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TV Preview: Inside No. 9


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Last night’s preview of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s new comedy horror series, ‘Inside No. 9’, made me unsure of whether to laugh, or whether to shield my eyes from the screen. This new anthology series, due to be aired on BBC Two early next year, contains six episodes, each telling the story of events that unfold at very different Number 9s.

Co-creators Shearsmith and Pemberton, famously known for the comedy series The League of Gentlemen and the dark comedy Psychoville, have come together once again to create a fantastic comedy series. The two episodes which the preview gave, instilled a mixture of canned laughter and laugh out loud laughter into the audience, along with a fair bit of fear.

The preview at BFI Southbank, as part of the Dark Heart of Film Season, included two episodes, ‘A Quiet Night In’, and ‘The Harrowing’, two very contrasting types of Number 9. Whilst ‘A Quiet Night In’ focused on the robbery of an incredibly affluent house by two ludicrous criminals, ‘The Harrowing’ is centred around a big, old house, constantly kept at a temperature below freezing, and a schoolgirl who thinks she has come to babysit...

Although these settings may seem a little peculiar to stage a comedy, Shearsmith and Pemberton pull it off spectacularly, getting the balance just right between the humour and the horror. Each episode, with a different cast (apart from Shearsmith and Pemberton, who feature in most of the episodes) and a different setting, acts as a short story on its own, and for me this is one of the things that makes this series so special. The lack of transition between episodes will mean that each week viewers can sit down to watch, confident that they are in for a surprise.

Shearsmith and Pemberton feature heavily in ‘A Quiet Night In’ as the two robbers, and add pure hilarity to the episode through this double act, not dissimilar to the comedy double act of the Chuckle Brothers. ‘The Harrowing’, was considerably more scary than the first, and I felt genuine fear as I sat watching the screen. Certainly not a viewing for the faint hearted! This episode can be likened to films such as The Addams Family with its gothic sensibility in both setting and characters.

The gimmick style of the series was showcased very nicely in ‘A Quiet Night In’, which contains absolutely no speech. Shearsmith and Pemberton spoke afterwards about how they were very aware when writing the episode that it consisted entirely of speech directions, but hoped that viewers would be less aware of this when watching, and instead get carried away as the story progresses. Another unusual feature of the series is the continuity of the setting in each episode. The co-creators said, ‘We wanted to explore the sense of claustrophobia and intensity that is brought about by limiting the action to one location in each story.’

So, why Number 9? Disappointingly there doesn’t appear to be any sort of revelation behind the title of the series. The co-creators said that the title was originally going to be ‘Inside No. 5’ but it got altered as Number 9 ‘sounded better.' 

Janice Hadlow, of the BBC, stated: ‘Once again Steve and Reece bring us a comedy series that stands out from the rest. I hope these six dark little tales will be as enjoyed and talked about as their highly acclaimed work to date.’

The little taste I got of what is to come in the New Year definitely did not disappoint, as Shearsmith’s and Pemberton’s pure comedy genius was demonstrated once again. The nation should prepare itself for some truly enjoyable television.

 ‘Inside No.9’ will be aired on BBC2 in the New Year, possibly in February, although no set date has been confirmed as of yet.

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