I had the whole series of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s Inside No. 9 recorded to watch when my exams were out of the way and with three exams left and half a day at home I managed to watch all six episodes in the space of a few hours.
Inside No. 9 is my favourite kind of comedy: dark, twisted and thought-provoking. Each episode is an entirely different storyline with new characters and setting yet they are all set at ‘Number 9’, be that a house or a dressing room in one case. With this vague link connecting the stories, it enabled Shearsmith and Pemberton to explore many entirely different groups of people, which I found fascinating. Each episode is given half an hour so the situation always gets worse and worse until the end and they just cut off. Resolutions aren’t really important for Shearsmith and Pemberton which I think is very brave and very unnerving.
Two episodes stood out for me as the cleverest and creepiest (what’s not to love?) and these were episode one: Sardines and episode three: Tom and Gerri. I’m going to give a brief overview of these as my heart is fully invested in them.
EPISODE 1, SARDINES
This episode featured the beauty that is Katherine Parkinson and generally had a very quaint, slightly ‘off’ feel. That is something I think Shearsmith and Pemberton are very skilled at: creating an atmosphere and evoking a reaction without necessarily relying on laughs to do so. The story follows a well-to-do family who are playing their traditional party game: Sardines, which is like hide-and-seek except once you find the person, you must join them in their hiding place until everyone is there. A magnifying glass is held up to the group dynamics and many dark secrets are hinted at and eventually revealed at the very end. The plot of this episode is incredibly clever and a wonderful start to the series.
EPISODE 3, TOM AND GERRI
This episode freaked me out because it’s all about the stability of the human mind, which I personally find terrifying and I’m guessing the writers must do as well. The basis of the story is that Tom is a primary school teacher living in a comfy apartment with his wife, Gerri, and one day he lets a ‘tramp’ come into his home for a few hours in return for him bringing him his wallet that he somehow, conveniently, lost. This is the beginning of a drastic downward spiral for the stranger rapidly begins to take over his life and, in turn, Tom’s health and motivation for life decreases. It is a tragic tale and I’m still a little confused by it in all honesty as the audience are left questioning which parts are real and which are fabrications from Tom’s distressed mind, but that doesn’t detract from my emotional connection to it. I also like the way the names Tom and Gerri may have been a hint at the idea of a cat and mouse chase, like the cartoon, which made it particularly poignant.
The other episodes were all brilliant with many laughs, but also many shivers of absolute disgust. Many talented actors popped up throughout such as Tamsin Greig in episode four: The Last Gasp and Julia Davies in episode five: The Understudy. I think it’s hilarious that Julia always gets given the role of ‘the bitch’ (think, Dawn from Gavin and Stacey or Jill from Nighty Night). Of course I’m not suggesting that’s anything to do with her own personality, just that she is stupidly good at playing it! One fabulous moment was in episode six: The Harrowing where Katie is asking about Tabitha’s disabled brother: “That’s Andras, milk and rusks, that’s all he can have.” “…the disability?” “That and the fact he doesn’t have a mouth.”
This series has been punchy, eery and absolutely fantastic and I am genuinely so excited for some more from Shearsmith and Pemberton (and am so annoyed that I can’t find anywhere to watch Psychoville online!).