Beyond the League of Gentlemen

Five unconnected characters sharing one thing in common – a bitter, one-handed clown; a desperately misguided midwife; a lovestruck telekinetic dwarf; a blind avaricious collector; and a serial-killer-obsessed man-child – only the imaginations that created the League of Gentlemen could have brought such insanity back to our screens.

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton with Dawn French in Psychoville

So a very big welcome back to BBC Two for Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. There’s no Mark Gatiss in Psychoville, but with a cast that includes Dawn French, Eileen Atkins, Nicholas Le Prevost, David Bamber, Janet McTeer, Christopher Biggins (as himself), Daisy Haggard, Debbie Chazen, Daniel Kaluuya and Adrian Scarborough, there would hardly be room for him on screen anyway.

Described as a spine-tingling, jaw-dropping, thrilling comedy serial, Psychoville is a “whodunnit” – each of the five characters has been sent an anonymous, black-edged card bearing the chilling message: “I know what you did…”

Against this backdrop of dark comedy mayhem, all of the cast, principle and guest, get the chance to shine with some top quality and highly regarded material – so good in fact that the BBC asked for a 7th episode.

Scheduled as the fourth episode in the run is a single-set scenario utilizing the minimum of characters and just two camera shots. Steve Pemberton compares the episode to the Hitchcock movie Rope…

It’s set in one room, with the technology they had at the time they could do 10-minute takes, that’s all they could do because the actual tape ran out. The cameras were as big as this room, it’s not like today when you can strap a steadycam on, it was a huge technical achievement.

There’s something about not breaking the tension, it’s like not blinking, you don’t quite know why but something about it is unnerving. So we said let’s try it.

Psychoville is set to air on June 11th 2009 on BBC Two.

About the author

I'm Christian Cawley, a massive fan of UK fantasy television (particularly Doctor Who) and British Comedy.

"Quintessentially British" is my look at those two very British flavours of sci-fi/fantasy and comedy.
More from this author »

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1