In 2009 and 2011 there was a set of weeks that all I could think about was Psychoville. Each episode would bring hysterical laughter, mystery and drama. And a few murders too. As the episodes closed with killer cliffhangers, the wait between episodes become almost unbearable, but the next episode always delivered and then some. There aren’t many shows were the main characters consist of a grumpy clown, a nurse with a baby doll, a blind man with a collection of Beanie Babies, mother and son serial killer duo and a dwarf with telekinetic powers. Which is a shame. But on a second view a year on does the show still have the impact or does it fall apart like Mr. Jelly when he sees Mr. Jolly?
Psychoville is a comedy mystery series written by the genius duo Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. The series deals with a set of unusual characters who receive letters which say ‘I know what you did’ and it goes from there, each episode showing the casts daily lives and slowly revealing how they all tie together. Mr. Jelly the clown thinks his rival Mr. Jolly is sending them, Robert the dwarf thinks it is about his sex tape, Nurse Joy just tears them up, Lomax is too busy hunting for the last Beanie Baby to complete his collection and Maureen thinks her son David has been caught murdering someone.
The letter sets off an adventure for all the characters and the mix of horror, mystery and comedy is a better mix than an all day breakfast smoothie. The fourth episode is a particular highlight, an episode taken in two shots as Maureen and David try to hide a dead body from a supposed detective. It’s a showcase that this isn’t just a show made for cheap laughs about a dwarf eating cheese. Some of the jokes can feel over played, but this is a still an immensely smart show which reveals extra touches and references on second viewing. It’s pretty amazing how they can make these rather horrid characters so likeable and they can make even the stupidest moments appear rather touching. It shows testament to Steve and Reece’s writing and acting abilities.
Series 2 takes a more dramatic turn as a Nano tech agency are trying to hunt down a locket. Their detective is hunting for clues and murdering some old friends while he’s at it. The jokes are more twisted and bizarre, but bound to create some of the biggest laughs. Seeing Maureen do a Tina Turner impression is one of the funniest things I’d ever seen on a first watch, but the shock gags don’t hold quite as much power the second time round. The humour is still leagues above most comedy thanks to how it stays relevant to the story at hand and makes great use of character traits and observational jokes on daily life. Maureen saying they can’t put the man they are about to drown in the cold water because he’d freeze to death is one amusing example.
The little references and smaller jokes hold greater strength much like series 1 and the new characters also provide much joy. Jeremy the librarian and his hunt for an overdue book, 50 Great Coastal Walks Of The British Isles Volume 2, is incredible thanks to his visions of the Silent Singer, a singing man with pig tails. Hattie is also a beautiful disaster as she agrees to marry her gay friends boyfriend so he can stay in the country. At first they appear irrelevant to the tighter story, but everything comes together masterfully with no loose ends.
The series box set also comes with the Halloween special, which is a treat of small fictional stories of the characters taking part in horror tales. Though a trick has been played as this version is gimped, with the Lomax eyes story edited out so people will go out and buy the standalone Halloween DVD release. It’s a great shame, but the Halloween special still stands strong with its tight-knit stories of killers, doll troubles and grumpy Mr. Jelly. Much like their normal day-to-day lives then. Just with added face paint and masks.
Psychoville was a smart and amusing series, and it still is thanks to the great deal of care and attention that went into it. No where else will you get an old lady pleasuring herself and a nurse breast-feeding her doll. Except in Darwin I suppose.