BBC2 / BBCHD - 25th June 2009 -10.00pm
'Nine across is 'you'...'
'Small round vegetable'
Whilst last week's opener was promising, setting the scene and introducing the characters, this week's episode was less inspiring. The structure is starting to annoy me. It's very choppy and some scenes are too short, with barely enough time to get out a genuine laugh before it all dissolves in that rather over-indulgent bit of whizzy graphics that they insist on using to bridge the scenes. It really doesn't need it and the use of right to left wipes is far more effective. Within two minutes we've jumped from Joy Aston on a bus in Bristol to Lomax in his mansion in Yorkshire.
Fortunately, the sub-plot about the mad collector of soft toy 'commodities' is about the best thing going for Psychoville this week, and as a parody of eBay sellers and toy collectors it also introduces us to Kelly-Su and Chelsea Crabtree played with such wonderful relish by Debbie Chazen and Alison Lintott. They have an immediate appeal as grotesques flogging tat on the internet (the faked David Beckham autograph is hilarious). The frenzied bidding war for Snappy The Crocodile is certainly the liveliest sequence in the episode. I also loved Lomax regaling us with Snappy's backstory, washed up on the shores of an island near Fiji after a plane crash, complete with images of said toy bobbing along in the water and crashing waves and aircraft on the soundtrack. The flare of the candles as Lomax says the word 'crashed' is a smashing little visual touch. And we also get to find out why Lomax is blind in a genuinely chilling revelation.
Elsewhere, we have the on-going mystery of the man in black leaving cryptic messages to the ensemble of characters, with this week's 'You Killed Her' left in a crossword, written on Mr. Jelly's dirty car window and as a failed phone message to the Sowerbutts. There are also some rather heavily underscored insinuations that the entire ensemble were all former residents of a mental institution where a woman mysteriously died. Joy's affection for Freddie Fruitcake is further developed and, as I flagged up last week, she's a bit of a Geppetto figure and in a bizarre sequence sneaks into the hospital blood bank to steal some plasma whilst singing 'When You Wish Upon A Star'. Blatant signposting, Messrs Shearsmith and Pemberton! And that's partly the trouble here. You could never accuse The League Of Gentlemen of huge amounts of subtlety either but this episode of Psychoville makes that series look positively Bergmanesque in comparison.
The sub-plot with the pantomime and the dwarf actor Robert is somewhat crude and its repetitive trope of ritually humiliating the poor fella is starting to wear a bit thin. Actor Jason Tomkins is great though and makes the naive Robert very sympathetic. I wonder how they're going to achieve further humiliations next week and still struggle to make it funny. The various piss-takes from the waiter whilst he and leading lady Debbie were in the restaurant were a little obvious and did run out of steam. It's a familiar methodology for Shearsmith and Pemberton to attempt to see how long they can keep a gag running before the audience, and they, get bored with it. However, I do hope Robert uses his telekinetic powers to wipe out all of his tormentors and I did enjoy Christopher Biggins getting a dig in at Disney for copyrighting the word 'happy'. The queeny Brian's litany of Robert's porn film CV was also quite amusing, especially 'Wood In The Babes'.
The Sowerbutts, meanwhile, get mistakenly entangled in a what they think is an act of blackmail on the part of David's boss, Graham, with a smashing cameo from Nicholas Le Provost. There's that cracking scene where they're trying to decide the best method to kill him, reading through various serial killer books, as they hold him hostage, 'There's one here that uses drills'. 'Victor Perez. Brazil. 12 victims.' 'Well, you're not doing that. I've got a thumping headache.' The punchline, as Graham escapes only to be run over in the street, completes an amusing running gag about Matey bubble bath.
Visually, this is again impeccable. look at that slow track along the corridor in the Sowerbutts' flat, past the radiator with Maureen's tights drying on them, or that stunning bit of lighting on the mocking theatre crowd as they play the cruel joke on a naked Robert. The cinematography is of a superb quality, making the series worth watching just for the visual panache. It's just a pity that this second script doesn't quite reach the heights of the opening episode. However, the central mystery is still intriguing and I adore the Sowerbutts and Lomax versus the Crabtree sisters so it'll still be worth returning to this next week.
Cathode Ray Tube Psychoville League Of Gentlemen Reece Shearsmith Steve Pemberton