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Series / Psychoville

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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.

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  • 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 jaded 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.

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  • 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.

The show concluded after only two series, but the Sowerbutts (and Mr Jelly) were revived for the Inside No. 9 episode "Death Be Not Proud", essentially serving as a fully absorbed Grand Finale to the series.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Ravenhill
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Kerry-Robert-Debbie triangle
  • Anticlimax:
    • The buildup to what Mr Lomax keeps Behind the secret door reveals a huge collection of Beanie Babies.
    • And again during the series one finale when the blackmailer reveals himself.
  • Anyone Can Die: After it's revealed that everyone except the villains survived the explosion at the end of season one, season two proceeds to kill off Joy, Robert, Mr Lomax, Michael and Maureen at a rate of one per episode. By the end, the only main cast members standing are David and Mr Jelly... and David ends up dying nearly a decade later during his Inside No. 9 appearance.
  • Avenging the Villain: Mr Jolly’s motivation for Series 1.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad:
    • Series 1: The blackmailer Mr Jolly.
    • Series 2: Grace Andrews.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: The blackmailer, AKA Mr Jolly turns out to be this at the end of season one. Despite claiming that his masterful scheme left nothing to chance, he only managed to draw three out of his five targets back to Ravenhill (as well as four people with no involvement whatsoever), sent them messages with obsolete VHS tapes instead of dvds, and despite instigating the whole thing to avenge his mother's supposed death, he ultimately ends up killing her along with himself and zero of his intended victims.
  • Blind Mistake: Mr. Lomax was the inspiration for the creation of this trope with his Club biscuit camera phone (nobody ever rings him on it)
  • Blood from the Mouth: Maureen spits up blood when they are about to die.
  • 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. 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.
  • The Cameo: The director in episode 2 of season 2 is played by real-life director John Landis (Reece Shearsmith appeared in Landis' 2010 production of Burke and Hare).
  • Camp Gay: Peter, the owner of Hoyti Toyti in series two.
  • 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.
  • Completely Missing the Point: The Haringey Citizen's advice officer. Also an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • Cool Car: Mr Jolly's car. Sort of.
  • Creepy Doll: Freddie
  • 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.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Mr Jelly. He might look like a terrifying blend of Papa Lazarou, Pennywise and The Joker, but he's probably the most normal and well adjusted of the cast.
  • Daydream Believer: Joy Aston.
  • 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.
  • Dumb Blonde: Debbie
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Mr Jelly.
  • Fag Hag: Hattie
  • 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.
  • Faking the Dead: Very frequently.
  • Finger in the Mail: What Jeremy threatens to do to Rachel's dog in order to ensure that she returns Great Coastal Walks of the British Isles, Volume Two
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": "Superman" by Black Lace is played as Maureen's coffin (actually containing the still-alive Detective Finney) enters the cremation furnace.
  • Fun with Acronyms: FOCCE - the Federation Of Clowns and Children's Entertainers.
  • Gainax Ending: Ending of Series 1.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Nurse Kenchington & her father Dr Ehrlichmann both have this role.
  • Hallucinations:
    • Silent Singer appears to be Jeremy's hallucination.
    • David experiences hallucinations in episode 5 of series 1, when he imagines the waxworks coming to life and performing a musical number.
  • Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Mr. Jelly.
  • 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.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Hattie and Shahrouz
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: One episode features a guest appearance from Mark Gatiss, thereby reuniting three of the four members of the League of Gentlemen.
  • 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.
  • Kitsch Collection: Oscar Lomax and his collection of "commodities".
  • Lampshade Hanging: Mr. Jelly pointing out how illogical and unsatisfying the end of the first series was.
  • Large Ham: Christopher Biggins, who in Real Life stars in pantomime every year, plays a comically exaggerated version of himself as director of "Biggins Panto." It's debatable whether Christopher Biggins actually needs any comic exaggeration!
  • Less Embarrassing Term: Not toys. Commodities.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Hattie. She also fits Stalker with a Crush pretty well.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Kerry.
  • MacGuffin: 50 Great Coastal Walks of the British Isles, Volume 2. Averted with Kenchington's locket, which looks like a classic MacGuffin, 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.
  • Mental Handicap, Moral Deficiency: David has an Ambiguous Disorder but he's obsessed with serial killers and his creepy, disturbing behaviour is both disturbing and Played for Laughs.
  • Metaphorgotten: Doctor Flint.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken Identity: Mr. Jelly/Mr. Jolly.
  • Modern Minstrelsy: Lomax's second assistant, Jennifer.
  • Monster Clown: Mr. Jelly, Keeps Kids Quiet.
  • Murder by Cremation: Finney.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Everyone involved in Biggins Panto arguably counts (except Brian, who plays the Wicked Queen.)
  • No Time to Explain: The pilot did nothing but raise questions.
  • Not Quite Dead:
    • Nurse Kenchington, twice.
    • Also Joy and her husband, once each.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Mr. Jelly in the toilets.
  • 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.
  • Official Couple: David and Emily, as of the end of series two.
  • 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.
  • "Pocket" Protector: Lampshaded with David's melon.
  • 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: Grace - "Don't FUCKING touch that!"
  • Psychopathic Manchild: David Sowerbutts is a mentally handicapped man who's mother attends to his every need (including chewing his food for him and holding his penis while he urinates) and an encyclopedic obsession with Serial Killers, which he later turns into reality when he systematically starts murdering the people (he thinks are) blackmailing him.
  • Psychotic Smirk: "Detective" Finney is particularly good at this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Freddie himself was a Replacement Goldfish for Joy's real son, who died as a baby.
  • 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.
  • Scary Librarian: Jeremy.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Erlichmann, though he doesn't actually get to do anything before being Killed Off for Real.
  • 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. This is eventually followed up on in Inside No. 9, where it is revealed David forgot to top up the ice cubes, leading to Maureen's body to decay.
    • There were also blatant sequel hooks at the end of series 1 (introducing the locket) and the Halloween special (introducing Grace Andrews and Kelvin).
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: 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. Jelly and Mrs Wren too; 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.
  • Yandere: Kerry.
  • You Killed My Mother: The blackmailer's motivation in series 1. He turns out to be mistaken - his mother actually survived the attempt on her life.
  • Your Head Asplode: Dr Erlichmann, thanks to Kerry.


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