The new series of Inside No.9 is, finally, due to air towards the end of this month.
Written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, each episode of this darkly comic anthology series is a thirty minute short film. The only link between them is that every episode is set within ‘number 9’, be that a house, a room, or a train compartment. Inside No.9 has made me laugh, cry, and too afraid to turn out the lights. It is seriously unmissable television. Here are three reasons you should watch.
Genre defining and defying
The anthology format gives Shearsmith and Pemberton the chance to play with genre, showing off how well they know the conventions, deftly switching between tone and style, always with dark humour.
The first series included a silent episode of a farcical burglary, not filmed in black and white but still largely monochromatic with black-clad burglars in a white modernist house; a gothic horror (an episode that scared me silly on first viewing); and a five act episode set in a theatre, mirroring Macbeth.
But it is not only explorations of well known genres that Inside No.9 does well. Among the best episodes is series two’s ‘Cold Comfort’, the screen split three ways with fixed camera footage, and episodes where the genre isn’t clear until late on are also highly effective.
The anthology format allows for noteworthy casting in a way that is unlikely to be possible for a series with recurring characters. The silent episode ‘A Quiet Night In’ guest stars Oona Chaplin in a reportedly accidental homage to her grandfather, and the first series also includes roles for Katherine Parkinson, Timothy West, Gemma Arterton, and Tamsin Greig.
Pemberton and Shearsmith often appear in the episodes too but they don’t write only for themselves, appearing in supporting roles and frequently giving their co-stars the best lines. Alison Steadman and Jane Horrocks had stand out roles in series two, and the Christmas special (technically the first episode of series three) starred both Derek Jacobi and Rula Lenska.
Series three then is sure to include some great star turns, though admittedly they’ll have to go some way to outshine Sheridan Smith’s performance in series two…
Sheridan Smith starred as the eponymous Christine in ‘The Twelve Days of Christine’. This episode is the best thirty minutes of television I have ever seen. Watching a show without knowing the genre in advance is quite disconcerting at times, and this is used to brilliant effect in this episode; tightly scripted and brilliantly acted you are kept guessing until the final few moments – the last scene making sense of all that has come before it.
Though ‘Twelve Days of Christine’ stands out, each episode of ‘Inside No.9’ delights in the unexpected. They all have the capacity to surprise, and though there are often red herrings there is never a contrived ending – the clues are always there. Such carefully planned stories make the series very re-watchable – seeing how the pieces of the puzzle were laid out before you as entertaining as trying to spot them the first time round.
Given my love for the show I’ve been repeatedly surprised by the number of people who haven’t yet heard of it. If this includes you, tune in to series three. Each episode stands alone so you have nothing to catch up on, but you still have every reason to watch series’ one and two.
The next episode of Inside No.9 is due to air between 18th and 24th February, exact date to be confirmed.