Take a collection of some of the strangest characters, each of them with a terrible secret and a dark past that binds them all together and you have the denizens of Psychoville. When an unknown person starts sending these people reminders that he knows each of their secrets, a chain of events is set off that goes in unexpected and, more than a few times, jaw-dropping directions.
I don’t want to give away too much about the events of Psychoville, the BBC’s latest mad creation. Too many spoilers would ruin the moment of witnessing the twists and turns this story takes first hand. What I will do is introduce the main characters, although I won’t be revealing much of their story-lines. You need to experience this show unspoiled, it really is the best way. But I will give you a good ‘inner sleeve description’ as it were and I hope I can get you interested enough to watch because I was really impressed with it.
Each of these characters has wildly differing lives, but they all share a common connection.
First, we have David Sowerbutts. A lonely man who still lives with his mother and works as a set designer for a murder mystery theater troupe. His hobbies include memorizing statistics of various serial killers and talking about those statistics with his mother Maureen, who has similar interests of her own. David is played by Steve Pemberton, known for his series The League of Gentlemen. Reece Shearsmith (also from League of Gentlemen,) plays Maureen.
Mr. Jelly (played by Shearsmith) is a depressed, alcoholic birthday clown. Years ago he suffered an accident and now has a hook for a hand. Scraping by on whatever money he can earn, he doesn’t realize just how dark his world is going to turn. He’s not a bad guy either, you do end up feeling bad for him.
Mr. Lomax (played by Pemberton,) is a blind, wealthy, eccentric, possibly mad, old man who spends his life alone in his spacious mansion. He hires a young man named Michael Fry to help him with a few daily tasks around the house including reading the mail. There is a room in the house Lomax calls his ‘holiest of holies.’ But Michael must never enter that room. Michael takes advantage of Mr. Lomax’s blindness and sneaks away to snoop around the house. Michael Fry is played by Daniel Kaluuya who was in the Black Mirror episode “Fifteen Million Merits,” and will be in the upcoming Marvel Studios film Black Panther.
Joy Aston (played by veteran comedic actress Dawn French,) plays the most insane character of the ensemble. I don’t use that term loosely, she is deeply disturbed. Joy is a midwife and gives birthing classes at the local hospital. She has a certain obsession with her job that consumes her life. Her beleaguered husband George (Pemberton) is at his wit’s end. He does his best to cope, but he doesn’t know how much longer he can go on.
Robert Greenspan (played by dwarf actor Jason Tompkins) is an actor in a local production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He has a crush on Debbie, the woman playing Snow White. She is played by Daisy Haggard who was Sophie in the Doctor Who episode The Lodger. One night Robert asks Debbie out on a date and things don’t go as expected. Let’s just say, broken hearts can bring up strong emotions.
Drew Aspinall (stage actor Alex Waldmann) breaks into Ravenhill, the local looney bin, with the intention of stealing something. When he is caught by the dreaded Nurse Kenchington, things get bad fast.
The stories that these characters tell are divided up into segments. Some from a few minutes long and others almost an episode long with attention being paid to one storyline more than another and have that focus shift from episode to thirty-minute episode. The acting is excellent with every performer shining just as bright as the next one. There are many moments that leave you staring at the screen gasping “Oh [expletive]!” some others that will make you laugh, and a few that will make you shout “Oh [combination expletive]!” This is also a show you have to watch in order, with the storylines so tightly intertwined, to watch anything but episode 1 first would invite confusion.
I discovered this gem of a show on Amazon’s BritBox service. I’m not sure how else to see it in the United States, but I’m sure if you live in the UK, you can check your local listings. If somebody knows another way to see Psychoville in the USA (legally, please,) throw me a message and I’ll update.