Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BBC's "Psychoville" Episode 1 "Blackmail:" A Television Review and Preview

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*full disclosure: a screener of this film was provided by Fearnet.

Director: Matt Lipsey.

Writers: Reece Shearsmith, and Steve Pemberton.

Producer: Justin Davies.

If there is one word to describe BBC's "Psychoville," that would be “surreal.” This mysterious comedy serves no particular purpose, and that is part of this show's dark charm. There is a mystery at hand: a killer is on the loose and who that is is unknown throughout season one. This series is still ongoing in the UK and only later episodes may reveal who the blackmailer is. He’s upsetting the lives of five uniquely challenged individuals because of something that they did many years ago. This shadowy figure knows, but he's not telling anyone … yet.

This import is like an extended version of I Know What You Did Last Summer, but it is far better. This television show is done with a pinache that only the twisted minds of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton can write. They've worked on The League of Gentlemen in their early years of comedy writing and now they're back. The skits that are being played out don't necessarily tie in together, but with some refined cinematography from the get go, slick editing to pace the narrative, and some stylish storytelling unseen in North American comedy to glue all the pieces together, the premiere episode makes for a captivating watch.

The personalities are stylishly unique; each character has a background that may or may not be important in the cosmic scheme of things. Like the art form this show sometimes imitates, there is no reality. What’s shown is only a perception of a world that does not have to contain any literal or subjective meaning at all.

In the first episode, viewers are introduced to odd balls like Mr. Jelly (Reece Shearsmith), a clown who lost a hand and he has plenty of issues to grumble over. Another character, David Sowerbutts (Steve Pemberton) is obsessed with following the lives of serial-killers and his tale will only unravel as episodes are broadcast. Oscar Lomax (also played by Pemberton) is perhaps the most eccentric figure. He makes Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter series look like Mary Poppins. Shearsmith is a character actor who is worth paying attention to. But it is Lomox's obsession with plush toys that can only make some viewers chuckle.

Other characters include a mid-wife, Joy Aston (Dawn French) who treats a practice doll like it was real, and a dwarf, Robert Greenspan (Jason Tompkins), who is in love with the star of the stage pantomine production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Debbie (Daisy Haggard) doesn't really notice Greenspan. He seemingly harbours potential psychokinetic skills which explode when he's angry.

The first episode is designed to introduce the series’ premise and the characters. In a thirty-minute show, there's only so much that can be done, and the initial cliffhanger excites by giving a bit of a shock to viewers. The only reaction one can do is to tune in for more.

"Psychoville's" US broadcast premiere will take place, Tuesday, August 2nd, on FEARnet’s linear cable channel, on 10:30pm EST, as part of their Twisted Comedy Hour, along with "Todd and the Book of Pure Evil," on 10pm EST.

Please check local listings for times near you.

A clip for episode 1 "Blackmail" can be seen below at

Beck Media & Marketing.

"Psychoville" Seas. 1 & 2 on Blu-Ray:

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