors filling a room and acting for 30 minutes without special effects, purely based on character, story and acting.
That is really the key to this whole programme, its brilliantly acted, wonderfully written and thought out and has a modern feel, but also feels like a step back to the days when drama really asked questions. It is a really uncomfortable programme and sets out to be, I have felt disgusted, laughed out loud and been scared rigid by the visuals and characterisations.
However I have also been struck by how much the creators love their characters, it would be so easy to create one dimensional psychos for fun, however each character has a chance of redemption and each appears to have been sent to the psychiatric ward due to the acts of another character without realising it, so we can see that there may be even more to this than meets the eye.
The programme is dark and graphic with a lot of murder and other dark acts, it will get darker and it's a brilliant characterisation of people in the grip of despair.
On BBC2 at 10pm on Thursday evenings, if you've missed any check them out on BBC I-Player and check out the brilliant page on the BBC website too.
This review is based off seeing only episodes one and two so far.
From the same creative minds that brought "The League of Gentlemen" to UK screens comes a new comedy thriller set all over the UK (when I say that, I mean all over England) in the form of "Psychoville".
Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have credits both in front of and behind the camera, in the same style of League, though with less of the comic bookish edge that brought the small town of Royston Vasey so vividly to life. Set in the real world it follows a cast of strange people that all share a strange unknown link. Someone knows though, and small clues are left to help the audience piece together the event or place that joins all these victims together.
This masked blackmailer knows this secret, and sends each character a simple note, "I know what you did", the victims are a psychopath serial killer in the making, an old blind man with a strange collection which he simply refers to as "commodities", a midwife who treats a doll like it was her own flesh and blood, a dwarf with a difference in a Christopher Biggins panto of Snow White, and a one handed clown called "Mr Jelly". This is as far a range of characters and traits as was shown in League only more condensed, fitting the full range into five people compared to many many more. Shearsmith and Pemberton don't even play all of those, Dawn French plays the midwife, and Jason Tompkins plays the panto dwarf. Some of these characters may begin to grate once more screen time is given to them, such as the blind characters so called "rival" in his commodities.
Overall so far, for me anyway, alot of the jokes have fallen flat. Simply being not very funny in the context they are shown or not making sense, one or two have been good but most have just not been there. I do like surreal and mad comedy, I love Python and League of Gentlemen was one of my absolute favourite shows when it was first on, having the right blend of both strange and normal to make the jokes really pop and stand out.
Having said that, I think the show isn't funny but is something else, interesting and engrossing. The puzzle laid out with the simple identical phrase going to everyone makes the detective in me want to know just what is going on? What connects everyone? Why does a certain character have that particular trait or quirk? In episode two the strange blackmailer saids another message, this time through different means to everyone and so far I think this device will be used in every episode to follow with clues to the connecting event being in both the message and each characters reaction and discussion with those around them.
You'll notice that I'm being really really vague with details about the plot, this is because of the strength the mystery element of the show holds on me at this stage. I would think it a real shame to put someone off this but blurting out a major plot point such as "the butler did it" or something similar.
I may edit this and add other thoughts as and when they come to me through watching the show, but I'll try and resist this until the series ends and I'll definately avoid spoilers. So far I've only given it three stars because of the weaker comedy aspects.
Well, seeing the end of the series has cemented my view on the show, and it still stands at where it was.
There does appear to be a bias towards certain characters throughout the show (the serial killer and his mother in particular with an entire Hitchcock inspired episode to themselves) and the last 2 episodes jump around an awful lot to try and compensate this it seems which can make things very confusing if you don't pay attention. All in all though, the last 2 episodes do tie everything together nicely, and provide enough answers and twists to keep you guessing. The end doesn't really lend itself to a second series I think, but you never know with these guys.