Psychoville is a British series from the two of the four creators of The League of Gentlemen, and it shows. The plot focuses on a variety of bizarre characters receiving a letter from a mysterious man in black, each reading I know what you did, a message (delivered in different ways) that said You killed her, a video of most of the characters performing "Close Every Door" from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and a key that seems to be to the institution they all attended.The blackmailees (and main characters of the first series) are:
Oscar Lomax: Blind millionare from Ilkley, Yorkshire. He lives in a vast mansion with support coming only from Michael "Tea Leaf" Fry. He collects toy animals he refers to as "Commodities". The blackmail plot has barely been touched upon with him yet, he ignored his letter. But now the Blackmailer has the toy he has been hunting down.
Robert Greenspan: A dwarf working as an actor, mostly in pantomime. He is in love with the actress who is playing Snow White. Robert is telekinetic and his powers are shown when he gets angry or upset. He did not realize what the blackmail was about at first.
Joy Aston: A midwife in Bristol. She teaches ante-natal to parents-to-be, but covers all-too-often the painful and violent sides of giving birth. Her secret is that she treats a practice baby doll as if it is her real child, whom she calls Freddie. Joy is seen stealing blood from the hospital blood bank and putting it in a baby bottle for Freddie in episode two. She knows why she is being blackmailed, but will not discuss it.
David Sowerbutts: A Serial Killer obsessed man-child. One night at his work as part of a murder mystery evening, David ad-libs a far more realistic and gruesome murder scenario than the one in the script, and is fired. Upon returning home, his mother Maureen believes her son has actually killed someone and that the blackmail is about that murder, not the events it is really connected to.
Mr. Jelly: A one-handed clown and children's entertainer from Manchester. He incorporates his disability into his act, which he calls "Mr. Jelly and his 100 hands" and which consists of his using different artificial hands for various purposes. He blames his lack of success on the similarly-named act Mr. Jolly.
Other characters introduced in the Halloween special and second series include:
Grace Andrews: A mysterious woman charged with the job of hunting down Nurse Kenchington's locket. To this end she has hired "Detective" Finney, a sinister man who poses as a detective to question others about the locket and kill them if they can't provide the information he wants. Andrews has an assistant, Kelvin, and berates him because her office isn't as hi-tech as she'd like.
Drew and Phil: Two men investigating Ravenhill as part of a TV series about haunted buildings.
Jeremy Goode: Scary Librarian driven to insanity when a woman fails to return a book called 50 Great Coastal Walks of the British Isles, volume 2. At times of stress, he sees a terrifying apparition called the "Silent Singer"
Hattie: A makeup artist who agrees to a Citizenship Marriage so that her gay friend's boyfriend can remain in the country, but goes crazy and imprisons him in her house. Later comes into possession of Kenchington's locket.
Peter Bishop: A friend of Lomax, who runs "Hoyti Toyti", a shop selling antique toys. It turns out that the shop is a front for the sale of Nazi artefacts - leading him to make the connection between Ravenhill and Nurse Kenchington's Nazi father.
Actor Allusion: In the Halloween special, Maureen complains that David has "worked out who Jack the Ripper was, but he won't tell me". Which is Steve Pemberton's "amateur investigator" role in series 1 of Whitechapel, boiled down to a sentence.
Baby-Doll Baby: Joy has a doll called "Freddie" that she is convinced is her real child. She even steals blood from the hospital where she works to give Freddie transfusions.
Batman Gambit: The blackmailer's plan is entirely based on this. ( "Nothing was left to chance!" [apart from David and Robert's not being there] "Yes, well, I'm not entirely sure what happened there, look, you've ruined my speech.")
Becoming the Mask: Jeremy pretended to be having hallucinations in order to remain at Ravenhill, but then he became schizophrenic and started seeing Silent Singer for real.
Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: Series one's finale, where the majority of the ensemble cast are gathered at Ravenhill Hospital by the blackmailer, who then blows everyone up.
Although as of series two, everyone except the blackmailer and his mother survived.
Bottle Episode: Episode 4 is set entirely in one room, and only has three characters (well, four, but one is killed off at the start of the episode).
This episode was intended to stretch the show to seven episodes cheaply. Then they decided to do it in one take (well, actually two with a concealed cut) as an homage to Rope.
Break the Cutie: Mr. Jelly was a happy, well-adjusted and successful children's entertainer until his "botched" hand operation.
Joy seems to have been a loving mother and competent midwife until her baby son died, leading her to try and "replace" him with Freddie.
In the Halloween special, this is what happened to Drew as a result of his childhood experience at Ravenhill.
Brick Joke: Early on in season one, we see Joy steal blood from the hospital to help 'make Freddy real', which she replaces with Ribena. Beginning of season 2, we find out Nicola - the woman who tried to kill Joy and abscond with Joy's huband - required a massive blood transplant ... which killed her, being Ribena.
Camp Gay: Peter, the owner of Hoyti Toyti in series two.
More likely Camp Straight, after the revelation that he is a Nazi sleeper-agent.
Celebrity Endorsement: Parodied - Debbie seems to be better known for promoting a perfume called "Smells Like Debbie" than she is as an actress.
Celebrity Paradox: Played with. One of the characters is mentioned as working on Cranford. The actress who played Nurse Kenchington also had a role on Cranford. Also, both the character in Cranford and the character in Psychoville died in the first season of each show.
Chained Heat: Happens when Mr Jelly accidentally handcuffs himself to Mrs Wren while performing at her retirement home.
Citizenship Marriage: In series two, Hattie is asked to marry a gay friend's boyfriend so he can get a visa to remain in the country.
A writers' mistake, as the gay couple could have got a civil partnership, which is treated equally for UK immigration purposes.
Though possible justified by the fact that the boyfriend is from Iran (where homosexuality is treated as a capital crime) and has not come out to his family, who are implied to take a very dim view of homosexuality.
Cryptic Conversation: In series two, this leads to Jelly accepting a booking intended for Jolly, mistakenly thinking he's being hired for a children's party. It turns out that Jolly, who used to be a surgeon, was moonlighting for the mob - removing people's organs to sell on the black market.
Daddy's Little Villain: It's implied that Kenchington gets her villainous ways from her father, who was a Nazi neurosurgeon who trained under Josef Mengele.
Dead Man's Chest: Done in an episode which parodies Hitchcock's Rope. Minutes after serial killers David and Maureen have dispatched their latest victim, a man claiming to be a police inspector shows up at the door. He's really an actor auditioning for a role in one of the "murder mystery" acts the victim ran.Hilarity Ensues as they hide the corpse in various places around the room while trying to keep the inspector off their tail (and David having to pretend to be the victim so as not to give away that the man is dead)
Dinner and a Show: Series two, episode two, when David and Maureen invite Robin and Emily for dinner
Disney Owns This Trope: It is mentioned that the dwarves in the pantomime have been renamed from the movie (to "Prof", "Snoozer," "Smiler", "Blusher", "Sniffy", "Grumbly" and "Loopy") so as to avoid being sued by Disney.
Truth in Television: A documentary in the UK followed a group of little people actors playing the dwarves in a professional panto - their production, and others, also use these names because the originals are trademarked.
Failed a Spot Check: Mrs Wren, frequently. She believes the entire visit to Andrews Nanotech with Jelly, and running for their lives from Finney, to be Jelly simply taking her on a nice trip to the theatre in London.
Heel-Face Turn: Kerry, to a certain extent. She may have been revealed to be evil in Series 1 but she's the one who ultimately finishes off Dr. Ehrlichmann.
Hero Killer: Detective Finney in series two is the goddamned definition of this trope. For a while he has a killing spree of one recurring cast member per episode.
Homage: In addition to the Rope episode, Robert's entire plotline has a lot in common with Freaks and he makes a Carrie reference. Also, one of the Sowerbutts murders is done the same way Vincent Price killed Coral Browne in Theatre of Blood
Human Popsicle: Edwina Kenchington (and Grace Andrews)' pet project, and the reason for much of the events of series two.
Kill the Cutie: In series two, David's new blackmailer wants him to kill the blackmailer's aunt - the sweet, elderly Mrs Wren. Instead, Mrs Wren escapes with Jolly, while Finney mistakes her (equally sweet and elderly) roommate for her, and kills the roommate instead.
MacGuffin: 50 Great Coastal Walks of the British Isles, Volume 2. Averted with Kenchington's locket, which looks like a classic MacGuffin to the Genre Savvy, but is actually vital to the plot.
Mad Scientist: Nurse Kenchington's father was a brilliant Nazi scientist who studied under Josef Mengele. Because of his genius, instead of being tried for war crimes he was allowed to come to Britain where he was put in charge of Ravenhill.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's occasionally hinted that Freddie does have some kind of life force or magical power - he appears to be able to move by himself and drink from the bottle Joy gives him. With Joy's death, it's unlikely we'll uncover the truth.
Mind over Matter: Robert has telekinetic powers that appear at times of high emotion. It's eventually revealed that Kerry, not Robert, is telekinetic and has complete control over her abilities. She just let Robert think he was telekinetic.
Oedipus Complex: David appears to be this, since for most of his life Maureen was the only female figure in it. After Maureen's death, he eventually gets together with Emily, who seems to have taken over the role Maureen played for him.
Old Maid: Hattie appears to consider herself one, and is disappointed that she can't have a proper wedding because her Citizenship Marriage must be hidden from the authorities.
The Oner: Episode 4 of the first season, as a homage to the film Rope only has David and his mother taking to a police detective. There's one concealed cut.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Michael, who's always addressed as "Tealeaf" by other characters even when he asks to be called by his real name. The nickname is Cockney Rhyming Slang for "thief" as Michael was sent to Lomax on community service. The actor who plays Michael, Daniel Kaluuya, is credited as playing Tealeaf as well.
Organ Theft: What Jolly turns out to have been doing as a sideline, since he used to be a surgeon.
Parental Incest: Constantly teased with David and Maureen, although toned down in the second series.
Pointy-Haired Boss: Grace Andrews, despite arguably being the Big Bad of the second season, is frequently more interested in gadgets and making her office look like Minority Report than she is in the actual task at hand, at one point ordering a pointless murder basically because it'll make her screen look tidy.
Red Herring Twist: The character of Hattie is established over several episodes, only for her plotline to intersect with the main plot only briefly, and with no real consequence.
More of a Red Herring is Hattie tipping the contents of Kenchington's locket down the drain, when it turns out that they were unimportant - the valuable part of the locket was the chain.
Replacement Goldfish: After the Freddie Fruitcake doll is (presumably) destroyed in the Ravenhill explosion, Joy attempts to replace him with Jennifer - Lomax's temporary carer during Michael's absence.
Running Gag: People mistakenly contacting Mr Jelly when they want his much less terrifying rival, Mr Jolly - this is subverted at series one's climax, where Mr. Jolly is revealed to in fact be the blackmailer, and sent a letter to Mr. Jelly on purpose, originally claiming it was mistakenly sent. It can be argued, given Jolly's agenda for blackmailing Jelly, that he is perhaps more terrifying come the climax.
It continues after Jolly's death. In series two Jelly starts answering to both names.
And then in a scene where Jelly impersonates Jolly somebody calls him Jelly, implying that the confusion always worked both ways.
Secret Identity: Lomax, who turns out to be famous TV/radio presenter Tony Hancock, living under an assumed name.
It's debatable whether or not this is really the case. Given Lomax's history of mental illness and several glaring differences between his account and "reality" (for instance, the real Hancock was not buried - as Lomax claims while explaining how he faked his death - but cremated) it's entirely possible this was one final, tragic delusion on his part.
Sequel Hook: It's revealed at the end of series two that David is keeping Maureen's corpse in a bath full of ice, since Finney was cremated in her place, suggesting that she could possibly be revived like Ehrlichmann in a possible third series.
According to Reece Shearsmith's blog, this hook has been jossed, as he and Steve both chose not to do a third series.
There were also blatant sequel hooks at the end of series 1 (introducing the locket) and the Halloween special (introducing Grace Andrews and Kelvin).
"Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: Subverted. In series two, Robert agrees to kill Mrs Wren, so that Simon can inherit her money, in exchange for Simon agreeing to "relieve Maureen of her pain." In a direct homage to Strangers on a Train, they actually agree to meet on a train to discuss the plan. Backfires when Maureen catches Simon sneaking up on her, and kills him first. Then discovers he wasn't going to kill her - he was actually there to give her a disabled parking badge.
The Chessmaster: Mr Jolly tries to be this in series 1, but his plan doesn't quite go right - including the fact that he didn't actually get Robert or David to Ravenhill. In series two, Grace seems to be The Chessmaster at work ... but turns out to be working for someone else behind the scenes.
Those Wacky Nazis: The Hoyti Toyti toy shop is a front for the sale of Nazi uniforms and memorabilia, with an online store called "NaziBay." This leads Peter (the owner of Hoyti Toyti) and Michael to make the connection between Nurse Kenchington, her Nazi father, and the murders of those present at the Ravenhill explosion. It's then revealed that Peter is a Nazi who wants to revive Kenchington's father - and kills Michael to prevent him from talking.
Dr. Ehrlichmann himself, after his "resurrection". With special emphasis on the "whacky".
Tomato Surprise: Grace and the other baddies occupying the shiny, white, high-tech office in series two are deliberately implied to be some sort of top secret James Bond-like government agency. It turns out to be a private cryogenics company.
Traumatic Haircut: Jeremy does this to Rachel's mother, in order to distract her so he can kidnap the family dog and hold her to ransom over the missing book.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Lomax and Michael have elements of Type 2. Jelly and Mrs Wren may also qualify; despite his irritation at finding himself accidentally handcuffed to her and having to drag her to Ravenhill, by series 2 they are working together on a stage magic act, and seem to get along well enough even though Jelly is annoyed at what a lousy assistant she is. He also cares about her enough to save her life when he discovers that the people present at the Ravenhill explosion are being murdered ...
Wanting Is Better Than Having: Lomax does get Snappy the Crocodile - and throws it into the sea. He then explains that he does this repeatedly so he can chase down Snappy again and again, because the first time he gained Snappy, he finally had everything he wanted in life and that drove him insane.