"This place was dark. Damn dark. Hence, 'Darkplace." -Garth Marenghi

 

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is one of my favorite comedy shows out of the UK. At its core is a horror/drama set in a hospital in Greater London, situated over the gates of Hell. Above that, there's a bit of Inception-esque hierarchy to the characters and story surrounding the show. It's the center of a campy British matryoshka doll, painted as a doctor with a work-issued gun.  

The sets, acting, writing, and overall production of each episode are purposefully low budget, and in this universe, were filmed in the 80s. Each is introduced by "writer, author, dreamweaver, horrornaut, plus actor," Garth Marenghi himself (Matthew Holness), in current day 2004. Marenghi plays Dr. Rick Dagless, MD in "Darkplace," joined by Todd Rivers (Matt Berry), playing Dr. Lucien Sanchez; Dean Lerner (Richard Ayoade), playing hospital executive Thornton Reed; and Madeline Wool (Alice Lowe), as Dr. Liz Asher. Essentially, "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" is the container in 2004 in which Marenghi, Rivers, and Reed (Madeline Wool is explained as missing and presumed dead) discuss "Darkplace," which they filmed decades back. Added to this six episode series--it's explained there were originally 50, but Lerner threw 44 into the Thames due to lack of interest--are the "Darkplace Illuminatum" and the "Misc. Horrificata Illuminata." These are extra interviews with Marenghi, Rivers, and Lerner from 2004.  

A prolific writer, Marenghi has written over 436 volumes. His compendium, "The Oeuvre," is advertised online as thus: "If you only buy one Garth Marenghi book, buy this one, which is all of them! Garth Marenghi's The Oeuvre; the only book you'll ever need." And according to Lerner, "Most people who read Garth's books, hate reading. Garth makes people who hate reading, read. And they won't read anything good, but they'll read Garth." 

Marenghi's talents reach into the composing world, too, as the "Darkplace" intro credits its theme music to "melodies originally whistled by Garth Marenghi."

Outside "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace," Lerner, a noted pornographer, has his own talk show, "Man to Man with Dean Lerner," on which he interviews several different characters (all played by Holness), including Marenghi. Berry's Todd Rivers attempted a side career in music, and released a single of Dr. Lucien Sanchez' performance of "One Track Lover" before his career fell apart, as he alludes to in "Darkplace" extras.

Holness, Ayoade and Lowe created the stage productions "Garth Marenghi's Fright Knight" and "Garth Marenghi's Netherhead" for festivals in Europe in 2001, indicating that the Marenghi character had been around at least 3 years before the broadcast television show. 

Holness, Berry, and Ayoade have collaborated on other projects, like The Mighty Boosh andThe IT Crowd, but nothing to the extent of "Darkplace." The only other production that comes close in its method of characters playing characters within previously forgotten footage of an 80s horror/medical drama, is probably the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly commentary on "Talledaga Nights," or Adam Scott's characters in "The Greatest Event in Television History."