Sarah Millican: Who voluntarily watches TV containing distressing scenes?

"My husband, it turns out. I wish I’d known that he likes to be distressed. We’ve been together for eight years and I’d tried to avoid it until now."


Look up “Penny Dreadful” and you’ll see it defined as a cheap, sensational novel of adventure, crime or violence, but the term can also be used to describe a very successful and funny sketch trio and the toffee left at the bottom of a tin of Quality Street. At infant school, our headmistress gave us one of those jaw-gluing sweets whenever we finished a book, which does help to explain why I take ages to get through
a novel. If she’d offered a caramel keg, I’d probably manage a book a week. A noisette triangle
would make my Kindle catch fire.


So I watched the first episode of Penny Dreadful. This made my husband happy. I can always tell from a trailer if it’s his sort of thing. Does it look like someone needs to put a big light on? Does someone say “What is it?” and then does someone scream? Then it’s his sort of thing.

I was wary from the top. Before it had even started, an announcer warned of “images you may find disturbing”. What? Like a mirror or an empty fridge? The description on the recordy box said it would include “distressing scenes”. What kind of person would voluntarily watch something that had distressing scenes? Who actively wants to be distressed? My husband, it turns out, who had it series linked. I wish I’d known that he likes to be distressed. We’ve been together for eight years and I’d tried to avoid it until now.

The show started with a lady going to the toilet in the night. Always scary. Lights on will risk you waking yourself up, lights off means you may stand on a cat or stub your toe. It’s treacherous. Especially for this lady, who gets pulled out through the wall. Don’t make going to the toilet scary. It’s one of my hobbies.

The main characters are played by Eva Green, who I remember being ace in a Bond film, Josh Hartnett, who is still delicious, and Timothy Dalton, the best James Bond. I see your Goldfinger and I raise you a Licence to Kill. It literally doesn’t get better than sharks and Sanchez.

The whole first episode centered around Sir Malcolm (Dalton) interviewing potential employees for his crack team of beastie-killers to help find his daughter. Presumably they cut the bit where he asked them where they saw themselves in five years and what their biggest weakness is. “I’d like to still be alive, please.” “If anything I’m just too good at stabbing monsters in the head and then spinning around.”

Oh, and in case you were wondering, there were seven. Seven distressing scenes. I flagged them up by shouting “DISTRESSING SCENE!” every time they popped up.


Penny Dreadful is on Tuesdays at 9:00pm on Sky Atlantic.