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Inside No. 9

Inside No. 9
Inside No. 9 series one DVD cover.jpg
Series one DVD cover, featuring Pemberton (top) and Shearsmith (bottom) as they appeared in episode 1, "Sardines"
Genre
Created by
Written by
  • Reece Shearsmith
  • Steve Pemberton
Directed by
Starring
  • Reece Shearsmith
  • Steve Pemberton
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 18
Production
Executive producer(s) Jon Plowman
Producer(s) Adam Tandy
Location(s) Various
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) BBC Comedy
Release
Original network
Picture format HDTV (1080i)
Original release 5 February 2014 (2014-02-05) – present
External links
Website www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03tvq6m

Inside No. 9 is a British dark comedy anthology television programme that first aired in 2014. It is written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton and produced by the BBC. Each half-hour episode is a self-contained story with new characters and a new setting, and all star at least one (usually both) of Pemberton and Shearsmith. Aside from the writers, each episode has a new cast, allowing Inside No. 9 to attract a number of well-known actors. The stories are linked only by the fact that each takes place at a number 9, with settings including a suburban house, a gothic mansion and a barn. Pemberton and Shearsmith took inspiration for Inside No. 9 from an episode of Psychoville, a previous project, which was filmed in a single room. This episode was, in turn, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. Inside No. 9 was also a reaction to Psychoville, which featured a long overarching story realised over multiple series.

Themes and tone vary from episode-to-episode, but all have elements of comedy and horror. The first series, which first aired in February–March 2014, contains six episodes—"Sardines", "A Quiet Night In", "Tom & Gerri", "Last Gasp", "The Understudy" and "The Harrowing— as well as a special online-only episode called "The Inventors". The second series first aired in March–April 2015, and contains six episodes: "La Couchette", "The 12 Days of Christine", "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge", "Cold Comfort" "Nana's Party" and "Séance Time". The third series started in December 2016 with the Christmas special "The Devil of Christmas", continuing in February–March with "The Bill", "The Riddle of the Sphinx", "Empty Orchestra", "Diddle Diddle Dumpling" and "Private View". A fourth series is in production.

Inside No. 9 as a whole has been very well received by critics, who have praised the humour and creativity of the scripts, as well as the talent of the featured actors. Commentators have described it as "never less-than-captivating"[1] and "consistently compelling",[2] offering particularly strong praise for "A Quiet Night In" and "The 12 Days of Christine". Inside No. 9 won the Sketch and Comedy prize at the 35th annual Banff World Media Festival Rockie Awards, and won the comedy prize at the 2016 Rose d'Or ceremony. It was nominated for the Best TV Sitcom prize at the 2014 Freesat Awards, the Broadcast Award for Best Original Programme, and at the 2014 British Comedy Awards for both the Best New Comedy Programme and the Best Comedy Drama. However, critics have suggested that the programme may be an acquired taste; despite its generally high acclaim, some journalists and viewers have been highly critical of Inside No. 9, and it has had comparatively low viewing figures.

Format

Inside No. 9 is an anthology series, with each episode featuring a new story, with a new setting and new characters.[3] Episodes last around half an hour, with the self-contained story reaching a conclusion.[4][5] The stories are linked only by the fact that each takes place in number 9, be that a mansion, a dressing room or a flat. Every episode stars at least one of Shearsmith or Pemberton, and normally both.[6] Each episode is effectively a short play, and could easily be performed on stage. Most episodes take place in real-time, following half an hour in the lives of the characters.[7]

As is typical of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton's work,[4] the scripts address dark topics, with, for instance, the first episode touching upon incest, child sexual abuse and murder.[5] The plotlines make use of twists and surprises of various sorts,[8][9] though in some cases the surprise is the lack of twist.[7] In an interview, Pemberton said that "there is always a desire to wrong-foot the viewer. That's what you strive to do".[10] The tone varies episode-by-episode. For example, while gothic horror was a major component in one case, other times slapstick comedy was used extensively;[10] the humour, however, is typically dark and British.[3][11] The episodes generally begin with scenes of "utter banality", before the darker elements are revealed.[12] Despite the various episodes featuring unrelated plots and characters, one reviewer said that they are all linked "by a mercurial synthesis of morbid comedy, wicked social commentary and a genuine creepiness".[3]

Inside No. 9 is somewhat more grounded and realistic than the writers' previous work, such as Psychoville and The League of Gentlemen.[3][13] Pemberton said that he and Shearsmith decided not to mix the worlds of Inside No. 9 and their previous projects, but nonetheless include the occasional reference; for example, a character called "Ollie" is mentioned in one Inside No. 9 episode, and the writers imagined that this was Ollie Plimsoles of Legz Akimbo, a character from The League of Gentlemen.[14]

Production and development

In 2012, after the cancellation of their Psychoville, writers Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith were commissioned to produce two series for the BBC by controllers Janice Hadlow and Cheryl Taylor, partially in response to Sky beginning to produce comedy. At the time, it was unclear whether this would be two series of Inside No. 9, then known by the working title Happy Endings, or a series of Inside No. 9 and a series of some other programme.[15] Inside No. 9 was to be produced by a BBC team,[15] which was later revealed to be David Kerr (director), Jon Plowman (executive producer) and Adam Tandy (producer).[16]

Pemberton and Shearsmith took inspiration for Inside No. 9 from "David and Maureen", episode 4 of the first series of Psychoville, which was in turn inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. This episode took place entirely in a single room, and was filmed in only two shots.[5] The writers were keen to explore other stories in this bottle episode or TV play format, and Inside No. 9 allowed them to do this.[17] At the same time, the concept of Inside No. 9 was a "reaction" to Psychoville, with Shearsmith saying that the two of them had "been so involved with labyrinthine over-arcing, we thought it would be nice to do six different stories with a complete new house of people each week. That's appealing, because as a viewer you might not like this story, but you've got a different one next week."[16] Elsewhere, Shearsmith explained that the pair returned to writing macabre stories as they "always feel slightly unfulfilled if [they] write something that's purely comedic, [as] it just feels too frivolous and light".[18] The first story that the pair wrote specifically for Inside No. 9 was about a birthday party. BBC producers felt that this story would work as the opening episode of a sitcom, but, given the script's events, Pemberton and Shearsmith were not happy to develop the idea into its own programme. The script was consequently shelved and revisited during the planning process for the second series, becoming "Nana's Party", the fifth episode of the series and eleventh overall.[19] During the filming Inside No. 9, Shearsmith professed excitement to be working on the programme, saying that "[b]eing in the middle of filming a third series of Psychoville would be utterly depressing".[16] Pemberton and Shearsmith aimed for a simpler experience with Inside No. 9 than they had experienced with Psychoville, describing "Sardines", Inside No. 9's first episode, by saying that it was "just about some good actors in a wardrobe with a good story."[16]

Reece Shearsmith (pictured in 2003) co-wrote Inside No. 9 with Steve Pemberton

At the time of Inside No. 9's production, the anthology series was a rare genre for British television programmes. Previous horror anthologies include Tales of the Unexpected, The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents; while these would sometimes use comedic elements, they are more prominent in Inside No. 9. Murder Most Horrid followed a similar format, but was far more comedic than horrific. Other anthology-like series on British television include Seven of One and Comedy Playhouse, though these programmes lacked horror elements, and, unlike Inside No. 9, served as pilots for potential series.[6] However, the British anthology show Black Mirror, which also features elements of comedy and horror, was very popular around the time of Inside No. 9.[20] For Pemberton, the 1970s and 1980s were "full of" anthology shows; other examples included Play for Today, Beasts and Armchair Thriller.[7] More recently, anthologies have become less popular with television executives,[6] but the writers hope that they may be able to contribute to a "renaissance" for the genre.[17] According to journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson, this is because anthologies can fail to motivate viewers to stay with a series, and, further, new sets and casts must be paid for each episode, meaning that a six-part anthology series will generally be more expensive than a six-part series in a more standard format. For Lawson, Inside No. 9 was able to overcome these problems through the "pleasing coherence" offered by the fact each episode was set in a number 9, and "the wit and inventiveness" of the opening episodes, which could sufficiently engage viewers.[6] Pemberton and Shearsmith had originally considered alternative ways to link the stories, such as all the settings having a shared post man, but then decided that such a strong relationship between stories was not needed.[17]

Inspiration and production varied from instalment to instalment, and each was filmed separately, taking less than a week per episode.[7] After Shearsmith and Pemberton had decided that each episode would be about confinement, and having written some of the later episodes, they were inspired by a wardrobe in their working space for "Sardines". The writers were keen to see how confined they could make the characters,[21] aiming to induce feelings of claustrophobia in viewers.[18] The anthology format allowed Pemberton and Shearsmith to revisit prior ideas, which is what they did with "A Quiet Night In" and "Tom & Gerri". The former was inspired by the writers' efforts to include a long segment without dialogue in an episode of Psychoville. Both episodes followed break-ins.[22] The Pinteresque "Tom & Gerri" was based upon a play written by Pemberton and Shearsmith while the pair were living together and job seeking. The setting was based upon their own flat, while the character Tom's development evoked the experience of job-hunting.[23][24] "Last Gasp" was inspired by a person Pemberton had seen on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop who collected jars of air, as well as the death of Michael Jackson and the death of Amy Winehouse.[25] "The Understudy", the plot of which is partially based upon and concerns Macbeth, took longer to write than any other episode; the writers rewrote the script several times, as they were unsure of whether the characters should be amateur or professional actors.[26][26] "The Harrowing" was the writers' attempt to produce a gothic horror episode. They made use of more horror tropes than previous episodes, but the setting allowed them to include modern elements.[2][3][27][28]

The BBC ordered a second series of Inside No. 9 before the first episode had aired.[29] The second series was written in 2014, and then filmed from the end of 2014 into early 2015.[30][31] The writers were permitted two sets for the second series, and so a fake train compartment and a fake flat (for "La Couchette" and "The 12 Days of Christine" respectively) were built at Twickenham Studios.[32][33][34] The other episodes were filmed on location; for example, "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge" was filmed in a barn at the Chiltern Open Air Museum.[35] David Kerr was unable to stay on as director for the second series. Guillem Morales and Dan Zeff each took on directorial duties for two episodes, and Pemberton and Shearsmith, in addition to continuing to write and star in the episodes, jointly directed the other two. The writers had hoped to direct for some time, and this represented a good opportunity to make their directorial debut.[36][37] While writing for the series, the pair did not know which episodes they would be directing;[14] in an interview, Shearsmith said that the pair had considered directing episodes in which they did not appear much, but scheduling concerns left them with "Cold Comfort" and "Nana's Party"; the episodes feature the writers quite heavily.[37]

The six episodes of the second series derived inspiration from a variety of sources. "La Couchette" aimed to explore the intimacy of sleeper carriages; specifically, the unusual problems associated with sleeping in close proximity to strangers.[32][38] "The 12 Days of Christine" follows a woman over the course of 12 years, with scenes displaying key moments in her life.[34][39] "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge" was inspired by genuine witch trials, some transcripts of which Pemberton and Shearsmith had read as part of the writing process.[40][41] "Cold Comfort" began with the idea of a call centre,[14] and was filmed in the style of a CCTV feed.[42] With "Nana's Party", the writers aimed for a feeling of suburban darkness, reminiscent of the work of Alan Ayckbourn.[43] "Séance Time" began with the idea of a séance, an idea the writers had wanted to explore for some time.[14][44]

A third series has been filmed and began broadcasting in February 2017,[45] with a Christmas special, "The Devil of Christmas", airing on 27 December 2016.[46][47] Settings for the third series include an art gallery, a restaurant and an alpine cabin, while guest stars include Keeley Hawes, Jessica Raine, Felicity Kendal, Tamzin Outhwaite, Fiona Shaw, Jason Watkins, Mathew Baynton, Rula Lenska, Philip Glenister, Sarah Hadland, Javone Prince, Montserrat Lombard, Morgana Robinson, and Alexandra Roach.[45][48][49]

A fourth series was confirmed after the airing of "The Devil of Christmas", to be broadcast in 2018. Shearsmith confirmed that much of the series has been written, identifying one episode as set in a hotel corridor with all dialogue in iambic pentameter.[50] Pemberton has said that he would be interested in an online spin-off, perhaps called No. 9A, with less experienced comedy writers. In an interview, he said "The format has so many opportunities and can incorporate so many styles, as long as you stick to the small cast, single location constraint. I think it's really important to bring through fresh voices."[14]

Episodes

Series overview

Series Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 6 February 5, 2014 (2014-02-05) March 12, 2014 (2014-03-12)
2 6 March 26, 2015 (2015-03-26) April 29, 2015 (2015-04-29)
3 6 December 27, 2016 (2016-12-27) March 21, 2017 (2017-03-21)

Series 1 (2014)

Overall
no.
Title Location Director Original broadcast date Viewers
(in millions)
1 "Sardines" Bedroom in a country estate David Kerr 5 February 2014 (2014-02-05) 1.06
Rebecca (Katherine Parkinson) and Jeremy (Ben Willbond) hold an engagement party at Rebecca's family's mansion. The guests play the parlour game sardines, in which one person hides and the other players have to join them in their hiding place once they are found. As Rebecca's friends and family are packed into a wardrobe, secrets are gradually revealed.
2 "A Quiet Night In" Modernist house David Kerr 12 February 2014 (2014-02-12) 0.94
Hapless cat burglars Eddie (Pemberton) and Ray (Shearsmith) break into a luxury house to try to steal a painting while Gerald (Denis Lawson) and Sabrina (Oona Chaplin), the couple who live in the house, argue. The episode progresses almost entirely without dialogue.
3 "Tom & Gerri" Flat David Kerr 19 February 2014 (2014-02-19) 1.0
Tom (Shearsmith) is a frustrated primary school teacher and aspiring author. One night, a homeless man named Migg (Pemberton) returns Tom's lost wallet, and Migg ends up living with Tom, to the frustration of Tom's girlfriend Gerri (Gemma Arterton). Tom's life changes dramatically as a result.
4 "Last Gasp" Suburban house David Kerr 26 February 2014 (2014-02-26) 0.87
Pop star Frankie J Parsons (David Bedella), accompanied by assistant Si (Adam Deacon) and WishmakerUK representative Sally (Tamsin Greig), visits the poorly Tamsin (Lucy Hutchinson) on her ninth birthday, but suddenly dies while blowing up a balloon. Graham (Pemberton), Tamsin's father, realises that Frankie's last breath could be highly valuable, and he, Sally and Si argue over ownership of the balloon.
5 "The Understudy" Dressing room David Kerr 5 March 2014 (2014-03-05) 0.72
Successful West End actor Tony (Pemberton) is starring in a production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. His understudy Jim (Shearsmith) has always wanted a starring role, and Jim's fiancée Laura (Lyndsey Marshal) encourages him to push for Tony's job. The episode is written in five acts, and is loosely based upon the plot of Macbeth.
6 "The Harrowing" Gothic mansion David Kerr 12 March 2014 (2014-03-12) 0.83
Katy (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is hired to housesit the Gothic mansion where Hector (Shearsmith) and Tabitha (Helen McCrory) live, while the pair attend an important event. The house is filled with paintings depicting Hell, and kept below freezing for Hector and Tabitha's heavily disabled brother, Andras (Sean Buckley), who is staying in his bedroom upstairs. Andras is not to be disturbed.

Online episode

External video
"The Inventors"
Online-only episode of Inside No. 9

A special online-only episode of Inside No. 9, "The Inventors", was launched by the BBC on 12 February 2014. "The Inventors" stars Tom Verall and Dan Renton Skinner as brothers who lost their mother in the Great Storm of 1987. The story is told through a series of cinemagraphs with dialogue. The episode is interactive, advancing only with input from the viewer. "The Inventors" was developed by media agency Kanoti, and produced by Jon Aird,[51] who had previously produced BAFTA-winning online content for Psychoville,[52] with executive producer Will Saunders.[51] It was directed by Martin Stirling.[53]

Series 2 (2015)

Overall
no.
Title Location Director Original broadcast date Viewers
(in millions)
1 (7) "La Couchette" Sleeper car Morales 26 March 2015 (2015-03-26) 1.69
English doctor Maxwell (Shearsmith) attempts to settle in a French sleeper carriage. He is disturbed first by drunk, flatulent German Jorg (Pemberton), then by English couple Kath (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and Les (Mark Benton). When Australian backpacker Shona (Jessica Gunning) brings the posh Hugo (Jack Whitehall) back to the carriage, they make a discovery.
2 (8) "The 12 Days of Christine" Flat Morales 2 April 2015 (2015-04-02) 1.69
Christine (Sheridan Smith) meets Adam (Tom Riley) at a New Year party. Her life begins to unravel around her as events seem to take place out of sequence and she is haunted by visions of an unknown man. The episode takes place over twelve holidays and important occasions in Christine's lifetime, at intervals of 13 months.
3 (9) "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge" Barn Zeff 9 April 2015 (2015-04-09) 1.41
In the 17th century, villager Elizabeth Gadge (Ruth Sheen) stands accused of witchcraft; she will be burnt at the stake if found guilty. Magistrate Sir Andrew Pike (David Warner) summons renowned witch-finders Mr Warren (Shearsmith) and Mr Clarke (Pemberton) to investigate, planning to use the trial to increase interest in the village.
4 (10) "Cold Comfort" Call centre Pemberton and Shearsmith 16 April 2015 (2015-04-16) 1.46
Andy (Pemberton) starts work at the Comfort Support Line, a crisis support line with manager George (Shearsmith), the gossipy Liz (Jane Horrocks) and the officious Joanne (Nikki Amuka-Bird). A difficult call from a suicidal teenage girl leads to a series of problems. The episode is filmed in the style of a CCTV feed.
5 (11) "Nana's Party" Suburban house Pemberton and Shearsmith 23 April 2015 (2015-04-23) 1.53
Angela (Claire Skinner) hosts a birthday party for her 79-year-old mother, Maggie (Elsie Kelly), while Angela's husband Jim (Pemberton) plans to play a practical joke on Pat (Shearsmith), the husband of Angela's alcoholic sister Carol (Lorraine Ashbourne). The episode opens with the arrival of a paramedic, before flashing back to before the beginning of the party.
6 (12) "Séance Time" Victorian villa Zeff 29 April 2015 (2015-04-29) 1.14
Young woman Tina (Sophie McShera) visits a medium for a séance. After being shown in to a room in a Victorian villa by "Hives" (Shearsmith), she is introduced to "Madam Talbot" (Alison Steadman), an elderly woman shrouded in black.

Series 3 (2016–17)

Overall
no.
Title Location Director Original broadcast date Viewers
(in millions)
1 (13) "The Devil of Christmas" Alpine Chalet Harper 27 December 2016 (2016-12-27) 1.03
It is Austria, Krampusnacht, December 1977. Julian Devonshire (Pemberton), his pregnant wife Kathy (Jessica Raine), their son Toby and mother-in-law Celia (Rula Lenska) arrive at the alpine chalet for a family holiday. They are shown around by Klaus (Shearsmith) who tells the family about the local legend of The Devil of Christmas. All the good children are given gifts by St Nicholas, and all the bad ones are punished by the demonic Krampus. But who has been good, and who has been bad?
2 (14) "The Bill"[54] Restaurant Morales 21 February 2017 (2017-02-21) 1.47
After a tiresome game of badminton a group of friends go for a night out at a local restaurant. They indulge in some tapas and a few drinks, which sounds like a lot of fun – but ultimately somebody has to pay the bill at the end of the night. What has started out as a pleasant evening ends with a shocking twist, as an argument about who is going to pick up the bill erupts – and then spirals out of control.
3 (15) "The Riddle of the Sphinx"[54] Professor's Study Morales 28 February 2017 (2017-02-28) 1.37
A professor at the University of Cambridge attempts to teach a student how to solve a cryptic crossword.
4 (16) "Empty Orchestra"[54] Karaoke Booth Morales 7 March 2017 (2017-03-07) 1.26
At a karaoke party to celebrate a colleague's promotion, a group of office workers decide to express their feelings through their choice of songs.
5 (17) "Diddle Diddle Dumpling"[54] House (The 9 was the shoe's size) Morales 14 March 2017 (2017-03-14) 1.5
After finding a lost shoe in the street, a man becomes fixated on trying to trace its owner.
6 (18) "Private View"[54] Art Gallery Morales 21 March 2017 (2017-03-21) 1.16
A group of strangers are invited to attend a private exhibition at an art gallery, but none of them knows why they were invited.

Cast

Timothy West (left, 2010) and Denis Lawson (right, 2006) appeared in "Sardines" and "A Quiet Night In" respectively
Gemma Arterton (left, 2013) and Tamsin Greig (right, 2010) appeared in "Tom & Gerri" and "Last Gasp" respectively
David Warner (left, 2013) and Sophie McShera (right, 2014) appeared in "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge" and "Séance Time" respectively
Helen McCrory (left, 2015) and Lorraine Ashbourne (right, 2013) appeared in "The Harrowing" and "Nana's Party" respectively

As each episode of Inside No. 9 features new characters, the writers were able to attract actors who may have been unwilling to commit to an entire series.[5] The writers' reputation also helped attract writers, with journalist David Chater saying that they "have developed such a track record over the years that many of the finest actors in the country jump at the chance to appear in their dark imaginings".[55] The fact that Pemberton and Shearsmith only played a single character in each story was a change for them; in The League of Gentlemen, the pair have played some 30 characters each, while, in Psychoville, they had played around five each.[17] Though Pemberton and Shearsmith generally starred in each episode, they did not necessarily take on the main roles. Shearsmith explained this by saying that they "didn't write this for us to be in. We wrote the stories first then thought, could we be in them?"[5]

Series 1

Series 2

"La Couchette"
"The 12 Days of Christine"
"The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge"
"Cold Comfort"
"Nana's Party"
"Seance Time"

Series 3

"The Devil of Christmas"
"The Bill"
"The Riddle of the Sphinx"
"Empty Orchestra"
"Diddle Diddle Dumpling"
"Private View"

Distribution

The first series of Inside No. 9 was shown in the UK on BBC Two (and BBC Two HD) between 5 February and 12 March 2014.[62][63] It was aired in Australia on BBC First, premiering on 5 January 2015.[64] The second series aired in the UK from 26 March to 29 April 2015,[citation needed] and aired in Australia from 27 July 2015.[65]

The first series was released on DVD on 17 March 2014. In addition to the six episodes, the DVD featured the making of feature "Inside Inside No. 9", including unseen interviews with Pemberton, Shearsmith and Kerr, and a photo gallery with previously unreleased photos.[66] Published by 2 Entertain,[67] the DVD was rated 18 by the British Board of Film Classification.[66] To publicise the DVD, the writers appeared at the Oxford Street, London, branch of HMV for a signing event on 20 March.[68] The DVD was reviewed by David Upton for webzine PopMatters, who gave the main feature an 8/10 rating, and the extras a 5/10 rating,[3] and Ben Walsh for The Independent, who gave the DVD overall 4/5.[67] Phelim O'Neill, reviewing the release for The Guardian, described the boxset as "very lendable", suggesting that it would help Inside No. 9 reach a wider audience.[69] South African newspapers The Sunday Times and The Star both published positive reviews of the DVD, with The Star's anonymous review saying the DVD "makes a great prezzie for cynics, so if you know any lawyers or journalists...".[70][71] The second series was released on DVD on 4 May 2015.[41] A review in the Leicester Mercury awarded it four out of five stars.[72] The advent of Series 3 saw Series 1&2 released on Blu-ray on 13 February 2017. Series 3 has a 27 March 2017 release on DVD and Blu-ray.

Reception and performance

Critical reception

External video
"Boo"
Carl (Pemberton) finds Rebecca (Katherine Parkinson) and Ian (Tim Key) in the wardrobe. Taken from episode 1, "Sardines".
"A canine inconvenience"
Burglars Eddie (Pemberton) and Ray (Shearsmith) are almost revealed by a barking dog. Taken from episode 2, "A Quiet Night In".
"I'm not a vampire"
Katy (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is introduced to Hector (Shearsmith) by Tabitha (Helen McCrory). Taken from episode 6, "The Harrowing".

Many critics responded very positively to Inside No. 9. After the final episode of the first series, the comedic critic Bruce Dessau said on his website that it had "really set an early benchmark to beat for comedy of the year. It has been consistently compelling as each week we entered an entirely different world."[2] On the same day, David Chater, writing in The Times, said of the series as a whole that "[i]t's hard to know which to admire more – the rich and perverse imaginations of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith or the extraordinary range of acting talent that has brought this strange and memorable series to life."[73] Chater had previously described "A Quiet Night In", the second episode of Inside No. 9, as "the funniest, cleverest, most imaginative and original television I have seen for as long as I can remember – one of those fabulous programmes where time stands still and the world around you disappears".[74] Mark Jones (The Guardian) considered the whole series, saying that the Inside No. 9 was "never less-than-captivating",[1] while a review in the Liverpool Echo described every episode as "intriguing and lovingly-crafted", though it was felt that the first three episodes were stronger than the latter three.[75] In December 2014, Metro television critic Keith Watson named Inside No. 9 the twentieth best television programme of 2014,[76] and in January 2015, Daily Star Sunday columnist Garry Bushell named Inside No. 9 the best comedy TV programme of 2014.[77]

Writing before Inside No. 9 was televised, broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson suggested that, among anthology series, the programme possessed "the potential to be remembered as a singular achievement".[6] Commending both the acting and writing of Inside No. 9, New Statesman television critic Rachel Cooke offered a positive verdict of the programme after seeing the first half of the series. Cooke expressed particular admiration of Pemberton and Shearsmith's ability to squeeze "perfectly formed narratives – characters with proper backstories, scenarios that are complicated and unwind relatively slowly – into just 30 minutes".[78] Also writing mid-series, journalist Gareth Lightfoot called Inside No. 9 "hands down the best, freshest thing on [television] at the moment" in the Evening Gazette, though he doubted whether it could truly be considered comedy.[24]

Donal Lynch, of Irish newspaper the Sunday Independent, suggested that, like the previous work of Pemberton and Shearsmith, Inside No. 9 may be something of "a cult hit/acquired taste".[79] Barry Didcock, of The Herald, expressed a similar sentiment, calling Inside No. 9 "probably the most Marmitey programme on television".[80] The Times published a response to a complaint received from a viewer, who was unhappy with Chater's positive reviews of Inside No. 9, suggesting that "A Quiet Night In" was more traumatic than humorous.[81] Sam Wollaston, television critic for The Guardian, noted that humour is extremely personal, and though he could appreciate much about Inside No. 9, he had never liked Pemberton and Shearsmith's work: "I'm sure I'll be crucified – probably quite rightly – but I don't love Inside No 9."[82] Some tabloid columnists also expressed dissatisfaction with the programme. Virginia Blackburn, of the Daily Express, wrote a highly critical review of "Last Gasp". Blackburn considered Inside No. 9 an example of the weakness of contemporary television comedy, saying that the episode is "not funny, it's not clever and is so utterly, irredeemably, naffly silly that it ends up being incredibly irritating and nothing else".[83] Another journalist unimpressed was the Daily Mirror columnist Kevin O'Sullivan, who dismissed the programme by saying simply "BBC2's alleged comedy Inside No. 9: didn't even smile".[84]

Cooke observed the difficulty in reviewing Inside No. 9 as a whole due to the fact that each episode is different from the last.[78] "Sardines" was commended for its cast and acting,[29][85][86][87] as well as the scripting,[85][86] but critics had a mixed response to the twist ending.[4][13][86][87] "A Quiet Night In" was a change in approach, relying on physical comedy,[88] but it was well received as funny,[74][89] and inventive.[74][90] "Tom & Gerri" was less comedic but darker than previous episodes;[91][92][93] critics commended the plot,[94][95] but disagreed about the portrayal of mental illness in the episode.[91][94] Less horrific than other episodes in the series,[3] "Last Gasp" dealt with themes of celebrity culture and fandom,[96][97][98] and was considered a weaker instalment.[96][99][100] Critics called "The Understudy" a "return to form".[101][102][103] While it was based upon Macbeth, a knowledge of the play was not necessary for enjoyment,[101][104] and the plot's divergence from the play was praised.[105][106][107] "The Harrowing" was the most horrific episode of the series,[3][108][109] and was considered genuinely scary by critics.[2][3][28][110]

"La Couchette" was characterised by critics as strong and funny, with praise directed at the cast and script.[111][112][113][114] "The 12 Days of Christine" was hailed as "masterpiece" and "a quiet elegy, terse and polished, in many ways perfect".[115][116] The emotional script, poignancy of the ending and performance of the cast, especially Smith, was highly praised.[115][116][117] "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge" was compared unfavourably with the previous two episodes by some critics,[118][119] though the writers were characterised as having displayed their versatility and ability with the atypical setting and language.[41][120] Critics had a mixed response to the episode's humour,[121][122][118] but praised the performance of the cast.[41][118][123] "Cold Comfort" was generally praised, though also characterised as weaker than other episodes in the series.[124][125][126][42] The unusual filming style was commended,[121][127][128] but there was a mixed response to the episode's ending.[125][129] "Nana's Party" received high praise for its script and characters, and for the cast's performances.[129][130][131][132] "Séance Time" was praised as well written and genuinely frightening, while Alison Steadman's performance being picked out for commendation by many critics.[133][134][135][136]

Viewing figures

Despite the generally positive reception among critics and viewers,[137] the viewing figures for the first series were poor.[2] The average viewing figures for the series were 904,000 people, or 4.9% of the audience, lower than the slot average of 970,000 (5.1% of the audience).[63] The series had a strong start,[2] with 1.1 million viewers, which was 5.6% of the audience, watching "Sardines".[62] The series low was the fifth episode, "The Understudy", which attracted 720,000 viewers (4.1% of the audience).[63][138][139]

Awards and nominations

People

Thanks to their work on Inside No. 9, Pemberton and Shearsmith jointly won the 2014/2015 Royal Television Society Programme award for best comedy performance. The other nominees were Harry Enfield, for his performance in Harry and Paul's Story of the Twos, and Sarah Hadland, for her performance in The Job Lot.[140][141][142] The pair were also jointly nominated for the 2015 British Academy Television Craft Award for comedy writer for their work on Inside No. 9, but lost to Mackenzie Crook for his work on Detectorists. Arthur Matthews and Matt Berry (Toast of London) and Mathew Baynton and James Corden (The Wrong Mans) were the other nominees.[143][144] The following year, Guillem Morales was nominated for the Television Craft Award for Breakthrough Talent for his work on "The 12 Days of Christine", but lost to Michaela Coel, who wrote Chewing Gum. The other nominees were D. C. Moore (Not Safe for Work) and Marcus Plowright (Muslim Drag Queens).[145][146]

At the 2013/2014 Royal Television Society Craft and Design Awards, Lisa Cavalli-Green was nominated for the "Make Up Design – Drama" award for her work on Inside No. 9, but lost to Davy Jones, for his work on In the Flesh. Loz Schiavo (Peaky Blinders) was the other nominee.[147][148] Due in part to her role in "The Harrowing", Aimee-Ffion Edwards was shortlisted for WalesOnline's "Daffta" award for best actress, but lost to Eve Myles. The Dafftas celebrate Welsh television talent and prizes are awarded based on a public vote.[149]

Programme

Inside No. 9 won the Sketch and Comedy prize at the 35th annual Banff World Media Festival Rockie Awards.[150] The other nominees were Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?, It's a Date, Tiny Plastic Men, Gangsta Granny and The Revolution Will Be Televised.[151] In response to the nomination, Shearsmith tweeted that he was "[t]hrilled", joking that the programme was "in 'Comedy'. I knew it was one".[152] Inside No. 9 was also nominated for Best TV Sitcom at the 2014 Freesat Awards,[153] which celebrate the best of free British television. The programme lost to BBC2's The Wrong Mans, as determined by a panel made up of television experts and commentators.[154][155] The other nominees were Birds of a Feather, Mrs. Brown's Boys and Toast of London.[153] In November 2014, it was announced that Inside No. 9 had been shortlisted for the 2015 Broadcast Award for Best Original Programme. The other nominees were Crackanory, Glasgow Girls, Release the Hounds, Suspects and The Island with Bear Grylls.[156] At the award ceremony in London on 4 February 2015, Glasgow Girls was granted the award, but Inside No. 9 was highly commended.[157] Inside No. 9 won the TV award at the 2015 Chortle Awards.[158] The programme was longlisted for the Best Comedy prize in the 2015 TV Choice Awards.[159] The programme won the 2016 comedy Rose d'Or, beating the Finnish Pyjama Party and the German Der Tatortreiniger.[160][161]

At the 2014 British Comedy Awards, Inside No. 9 was nominated in the Best New Comedy Programme and the Best Comedy Drama categories. In the former category, it lost to Toast of London. The other nominees were The Wrong Mans and Man Down. In the latter category, it lost to Rev, and the other nominees were The Wrong Mans and Uncle.[162] For Chater (The Times), the comedy drama category was the strongest of the awards,[163] but for Ben Williams (Time Out), Inside No. 9 should have won.[164] Writing in The Independent, journalist Alice Jones said she was "sorry to see the relentlessly innovative Inside No 9 go unrewarded".[165]

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