Review: Man to Man with Dean Learner

Man to Man with Dean Lerner

In the UK: Fridays, Channel 4, 11.10pm

In the US: I don’t think so

Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place has been undergoing a revival of late for no adequately explored reason. The SciFi Channel in the US picked it up in July; it’s just come out on DVD. I don’t understand why. It’s not funny.

Okay. Let’s qualify that. Garth Marenghi, a composite of horror writers like Stephen King and Shaun Huston, is funny. The show wasn’t.

Now, from the same writers, comes Man to Man with Dean Learner. And, oh wait, the same characters.

Dean Learner (Richard Ayoade), Marenghi’s publisher and, it turns out, a club owner, celebrity manager and publisher of high class gentlemen’s magazines, invites you to his luxury apartment where he talks to various celebrities in (yet another) spoof chat show. For this first episode, he brings on Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness), where they discuss his life and work.

Clearly, time has taught both Ayoade and Holness something about writing. Marenghi is spot on as a character and frequently hilarious.

The problem is that Ayoade isn’t, even when he has good lines to deliver. He isn’t funny and he isn’t a good actor. His standard slightly nerdy, inadequate geek performance (familiar to any IT Crowd/Nathan Barley viewer) just doesn’t suit the Peter Stringfellow-like character he’s created or the lines he’s supposed to deliver. Talk about how he’s “slimming down his harem” because he needs to get rid of a few bedrooms for an indoor arena might have been amusing from someone with exaggerated over-confidence. From Ayoade’s Learner, it’s completely implausible; other random acts of misogyny are similarly either baffling or offensive, rather than offensively funny or character critiques.

Future weeks’ episodes will feature other guests, no doubt played by Holness: whether they’ll be as funny as the well rehearsed Marenghi remains to be seen. Unfortunately, Ayoade as Learner will be a constant throughout the shows. Some laughs so far, but whether you like it or not will be down to whether you can stomach Ayoade.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.