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TV Review: Inside No. 9 - Empty Orchestra


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Taking us inside a comparatively more pleasant No.9, this latest tale from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton is fairly enjoyable, but lacks the high dramatic stakes of previous episodes. 

The risk of anthology tales such as the ones crafted in Inside No. 9 is that with each episode, as completely different and separate as they are, we cannot help but compare them to the ones before.

In the case of the 'Empty Orchestra', the fourth episode of this current series, such comparisons make for an underwhelming watch that just doesn't match up to the breathtaking drama or laugh out loud humour of previous episodes. 

Taking place in a small karaoke booth, this episode follows a group of co-workers as they seek to celebrate the promotion of one of their own. Compact in this small, loud space, tensions rise as we begin to discover the secrets that each person harbours in relation to others in the group; from steamy affairs to an overlooming threat of redundancy. 

On the surface, this episode certainly looks very lively, with each character dressed to the nines in colourful costumes, posing as everything from Britney Spears to Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Boy George and a sumo wrestler. The music, naturally, is also an intergral part of the episode; used to veil and convey the not-so-hidden feelings of the characters.

The problem here is that the stakes, both in comedic and dramatic terms, are relatively small and predictable compared to the feats we have seen in previous tales. The plot twists in this episode don't provide the story-flipping shocks that we have come to expect from Shearsmith and Pemberton and, perhaps most underwhelmingly, the ending is a fairly happy, lacklustre one.

The guest stars among this episode offer lively, if slightly one-dimensional performances as the various office workers. Tamzin Outhwaite plays the archetypal 'bitch', who callously taunts and flaunts her way through the episode. Meanwhile, Sarah Hadland evokes the same peppy attitude in this character as she did playing Stevie in Miranda, while Javone Prince sits on the outskirts.

The most affecting character of the episode is that played by deaf actress Emily Howlett, who appears as the quiet PA harbouring a crush on one of her co-workers. The way the episode molds around the character's hearing problems is quite interesting, as we see her enjoying the night's festivities through reverberations in the speakers and deciphering secrets that others cannot comprehend amongst the noise. 

Ultimately though, this is the weakest episode of the current series so far, failing to deliver on the shocks, humour and darker proclivities that we have so loved in previous stories. 

Inside No. 9 airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on BBC Two.

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