Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have produced another series of their critically acclaimed Inside No. 9, which was, for me, undoubtedly one of the best pieces of television to come out of 2014. And the ingenuity of the plot development and sharpness of the writing have certainly not been diluted.
I marvel at the innovation of Shearsmith and Pemberton who seem to be continuously crafting such carefully constructed and hilarious pieces of comedy. They understand the importance of character development, as well as appreciating the value of the underdog: characters that we may lazily write off as “boring” are explored in great detail and the effects are astonishing. The number of core characters in each episode is limited to enable the writers to get close to the action and get inside the heads of those involved. Plot twists are a key aspect of each episode, which we come to expect but are still somehow caught off guard on every occasion. Shearsmith and Pemberton know how to incorporate shock elements into their writing, despite viewers already expecting to be shocked, which is an unequivocally admirable craft. The resultant effect is that these creatives have yet again shown their uncanny ability to disturb audiences with multi-layered impacts and heavy undertones.
Sheridan Smith is a remarkable actress, and her role as the lead in The 12 Days of Christine made that starkly obvious to anyone that wasn’t already aware of her talent. This episode was a favourite amongst critics with its disjointed and truly gut-wrenching storyline; its powerful emotional impact was aided no doubt by Smith’s inspired performance. The characters in The 12 Days of Christine have depth and are incredibly well-developed for a stand-alone episode. I can’t help but wish we’d been given time to get to know them better, and maybe that’s what makes the story so compelling. My personal favourite, however, was Cold Comfort due to its definite sinister edge and uncomfortably bitter humour. I didn’t know it was possible to build such levels suspicion and mystery into thirty minutes of stand-alone television, but this episode cleverly established a powerful snapshot image of the goings on at a crisis helpline call centre with its subversive characters and ominous service users. But if unnerving comedy isn’t your thing, there might still be something for you, shown in the diverse cast, which includes the likes of Tim Key, Jack Whitehall and Claire Skinner.
Inside No. 9 is one of those pieces of television that demonstrates such undeniably skilled writing that it is near impossible to not be inspired to the point of envy. For me, Shearsmith and Pemberton have created a piece of televisual art that investigates the human condition and what it means to be a part of society. It helps shed a new light on eras we may have forgotten, or people who appear to be easily forgetful themselves, and I honestly believe it is one of the best things to be created for television this decade.