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Psychoville: Series 1 [DVD]
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I Know What You Did. A chilling message that draws five seemingly disparate characters into a dark tale of blackmail and desire. A blind recluse with an unusual hobby, a love-struck telekinetic dwarf, an embittered hook-handed clown, a murder-obsessed man-child, and a deranged but caring midwife all receive the same ominous message sending their already bizarre lives into turmoil.
All are affected in different ways by the letters and as more chilling messages are received the five are forced to confront their past and the secret that binds them together. From the team behind cult classic The League of Gentlemen, this cliff-hanging comedy thriller weaves a tale of intrigue, mystery and suspense.
Written by Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton.
DVD EXTRAS: Behind The Scenes Episode 4 ‘split screen’ option Audio Commentaries on all 7 episodes Extended Interviews Photo Gallery
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I have to say this has been one of my favourite programmes of 2009 if not the past few years, certainly the cliff hangers make you keep coming back week after week.
Let's hope the BBC realise what a gem of a progamme Reece and Steve have come up with and give them a second series!
This is the basic premise of 'Psychoville', which unfolds over seven remarkable episodes of intrigue, humour & suspense, suffused through the multiple storylines of superbly realised characters. The series is one of engrossing brilliance and stands out as a creation of striking originality & dark imagination that could only have come from members of The League of Gentlemen - namely, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.
The central characters are full blooded (sometimes literally) deeply felt & wonderfully realised. Each in their own way is driven by obsession. There is embittered children's entertainer Mr Jelly - a hook handed clown whose life has taken a downward spiral. His rage is directed towards his rival, Mr Jolly. Pudding bowl haircutted son David is obsessed with serial killers. He & his indulgent mother Maureen have a disturbingly close relationship. Oscar Lomax is a blind millionaire recluse whose life's purpose is his "holy of holies" - a collection of beanie toys. Disturbed midwife Joy is obsessively devoted to a sack clothed demonstration doll. So all enveloping is her psychosis that she treats it as if its her real child & she's driven by a dream to bring it to life. Finally, Robert is a dwarf appearing in a 'Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs' panto. He's in love with the company's Snow White. He's seemingly possessed of special powers which come to the fore when he's provoked to anger.
The Sowerbutts, Mr Jelly & Oscar Lomax are portrayed by Reece and Steve and they inhabit their characters so convincingly, giving superbly layered performances, by turns brilliantly comedic & touchingly poignant. They are extraordinary actors & these characters allow them to explore the full range of their talents.
There are pitch perfect performances from a wonderfully eclectic cast, including Dawn French, Eileen Atkins, Adrian Scarborough, Daniel Kaluuya, Jason Tompkins, Daisy Haggard, Lisa Hammond, Christopher Biggins, Elizabeth Berrington, Janet McTeer, Nicholas Le Prevost & featuring a brilliant cameo by Mark Gatiss.
'Psychoville' is a tv series of great ambition, maturity and complexity. There are boxes within boxes in terms of plotting, which up the tension and mystery, creating moments of startling surprise. It helps develop a depth to the characters and a context to the motivations driving their obsessions. The sprawling narrative is layered and textured, demanding the audience fully engage with what they are watching. Switching off & letting it wash over you is not an option. There are no simple explanations or expectations easily fulfilled. Its a comedy hybrid that asks you to work and concentrate. What it delivers in return is quite simply the best thing to happen to television comedy in years. Its just a staggeringly good programme - its very rare to see something this brilliant in any genre.
Each episode is superb with moments to cherish:Mr Jelly's array of hooks & inappropriate behaviour at a children's princess party;the online Ebay auction for Lomax's lost 'commodity', Snappy the crocodile;Joy stealing blood from a hospital blood bag & replacing it with Vitmo, singing 'When You Wish Upon a Star' as she does so;the technical achievement of episode four's stand alone 'Rope' homage - a mesmerising modern classic three-hander brilliantly performed by Steve, Reece & Mark Gatiss;demonstration doll Freddy apparently come to life and terrorising Joy;infamous serial killer waxworks serenading David in song;the especially dark episode six, which builds the horror, melancholy and poignancy to fever pitch;the hilarious interplay between Mr Jelly & an elderly woman handcuffed to him;Nurse Kenchington's sadistic treatment of her patients at Ravenhill and her emotional and physical victimisation of David.
'Psychoville' delicately balances its material on a knife edge between triggering laughter and jolting feelings of surprise. Comedy tips into poignancy or perversity subtly and distinctively. Its a difficult balancing act but one that the series achieves brilliantly, and something the writers are proven masters of.
A cinematic sensibility is realised through superb production values. The design, photography, editing, costumes, lighting and music are all magnificant. There is a cinematic sense of colour at work throughout the series, which is used to heighten the experience of a scene - like the bold, sumptuous colours of the clown court, giving a feeling of unreality to the nightmarish dream sequence. Likewise, colour is used to convey a mood or give a sense of meaning to particular characters - the low lit, green tinge of the scenes inside the Sowerbutt's flat being a prime example.
Brilliantly directed and produced, showing the care and attention to detail at one with the creators' vision and ambition for the series.
This presentational care can be seen with the dvd itself. It looks beautiful - a slipcase cover, 2-disc set housed inside a case complete with wonderful artwork. The menus are gorgeous, the extras insightful. Above all, there are commentaries for each episode by Reece and Steve. Their commentaries, like The League's dvds, are to be savoured and are almost worth the price of the dvd alone.
To be responsible for a series as groundbreaking and unique as 'The League of Gentlemen' is achievement enough that few can match. To do it again with 'Psychoville' is a testament to the exceptional talents of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. They can rightly feel proud of 'Psychoville'. A boundary breaking comedy hybrid, it leaves today's bland, predictable, dumb and dumber tv schedules looking even more redundant and pathetically feeble in its wake. 'They' must commission another series. Without fail.
I cant recommend psychoville enough and for £5 what are you waiting for ? you cant go wrong for a fiver.
Best show on telle for a long time ! The dvd case is amazing too.
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