Inside No. 9: A Perversely Humorous Retrospective – Series Six And Seven

Series Six

Well, this is it, the final stretch of Inside No. 9 and the last two series (so far). Originally airing between the 10th of May and the 14th of June 2021. I really have no idea what Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have in store next. I did get a bit cocky before the previous series and thought I knew what to expect, but I was (happily) proven wrong. Time for me to get lost in some tales and really have no idea where this show is going to take me.

Wuthering Heist


Columbina (Gemma Whelan) is working with a rag-tag group to carry out a good old-fashioned heist. Teaming up with Arlo (Kevin Bishop), Pantalone (Paterson Joseph), Mario (Dino Kelly), Hortensia (Rosa Robson), The Doctor (Steve Pemberton) and Scaramouche (Reece Shearsmith). Meeting in a warehouse so that they can go over their plan to steal some diamonds. The heist then takes place (off-screen) and we get to see the aftermath, in a kind of a Reservoir Dogs homage (see the poster).

Okay, I may have just compared this one to Reservoir Dogs, but it is also absolutely nothing like it. Yeah, it features a warehouse, a heist gone wrong and so on and that is all very Reservoir Dogs. However, the style and tone here are something very different. I had no idea exactly what Pemberton and Shearsmith were doing with this one. I knew they were celebrating a style, I just had no idea what it was. I had to do a little research and this episode is done in the style of Commedia dell’arte, an older Italian comedy where the actors all wear masks that denote the characteristics of the role they are playing, usually stock and social stereotypes. Yup, this one is an out-and-out comedy. A style of comedy that I was not aware of before and I admit, was completely lost on me. I really didn’t like this one on my first viewing, but it grew on me with subsequent views. Characters break the fourth wall and talk to the audience, they are fully aware that they are in an episode of Inside No. 9, they make really bad jokes, puns and more. There are some genuinely funny references and jabs at critics and even us the viewer. The structure and style of this one really did grow on me with multiple viewings. It’s a good slice of utter silliness, crafted perfectly.

Simon Says

Spencer (Steve Pemberton) is the writer of a massively popular fantasy TV show called The Ninth Circle. The finale to the show was somewhat ‘underwhelming’, according to the fans. One such fan, Simon (Reece Shearsmith) feels that the show could and should come back to put right what the finale did wrong. Simon turns up at Spencer’s place after witnessing him push an overbearing fan over, which Simon caught on video. That fan died after hitting the floor and Simon uses that to blackmail Spencer into letting him co-write a new finale and one, that he is sure, that the fans will enjoy.


It is quite clear that this is an episode that uses the whole finale and fan backlash of Game of Thrones as its diving board. An episode that explores the whole idea of writing a TV show and one that is squarely aimed at toxic/annoying fan culture. As well as (I’m sure) more than a few subtle digs at ‘certain’ fans of Inside No. 9 itself, who think that they can tell Pemberton and Shearsmith how to do their job. I just need to go over this whole retrospective before I publish it and make sure I don’t appear in a future episode. Simon Says is (yet again) another brilliantly observed and written episode. It is also one that I really didn’t want to try and second guess, I was enjoying all the sly digs at fan culture too much. I just sat back and let this one wash over me and lead me to an ending that put a big ‘ole smile on my face. ‘Nuff said.

Lip Service

Felix (Steve Pemberton) checks into a low-budget hotel room, where he is often pestered by the nosey hotel manager, Eric (Reece Shearsmith). With Eric seemingly out of the way, Iris (Sian Clifford) arrives at the room. Iris is a professional lip reader that Felix has hired to spy on his ex-wife, who is meeting a mystery man over the road from the hotel. Felix wants his wife back and needs to know who this mystery man is and if they are seeing each other or not. What follows is a story that has more twists in it than Chubby Checker had in 1961.

This is one of those episodes that you really need to watch more than once. It is packed with clever lines, double meanings and hidden clues. There’s a brilliant scene where Felix is talking to his wife on the phone while Iris lipreads, so we can hear both sides of the conversation and still stick with Inside No. 9’s rule of staying in one location. It also leads into some classic gags. Yup, this episode has some good comedy in it but don’t let that fool you, this a dark tale and one that packs a hell of an ending. It also seems to merge about four or five different story genres into just under 30 minutes. What could be seen as a mess of storytelling is handled very well indeed.

Hurry Up and Wait

A new crime drama covering the real-life (within the Inside No. 9 universe, not ours) disappearance and supposed murder of baby Ryan is being filmed on location of where Ryan went missing 20 years ago. James (Reece Shearsmith) is a bit player with a small role in the said crime drama. He is taken to the green room while he waits for his one and only scene to be filmed. The green room just so happens to be a lived-in caravan that is still being used by the family who owns it, while doubling up as a green room for the show’s production team. James sits on the couch and practises his lines, when he is interrupted by the daughter of the family, Bev (Donna Preston). Bev is celebrating a birthday and she is very ‘socially awkward’. After a while, James pieces together numerous clues that led him to the conclusion that Bev is actually baby Ryan and that the mother and father of the family kidnapped Ryan and raised him as their daughter. However, James is having trouble getting people to listen to him and what he has discovered.


You know, if someone were to ask me what sums up Inside No. 9 as a show, I would tell them to watch this episode. It blends reality and fiction by having Adrian Dunbar (famous for playing Ted Hastings from the criticality acclaimed Line of Duty) playing himself. The in-episode ‘factual’ crime drama about baby Ryan is written by Jeff Pope, who is a real TV screenwriter too. This one has comedy in it and satirises acting and TV show productions, Adrian Dunbar slowly stealing James’ lines is hilarious. Then, it also has a really fucking bleak and disturbing ending. This is exactly what Inside No. 9 is all about, leading you down the garden path and slamming the gate on you. Steve Pemberton plays Stan, the father of the family and he really gives off some disturbing Fred West vibes too. There is definitely something wrong with this family and they are hiding a secret. As James goes from a small bit player as a police officer in a crime drama, to full-on detective and works out the clues, you are really on his side and want him to bring this disturbing family down.

How Do You Plead?

Mr Webster (Derek Jacobi) is a massively successful but ageing, ill and dying ex-barrister. He is bedridden, hooked up to all sorts of medical equipment and his diet mainly consists of pills and more pills. Urban (Reece Shearsmith) is his nurse and tends to the soon-to-expire Webster as and when he is summoned. The two partake in a little roleplaying of a court case before the reason behind Webster’s staggering success as a barrister is revealed.

I believe that this episode makes Derek Jacobi the only actor to be in more than one episode of Inside No. 9 (discounting Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, of course). Jacobi voiced the director in The Devil of Christmas episode from series three, though you only heard his voice and never saw him. Anyway, this episode is a cracker and I had no idea where it was going until it was too late. Paring the hardnosed and cutthroat character of Webster against the much more angelic-like Urban makes for a good chalk-and-cheese dynamic. Just who is playing who here though?

Last Night of the Proms


A family gather to watch Last Night of the Proms on the TV. There’s Mick (Steve Pemberton) and his wife Dawn (Sarah Parish). Brian (Reece Shearsmith), his wife Penny (Debra Gillett) and their utterly bored teenage son Oliver (Jack Wolfe). Oh, and let’s not forget Ralph (Julian Glover) as the dementia-suffering  and Tourette’s swearing father of Dawn and Penny. In the midst of all the rousing classical music merriment comes Yusuf (Bamshad Abedi-Amin), a strange man who has seemingly wandered in from a local immigration detention centre, or has he?

I don’t think there has been an outright bad episode of Inside No. 9 so far, but there have been some weaker ones. This is one of those. As far as I can tell, the Last Night of the Proms episode has a bit of a political/Brexit agenda and some not-very-subtle symbolism. I am avoiding spoilers for this retrospective but when a bloody dead body gets wrapped up in the Union Flag, all while Jerusalem plays, I just felt that perhaps Pemberton and Shearsmith were being a tad too conspicuous, maybe that was the point? Aside from some really great performances, with Sarah Parish being a major highlight. This was a bit of a weak end to the series that began in such a crazy but funny fashion and with some very enjoyable episodes along the way. But I tell you something, I’ll never listen to The Sailor’s Hornpipe the same way again.

Series Seven

I’ve made it, I’m now at the end of this retrospective and the last series of Inside No. 9, for the time being anyway. Aired between the 20th of April and the 1st of June 2022. I am hoping for a complete mind-fuck and so much rug pulling that I’ll need corrective surgery on my arse cheeks. I want to see some bleak storytelling, humorous dialogue and yeah, some endings that make me worried about the frame of mind that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are in. Let’s get cracking.

Merrily, Merrily

Three old university friends meet up for a reunion. Organised by Laurence (Reece Shearsmith), he invites Darren (Steve Pemberton) and Callum (Mark Gatiss) to a ‘party on a boat’. The boat turns out to be a pedalo, which the friends take out and across a lake. However and due to a misunderstanding with the invite, Darren turns up with his uninvited girlfriend Donna (Diane Morgan). That is when Laurence’s plans are thrown into disarray and it is revealed that the party never even existed and just what Laurence planned was is revealed.


Taking Inside No. 9’s rule of setting the story in one location, this episode is about as claustrophobic as you can get, all while still being out in the open. The four characters are stuck on the pedalo on the lake as tales from the past and present are told. With some great writing and the suggestion that Laurence’s party isn’t quite what it seems. We learn more about what these friends have been up to and how their lives have changed. Pemberton’s Darren character is brilliantly realised and his misunderstanding of the invite (and what a pedalo is) becomes all too clear with a great reveal. I have to admit that this episode led me down the garden path. I had a feeling that it was heading in one direction, only for it to deliver a resolve that is unexpected and bitter-sweet. A great opener for the series.

Mr King


Mr Curtis (Reece Shearsmith) is the new teacher at a small rural school in Wales, overseen by the headmaster Mr Edwards (Steve Pemberton). Taking over from the previous teacher, Mr King. Mr Curtis loves teaching and tries all sorts of new teaching methods to get his pupils interested. However, Mr Curtis seems to be a bit too strict and his teaching style is vastly different to Mr King. One of Mr Curtis’ pupils makes an accusation against him and he has to try to clear his name. All while also trying to track down his predecessor, Mr King, to help him get a grasp of the kind of lessons that he was teaching the class.

This was one of those episodes that failed to fool me. If you have ever seen a certain British folk-horror film, then you will see the ending of this coming about 2 minutes into this episode. Still, that does not mean that there wasn’t a lot to enjoy here. This is another episode that is peppered with great humour, sharp dialogue and loads of clues. Mr King is one that really does warrant multiple viewings. Then there is the misdirection and you will go from rooting for Mr Curtis to really detesting him and more. Reece Shearsmith’s character is brilliantly realised and portrayed. Yeah, I may have correctly guessed the ending within a few minutes of the episode starting, but the journey to that ending was so damn enjoyable.

Nine Lives Kat

Katrina (Sophie Okonedo) is a tough detective working on a case involving a missing boy. She is also a bit of a cliché. A divorced single mother, alcohol problem and she struggles with a work/life balance. As the case begins to take over, Katrina struggles to keep a grip on her life, while she pours vodka on her cereal. This is when Ezra (Steve Pemberton) enters the story and he begins to clear things up… or make them so much worse.

I love writing, I love writing about writing and that is what this episode is all about. A very meta tale that explores character and storytelling in a very clever way. There’s some really bad and cheesy dialogue here, awful clichés everywhere, including a shitty jump scare with a cat. Just looking at this on the surface, this is the ‘worst’ written episode of Inside No. 9 yet… but it is supposed to be. It’s not like Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith completely dropped the ball here with the writing, quite the opposite in fact. The writing here is bad for a very good reason. The clichés are there to clue you into what is going on. This one is enjoyably bad and exceptionally wonderful at the same time.



Shane (Daniel Mays) and Clifford (Jason Isaacs) kidnap Lara (Daisy Haggard), the wife of wealthy hedge fund manager Dominic (Reece Shearsmith). The duo plan on holding Lara for a £1.3 million ransom and if her husband refuses to pay, well, it could get very bloody. It soon becomes clear that Clifford is the brains of the plan, while Shane is not. Oh, and Lara is actually in on the plan as she is having an affair with Clifford. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, this plot point is revealed before you get to the halfway point. When Dominic calls the police, headed up by DI Ellis (Steve Pemberton), that is when the careful plan begins to go awry.

This episode can be viewed in one of two ways. You can watch this as a really bad kidnap thriller, or you can see it as a fantastic parody and clever observation of a really bad kidnap thriller. I’m pretty sure that the latter is the aim. An episode that plays up the comedy factor and one that becomes a comedy of errors, crammed with stock characters and stilted dialogue. The ‘twist’ that Lara is in on the plan is not even the twist of the episode either as this has more than just the one surprise. This is another one of the very few episodes that breaks the ‘everything in one location’ rule too, but still keeps everything together. It uses split-screen to show the other characters and locations but all while still keeping things anchored. Basically, if Brian De Palma ever directed an episode of Inside No. 9, it would look like this. Kid/Nap is an episode that you are either going to ‘get’ and be on board with its gritty-silliness, or it’ll go completely over your head and you’ll misunderstand the point.

A Random Act of Kindness

Helen (Jessica Hynes) is a single mother living with her teenage son Zach (Noah Valentine). Their relationship is not at its best as they bicker and argue constantly. When a sparrow flies into Zach’s bedroom window, a strange man called Bob (Steve Pemberton) picks it up and asks for help from Helen to nurse it back to health. Bob and Zach strike up a relationship and the teenager gets some much-needed tuition from the stranger in terms of his education. But, is Bob going to drive a wedge between Zach and his mother or bring them closer together?


There really is a lot to cover with this episode, and the fact that I am actively avoiding spoilers makes this very hard to sum up. What starts out as a simple family drama evolves into something far more complex and intricate. The relationship between Bob and Zach is wonderfully explored and you get a nice physics lesson thrown in too. The plot here becomes multi-layered and much more complex, especially as it reaches its climax. This is an episode that really does display how great Pemberton and Shearsmith can be when armed with a word processor and an idea. Some razor-sharp writing and a story that is as deep as the Mariana Trench. What you get here is 28 minutes of TV that offers a story worthy of a feature film. The ending will leave you scratching your head trying to work out just who got a happy ending, or if anyone did. Still, as complex as the story gets, there’s a simple mother/son dynamic that is the driving force behind it all.

Wise Owl


Ronnie (Reece Shearsmith) is a man-child with an obviously troubled past. He grew up with the Wise Owl public information films that taught him not to talk to strangers, play with matches and the like. These films have left deep and lasting psychological scars that have carried over from boy to man, Ronnie is borderline suicidal. A phone call from his mother sparks off memories that drive Ronnie to kill off his inner demons before they kill him.

After the damp squib of an episode that was the end of series six, this is how you end a series. Fuck me, this was this dark and amazing at the same time. If you are from England and of a certain age (like me) then the public information films of the 70s and 80s are forever ingrained into your subconscious. Things like Donald Pleasence playing Death and trying to kill children at a pond, or watching a kid get electrocuted at a power station when trying to retrieve a football. These memories are decades old and yet, still as strong as they ever were. Then there is the king of all public information films, Charley Says. It is those Charley Says cartoons that serve as the basis for this episode. The story of Ronnie is intercut with Wise Owl animations that are clearly massively inspired by the Charley Says cartoons. This is an episode that left a deep impression on me, like the Wise Owl did on Ronnie. Twit-you!


Series six and seven have been great. I have sat here watching these episodes and expecting a drop in quality, but it never happened. Yeah sure, some episodes were better than others but I never found one I outright disliked. For me, this is a testament to Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s scribing. Even if an episode didn’t exactly work for me (Last Night of the Proms), I can still appreciate the work that went into it. From meta and fourth-wall-breaking tales to mind-melting and straight-up WTF ones. Inside No. 9 had still managed to surprise me, seven series in. I’m not bored yet, I want more.


For me, Inside No. 9 is an astonishing piece of TV. I’ve recently read that it has been renewed for two more series, which will take the total to 9… perfect. It’ll also leave me with two more series to cover and keep my format of this retrospective too, thanks fellas. I think that is where they should stop too. I don’t like it when a TV show outstays its welcome and I do think that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith should quit while they are ahead, go out on a high and avoid scraping the bottom of the barrel. Still, the end of the show doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Inside No. 9, an anthology film could be amazing if the duo come up with any new ideas for stories after series nine. Just think of an Amicus-stylised portmanteau film version of Inside No. 9. Pemberton and Shearsmith could have a lot of fun with that.


Still, now I have sat through all seven series and forty-three episodes (multiple times) and I now realise how angry this show has made me. See, I like to write, I’ve penned a few short stories and even a novel. Putting together a compelling short story is far more difficult than a longer tale. You have far less time to build a story, evolve characters and so on. So, to create so many great short tales here with Inside No. 9 and make it look easy, really infuriates me. I adore this show, I think it is amazing. But it has also taught me that I have a long way to go as a writer myself.

Halloween Picks

Okay, so to finish this Halloween special of my look at the entirety of Inside No. 9, I’m going to pick some of the more horror-based/creepy episodes that I feel are worth a watch over Halloween. Not necessarily blood-soaked gore-fests, but episodes that I think are scary or disturbing (and more) and that would work great as a nice little Inside No. 9 Halloween-fest. There is no real reasoning to this list (other than chronologically via series), no best to worst, etc. Just my suggestion of episodes to watch if you want something with more of a horror vibe in the run-up to Halloween.


Let’s get things started with the Tom & Gerri episode. A great yarn and one that explores mental health with a dark twist. The Harrowing next, for the fact that this looks and feels like a classic gothic horror film. There’s a nice bit of black comedy in this one and it has some genuine scares too. I think it would be rather remiss of me if I didn’t put The 12 Days of Christine on this list of Halloween tales. A big fan-favourite and one that really is a showcase for Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s writing. Séance Time is well worth a watch if you want something with a wonderfully creepy atmosphere and a few laughs.

Quite simply, one of the most creative and clever episodes next with The Devil of Christmas. I have a particular adulation for this one because I grew up with and love the kind of TV shows that it is paying homage to. Plus, it’s just a really well told creepy tale. I have spoken about the quality of the writing several times already but with my next pick, I have to praise it more. The Riddle of the Sphinx is fucking genius. Not only do you get a great story, you also get an amazingly designed puzzle of an episode that you really do need to watch more than once. Diddle Diddle Dumpling amazed me for its basic plot of a man and a shoe, but it ended up utterly enthralling and disturbing me at the same time. And sweet baby Jebus, what an ending!


The finale of series three, Private View, was just delicious. There’s plenty of death and blood in this one, topped off with an interesting insight into modern art and a wicked sting in the tail. To Have and to Hold is one of those episodes that may not scream horror at you, but the story is still deeply disturbing. I just have to mention the Halloween live special that is Dead Line. Not one of my favourites, story-wise but it is just such an amazing piece of TV and brilliantly delivered. Death Be Not Proud works as a great twisted tale that is as bizarre as it is funny, as it is macabre. The Stakeout is an episode that starts out blood-soaked and tells you outright that one of the main characters is dead. What happens from then on seems pretty ordinary, but there’s a wonderful undercurrent of dread throughout.

I really do adore episodes that feel like they are going in one direction, only for them to lead you down the garden path and hit you with a dark ending, Hurry Up and Wait is one of those episodes. How Do You Plead? has a gothic, old-timey feel to it from the off. The story feels very grounded and leads to a hellish finale that both seemingly comes from nowhere and still feels very right. Mr King is an episode that (as I said in the retrospective) is dripping in the atmosphere of a certain British folk-horror flick. There were no surprises for me with this one, but I still really bloody enjoyed it. Nine Lives Kat because I do love it when writers explore writing. The cheesy dialogue and awful clichés are brilliantly placed for a good reason. Inside No. 9 has a bit of a reputation for going into some dark places, with the Wise Owl episode… fuck me! This is about as grim as the show has ever got (so far). The story is bleak the writing is jet-black depressing. Even when this show went to some horrific places, there was still some form of humour to be found. Not here, this is just dark and twisted from start to end. Okay, there is some really black humour here, if you enjoy laughing at baldy taxidermied rabbits.


Well, that’s all folks. My lengthy Inside No. 9 retrospective has reached its end. Well, until the last two series are made and aired anyway. All being well, I’ll be back to finish this in 2024.

Inside No. 9: A Perversely Humorous Retrospective – A Spoiler-rific Look At Dead Line

Straight off the bat, and if the title of this article hasn’t already clued you in. This is a massive spoilery look at the Halloween special Dead Line episode of Inside No. 9. So, you have been warned. My synopsis of this one (copy & paste from the main retrospective) said:

“Arthur (Steve Pemberton) comes home on Halloween after finding a mobile phone in a graveyard while out shopping. The phone rings, Arthur answers it and he can hear strange and ominous voices but can’t quite understand what is being said. The call soon disconnects. Wanting to find the owner of the phone, Arthur redials the last number called and it is answered by Moira (Stephanie Cole), Arthur explains the situation and Moira agrees to contact the rightful owner of the phone for him. Later, Arthur gets a visit from the local Reverend (Reece Shearsmith) and that is when things begin to take a turn for the worst.”


So yeah, that is the setup for this one… a phone. That and the fact that this was an episode that was broadcast live… or was it? I’ll get into the whole ‘live’ thing soon enough, as I initially had doubts. So, what happens here is that when the Reverend turns up at Arthur’s house to try and help with getting the phone back to its rightful owner, the sound fails. The visuals are fine and the two characters talk, but we can not hear what they are saying. A BBC continuity announcer interrupts the episode and tells us that there are problems with the live broadcast and that they are working on getting the sound fixed. The episode comes back on and everything is fine, for a while. The sound cuts out again.

Whoops, the whole live thing has failed miserably as technical issues plague the broadcast. The continuity announcer interrupts once more to say that this live show can not go ahead and a repeat of the A Quiet Night In episode from series one will be shown instead. Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s efforts to ‘get us’ with a live Halloween special have been let down by technical issues. Live TV eh? What a fucker, all that effort for nothing, at least we get to re-watch one of the great episodes though.


Of course, Pemberton and Shearsmith haven’t failed. The ‘technical problems’ are part of the episode itself. They are in full control and as you sit there watching the ‘repeat’ of  A Quiet Night In, that is when things get seriously messed up. What this Dead Line Halloween special live episode explores is the ‘real’ story of a ghost haunting the studio from where the episode is being broadcast live from. Archive footage of actual real events, accidents (Bobby Davro falling flat on his face and breaking his nose, due to a prop error), an episode of Most Haunted looking a the rumours that the Coronation Street set is haunted and more are shown. What follows is this mix of real events that actually happened in our universe and snippets of what is happening on the set in the fictional world of Inside No. 9.

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith sit in the make-up room really pissed off that their live episode has failed, but still see the funny side of things. Stephanie Cole walks around the set not sure what is going on or even what TV show she is doing (some comedy show, she says). From the point of view of the actors (who are acting as actors), everything has gone wrong and BBC are showing a repeat of the A Quiet Night In episode. Only, we the viewer are not watching the A Quiet Night In episode. We are watching the actors of Inside No. 9 via security cameras (correct time stamps and everything) around the studio and we get to see the whole thing basically turn into The Blair Witch Project, as the ghost haunting the studio kills everyone for ‘real’.


See, this folks, this is why I said (in the main retrospective) that this episode is both one of the best and most uninteresting episodes of the show so far. It does just become a blatant The Blair Witch Project copy, and I’ve never liked The Blair Witch Project. However, there is one factor of that film that I do adore, the marketing. The way that (for a while) people believed that The Blair Witch Project was a real film, that people really did die. IMDb had the actors listed as ‘missing’ for a while. There were ‘real’ lost persons posters made. There was a website that set up the entire background and a history of the ‘real’ Blair Witch and everything. Despite the fact that I’m no fan of the film itself, I think that the marketing for The Blair Witch Project was amazing. And that is exactly what Pemberton and Shearsmith did expertly for this episode too. They really fucked with the intended audience.

Now, I do need to tell you how I have been watching all of these episodes for this retrospective. I did say at the very start of this whole thing that I only got into Inside No. 9 very recently. I have had to watch all of the episodes on BBC iPlayer (though they have recently been removed. Why BBC?). They had already been broadcast and so, I have been watching them via catch-up. This is exactly why this episode did not work for me. See, if you watch the episodes from start to finish, back-to-back as I have over the last few weeks, you notice things. The fact that every episode just starts on BBC iPlayer, the intro to the show begins and away you go. With this episode, it started with a BBC continuity announcer telling you that it is a live episode… why? I know that it’s not live as I am watching it on catch-up. So, why would a recording of a TV show need an announcer to tell the viewer that it is live when it isn’t? Straight away, my suspicious mind was working overtime. I have been fooled by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith multiple times already. I knew, right from that continuity announcer telling me that this is a live episode, I knew right there and then that it was all a ruse. Then, when the sound cut out, I just was not surprised. In fact, I was kind of expecting it or something like it.


So, for me watching on catch-up ruined the aim of this episode. This one really was something that you had to watch live to ‘get it’. However, that does not mean that I still didn’t enjoy the episode. Quite the opposite actually. No, I wasn’t fooled, but knowing how a magic trick is done always makes me enjoy the trick so much more. I adore watching Penn and Teller, I think they are the greatest magicians on the planet. When they, not only show you a magic trick, but then show you how that magic trick was done, it just makes me adore Penn and Teller, their craft, their dedication and their hard work even more so. The Dead Line episode of Inside No. 9 is Pemberton and Shearsmith doing a Penn and Teller… and doing it really fucking well too.

Immediately after watching this episode, I was on the internet researching how it was done. Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith outdid The Blair Witch Project in terms of how this was marketed. They did interviews before this episode aired and had whole backstories and synopsis ready for what the episode was about, even if none of it existed in the final product. They explained how this episode was about Arthur and the phone, when it really wasn’t. Here’s a great interview with Pemberton and Shearsmith where they talk about the episode and what it was about before it aired. There was even a clip of this interview used in the episode itself.

Within the episode, there is ‘rehearsal footage’ that kind of explains what the episode (without the faux technical problems) would’ve been like. It’s brilliant too as it adds a layer of reality to the whole thing and you can work out the plot, even though you never see that story play out. You see behind the scenes as the actors act like they have no idea what is going on There are some genuinely creepy things going on too, hidden ghosts to find and more. Stephanie Cole getting possessed by the evil and slitting her own throat was truly horrific. The way she looked directly at the camera and at us, the viewer, was very disturbing.


Then there was the use of Twitter. See, as this was a live episode, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith very rightly predicted that people would be on Twitter commenting when the sound cut out. So, they had a gag where Shearsmith would comment live on Twitter as everything was going wrong. You can even see how the whole thing played out on Twitter right here. There were people falling for the sound cutting out, people saying it was part of the show. Then you had BBC 2 apologising for the technical issues on Twitter, which then added a layer of doubt to those sure it was all part of the episode. When Shearsmith Tweeted to ask if they were live on BBC 2, that was just the icing on the cake and all bets were off at that point. Honestly, clicking through all the Tweets and seeing how people reacted at the time that this episode aired is a wonderful diary of events. After the episode aired, Stephanie Cole, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith were all declared as dying at the TV studio on Wikipedia too. I don’t know if that was officially announced or if a fan had edited it.


I’d really love to read an in-depth dissection of just how this one was made. I did find this interview where more details are mentioned, but it is still very light compared to the sheer amount of work that would’ve gone into it. There must be rehearsal footage, behind-the-scenes stuff, table reads, the planning and so on. I think they could make a documentary out of just how this episode was made, and I’d watch it too. Just like Penn and Teller telling you how they do the cup & balls trick and being mesmerised by their skill. I want to see just how Pemberton, Shearsmith and everyone else on the crew pulled off this slice of magic.

I did say at the start that I had doubts that this was an actual live episode. Because, when you think about it, the whole thing could’ve been recorded (to avoid any actual technical problems or live mishaps) and nobody would be any the wiser. The only scene that I think that possibly would have had to have been live was the bit in the make-up room when Reece Shearsmith sent the live Tweet. However, he really could’ve been at home, Tweet already written and ready to send and then he just sent it when his on-screen version did. Then there was the flicking between the TV channels (BBC only though) to show the news, and it was the actual live news that was on at the time too. That could’ve possibly been done with some live post-production with a second or two delay. It was possible to fake it as being live, is my point.


So yeah, for a while I did doubt just how live this ‘live’ broadcast was. I even doubted that the only scene that I think would’ve been live, actually was live. But it turns out that any and everything that could conceivably be live was actually live. Obviously, archive footage was recorded, Bobby Davro’s fall, the Most Haunted episode and so on. But everything else was live, even the stunt work. I think that even the fake, pre-recorded rehearsal footage was live too and that is fucking awesomely meta in itself.

Look, I didn’t like the plot of Dead Line, it was a bit too The Blair Witch Project for me. But I can hardly put into words just how much I loved how the episode turned out. How much I admire the work that must’ve gone into it. How the logistics of doing something like this must’ve taken so many man-hours to plan and execute. In short, I just have to doff my cap to Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and the entire crew. This was genius TV, especially in this day and age when everything is spoiled via social media. The fact that Pemberton and Shearsmith pulled this off, and pulled it off in front of everyone while doing interviews about the episode and how they used Twitter against people who use Twitter. This was fucking amazing TV. Simply genius.

Inside No. 9: A Perversely Humorous Retrospective – Series Four And Five

Series Four

This series was shown from the 2nd of January to the 6th of February 2018.  Well, I have to be honest, I have no idea what to expect with these next two series. I know that there will be twists and turns, I know there will be horror and dark humour and there could even be a bit of lightheartedness and a happy ending or two. I honestly don’t know what to expect, so I guess I had better expect any and everything when it comes to what goes on in Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s minds.


Prince Rico (Rory Kinnear) arrives at the hotel Zanzibar with his bodyguard Henry (Reece Shearsmith). After checking into his room, Henry reveals to us the audience that he plans on killing Prince Rico. Gus (also Rory Kinnear) checks into the hotel on the same floor (number 9) and is mistaken for Prince Rico and vice versa. Other residents on the same floor, including Robert (Steve Pemberton), end up getting mixed up in the mixing up of Prince Rico and Gus as a much more intertwining story is slowly revealed.


To be honest, this one doesn’t have that much of an interesting plot. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but the ultimate resolve is rather flat and very obvious. But what does lift this yarn is how it is played out and presented. The characters break the fourth wall and directly address us the viewer, and they do it via some very Shakespeare-esque delivery. All of the dialogue is told in the form of Iambic pentameter and it’s very rhythmic. I may not have enjoyed the story much and I’ve never been a fan of Shakespeare, but I do admire just how this one was crafted.

Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room


Somewhat popular in the 1980s, comedy double-act Tommy ‘Cheese’ (Reece Shearsmith) and Len ‘Crackers’ (Steve Pemberton) meet up for one final gig to try and reinvigorate the old double-act. They haven’t worked together for decades following a bitter falling out. Tommy has moved on from his comedy roots and become pretty successful in his life. Len’s life headed in a very different direction and he became a washed-up alcoholic. As they practise their old comedy routines, with a few updates for a modern audience, exactly what caused the rift between the two is brought to the surface.

This one was absolutely brilliant. I grew up in the 80s when the classic comedy double-act was regular viewing on TV. The likes of Cannon and Ball, Little and Large or Morecambe and Wise (to name a few) were ruling the airwaves. Light-hearted family comedy that everyone would tune into on a Saturday night and would pull in multiples of millions of viewers every week. The fictional Cheese and Crackers here existed as one of those popular double-acts within our reality. The nods and references to those well-remembered comedians of the day (and some long-forgotten ones) come thick and fast. The tale of what happened to Cheese and Crackers is as (outdatedly) funny as it is heartbreaking. This one plays out like pure perfection in short story form. Just what does Bernie Clifton’s (one of those long-forgotten British comedians) dressing room have to do with any of this? Well, quite a lot. The two characters played by Pemberton and Shearsmith are perfectly portrayed and they are the only two in this episode too (save for one minor role at the end). Yet, even with just the two characters, there’s a lot going on and a lot to take in. It all leads to an ending that certainly took me by surprise and one that had me feeling nostalgic for those Saturday nights growing up watching those comedy double-acts.

Once Removed

May (Monica Dolan) is moving house and she hires Spike (Nick Moran) to do all of the heavy lifting. When Viktor (Reece Shearsmith) makes an appearance, Spike soon learns that this house move is anything but ‘normal’. A dementia-suffering old man (David Calder) who thinks he is Andrew Lloyd Webber and the dead body of an estate agent (Steve Pemberton) in the toilet are just the start… or end of the crazy events and secrets that the house holds.


What you have here is not so much a whodunit? mystery. This is more like a whydunit? The whole episode plays out via reverse chronology. So, you start at the end and make your way to the beginning. After the opening errr, ending, the episode jumps back 10 minutes to cover the 10 minutes that explains just what happened to lead to the start (end) that you just watched. After which, it then goes back another 10 minutes to cover the events that led up to the previous 10 minutes. Then, to finally jump back to the last 10 minutes to cover the end (beginning) that explains everything that you need to know about the last 20 minutes that you just watched. The reverse chronology of this episode is pulled off very well indeed and this is one that you’ll want to re-watch to try and spot all the subtle clues, clever dialogue and acting that reveals more than you’ll first realise. A cracking episode that is just crying out for multiple viewings.

To Have and to Hold

Married couple Adrian (Steve Pemberton) and Harriet (Nicola Walker) are having some relationship issues. They are childless after 20 years and Harriet once had a ‘thing’ with one of her work colleagues. That is on top of the usual money worries and then there is the lack of sex. It’s a marriage that is sinking fast. Adrian seems to be the most boring person on the planet who spends most of his time in the basement where he has set up his own photography room. Here, he is struggling to run his business as he offers his experience as a photographer to take pictures of much happier couples on their big day.

Split into five acts that are based around the classic wedding vows of ‘to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part’. This tale is seemingly very plain and uninteresting, until the Pot Noodles get involved. Steve Pemberton plays his character perfectly and he really does come across as a meek and cuckolded husband. While Nicola Walker as the overbearing and adulterous wife is quite horrible (in a good way) and she is great at it too. A simple suburban yarn about a borderline bullying wife and a husband who has all but given up and been rendered impotent. Then the twist hits you and suddenly, everything is put into perspective. This is a great episode, even if the ending feels a little rushed, it is still wonderfully satisfying.

And the Winner Is…

A group of TV insiders gather to vote on who should get the Best Actress award. Clive (Reece Shearsmith) is a screenwriter who is desperately looking at getting his latest screenplay turned into a TV show. Gordon (Noel Clarke) is a successful director that Clive keeps sucking up to in an attempt of getting his screenplay made into a TV show. Actors Rupert (Kenneth Cranham) and Paula (Zoë Wanamaker) are a little older, wiser, grumpier and really don’t feel like they want to be there. TV critic June (Fenella Woolgar) offers her not-so-well-observed opinions on who should win. Then there is Jackie (Phoebe Sparrow), the only non-insider of the lot. A random nobody brought in for a more ‘grounded’ view and opinion. The whole thing is chaired by Giles (Steve Pemberton). There are arguments, histories dragged up and much more as the voters just can not agree on who is the best actress or why.


I both liked and disliked this episode in equal measure. Honestly, it’s really not that interesting of a story in the grand scheme. But I loved the interactions between the characters and the acting is great. The little arguments and nitpicking really are entertaining. Then there are the (I think) intentional digs at the pointlessness and (perhaps) injustice of awards. The best actress is not really being judged on her acting per se. Points are raised like skin colour for the ‘diversity vote’, age, looks, have the nominees previously won and more. Acting ability seems to be something this is more of a thing that is nice to have over certain other factors. I did see the ending coming by about the halfway point, but I still enjoyed it as it was a nice satirical stab of a yarn.

Tempting Fate


Keith (Steve Pemberton), Nick (Reece Shearsmith) and Maz (Weruche Opia) are a trio of heavy-duty cleaning contractors, who are brought in to clean out a dingy abode. The flat belonged to mass-hoarder Frank (Nigel Planer) who ended up killing himself. Maz is the newest of the three and is still getting used to the job. Whereas, Keith and Nick are the old guard and take everything in their stride. While cleaning the flat, they learn that Frank was rich, that he had won over £3 million on the lottery and yet, he still lived in disgusting squalor in a small three-roomed hovel. When they discover a seemingly plain bronze hare ornament and a video message from Frank, this house clearance takes a turn for the very macabre.

What you have here is basically another take on the classic Monkey’s Paw tale. You know the one, someone comes across a mysterious monkey’s paw and they get three wishes that have dire consequences. There have to be several dozen different versions of this story by now, via films, TV and literature. Here, that ‘monkey’s paw’ is actually the bronze hare ornament that appears in every episode of Inside No. 9. Only, instead of being in the background of a shot, as usual, it is given a starring role and a history. Do you know what? I love a good take on the classic Monkey’s Paw tale and this is a great one. Obviously, knowing Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s writing here at the end of series four, I was trying to second-guess where this one was going. I admit, they got me. While it does follow the staples of a good Monkey’s Paw adaptation, Pemberton and Shearsmith put their own stamp on it and still manage to surprise. A good horror tale with a fantastic twist and a great end to the series.

Dead Line

Arthur (Steve Pemberton) comes home on Halloween after finding a mobile phone in a graveyard while out shopping. The phone rings, Arthur answers it and he can hear strange and ominous voices, but can’t quite understand what is being said. The call soon disconnects. Wanting to find the owner of the phone, Arthur redials the last number called and it is answered by Moira (Stephanie Cole), Arthur explains the situation and Moira agrees to contact the rightful owner of the phone for him. Later, Arthur gets a visit from the local Reverend (Reece Shearsmith) and that is when things begin to take a turn for the worst.


This episode wasn’t actually part of series four. This one was a one-off Halloween special that aired in 2018, several months after series four had concluded. What made it special was the fact that this was broadcast live, the first and only episode of Inside No. 9 to do so. What you get with this episode is both one of the best and most uninteresting episodes of the show so far. Now, I did say in the intro to this retrospective that I wasn’t going to do spoilers. For this episode, I really, really have to, so that I can better explain my view. I also said in the intro that I would be doing a separate spoiler-rific article for one particular episode. Well, this is that bit and the spoiler-rific article can be found right here. Massive spoilers lie within that link, you have been warned and will be warned again.

Series Five

Shown between the 3rd of February to the 9th of March 2020. You know, I honestly believe that I am getting the measure of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith by now. I believe that, after four series, I have their writing style down pat and will not be fooled so easily now. Still, I have just finished a series involving backwards chronology and a live episode that was utter genius on a technical and production level. I really shouldn’t feel so cocky and just accept that they are still going to get me.

The Referee’s a W***er


Martin (David Morrissey) is the referee for a major football match at the end of the season. Joined by his assistants Phil (Ralf Little), Oggy (Steve Pemberton) and Brendan (Reece Shearsmith), the officials are there to ensure that the match goes off without any issues. An incident during the match throws the game into utter chaos. When it is releveled that one of Martin’s assistants has taken a bribe to help fix the game, things begin to turn south fast. This is Martin’s last game before he retires and he has always been a stickler for the rules. Will he let the infraction slide or will he turn one of his assistants in and keep his clean sheet?

I have to be honest, my first viewing of this and I didn’t think much of it. But watching it a second and third time really opened my eyes as to how brilliantly written and layered this episode is. This one plays up for laughs, no creepy horror or jump scares here. Still, there is a great tale of morality and justice against the backdrop of a football dressing room. A line of dialogue (or several) that seems innocent really plays into the plot and characters when you know the ending. This is why more than one viewing of this one is essential. A simple game of football turns into complete disarray, a comedy of errors and the W***er of the title may not be the word that you think it is.

Death Be Not Proud

Beattie (Jenna Coleman) and Sam (Kadiff Kirwan) are a young couple who have just moved into a flat that they managed to buy at a fantastically reduced price. Like, £100,000 off the asking price, fantastic. Why so cheap? Because the flat used to belong to a killer and stories have been told that at least one person was killed there. When Sam tries to get in contact with the previous owner, to see if there is any truth in the tales of murder, things go surprisingly dark and morbid with a thick vein of very macabre humour when the previous owner turns up.


I didn’t know this when I first watched this episode, because I’ve not really been a fan of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s other works. But anyway, this episode is a (sort of) sequel/crossover with one of their previous shows, Psychoville. Pemberton plays David and Shearsmith plays his mother, Maureen, who were the main characters in that show. Not knowing anything about Psychoville didn’t ruin my enjoyment of this episode at all. If anything, it has made me want to watch that show next. So, you don’t really need to know who these characters are and Death Be Not Proud works perfectly well as its own thing. Everything is self-contained and tells a bizarrely crackpot story that is jet-black funny and horrifically disturbing in equal measure. I’m off to watch Psychoville next.

Love’s Great Adventure

Julia (Debbie Rush) and Trevor (Steve Pemberton) are the parents of a family. There is Connor (Olly Hudson-Croker) the youngest child, Mia (Gaby French) the middle child and Patrick (Bobby Schofield) the mysterious and largely absent oldest child. It’s coming up to Christmas and all that Julia and Trevor want is a nice and normal family festive celebration. Several everyday family issues may just prevent that from happening though.

If there is one thing that Inside No. 9 does well, that thing is not really following any kind of a pattern or even genre. You get episodes steeped in horror, drama, comedy and more. There is one thing that connects the episodes though (not just the bronze hare statue thing) and that thing is that every episode has some kind of twist or sting… except for this one. There is no real twist for me to spoil here, no rug pulling. There is a bridge that links two subplots, but no real twist. This is a story about everyday family life that just evolves over the course of the episode. Each scene is split into a day and each day is counted down via the use of a traditional Christmas advent calendar. It feels very much like a soap opera plot that would usually be told over several weeks and months, but told here in 20-odd minutes and done so with much more talent too. This is just a bittersweet family drama and we learn more and more about this family as the days tick by. Apparently, most of it was ad-libbed too.


Struggling magician Neville (Reece Shearsmith) has a visit from Willy (Steve Pemberton). Willy shows off a new floating chair magic trick. It’s an impressive trick too, one that Neville just can not work out how it is done. He asks to buy the trick, but Willy refuses to sell. Desperate to get his hands on the trick so he can make a lot of money, Neville kills Willy and takes the trick as his own. Nine years later and Neville has become one of the most acclaimed magicians around, famed for ‘his’ floating chair trick. Gabriel (Fionn Whitehead), a young and eager magician himself, turns up at Neville’s place to interview the well-respected magician in hope that he can get some advice on how to get better at his craft.


This episode very much put me in mind of The Riddle Of The Sphinx from series three. Its style of writing, its multilayered and clever scripting and the seemingly straightforward plot. Misdirection is a wonderful tale of, well… misdirection. Even though I kind of worked out where the episode was going and who the Gabriel character was, there is still a lot here that did fool me. Still, I think that the idea of who Gabriel is was part of the misdirection that made this episode so damn great. A magical episode that, even when you do work out where it is going, it still manages to surprise and entertain.

Thinking Out Loud


Meet Bill (Phil Davis), an older man looking for love via video dating. Meet Nadia (Maxine Peake), a middle-aged woman using video to record her thoughts as a form of therapy. Meet Galen (Steve Pemberton) a death-row prisoner confessing his crimes on camera. Meet Angel (Ioanna Kimbook), a vacuous and insipid ‘influencer’ talking bollocks to all her ‘fans’ over the internet. Meet Aidan (Reece Shearsmith), a terminally ill cancer sufferer who is recording a video for his unborn daughter to watch after he has died. Meet Diana (Sandra Gayer), a church singer with the voice of an angel taking part in a singing audition on camera. Aside from all of these characters talking (or singing) to camera, what else do they share in common?

I know that I have continually praised the writing of Inside No. 9 at every opportunity. Even with episodes that I have felt are ‘lesser’, I have still found the writing to be exceptional. Here with Thinking Out Loud, this is easily one of the most creative and densely written episodes yet. This really is one that you will have to watch multiple times to get everything. There are so many clues and outright giveaways of what is really going on here that they pass you by, just hiding in plain sight. Foreshadowing, double meanings and mirrored dialogue everywhere, and for good reason too. This one also breaks one of the rules of the show, as it takes place in more than one location… kind of. It is also directed by Steve Pemberton. Though Pemberton and Shearsmith co-directed both the Cold Comfort and Nana’s Party episodes from series two, this is the first time that either of them has directed an episode solo. It’s a really great one too.

The Stakeout

Special Police Constable Varney (Reece Shearsmith) is dead. That’s not a spoiler, the episode starts out with him covered in blood and his voiceover telling you that he is dead. We then cut back in time to the events that led to an explanation of just how and why Varney ended up being covered in blood and dead. Varney is partnered up with PC Thompson (Steve Pemberton) and the pair are on a police stakeout. As they spend all their time together stuck in a police car for hours on end, the two have plenty of time to talk and learn more about each other. Such as Varney’s overly sensitive nose for odours. It turns out that Thompson’s previous partner ended up dead too and forensic evidence that could lead to who killed him has gone missing. With the episode starting out showing you that Varney is dead too, it is only a matter of joining the dots to learn who did kill Thompson’s previous partner.


Okay, right from the off, this one got me. The rug was well and truly pulled from under my feet. The thing is that, all of the evidence of what the reveal at the end of the episode is here. Just as with the previous episode, everything is hiding in plain sight. When I did get to the end of this one, I did have a WFT moment and was ready to call this out for being utter bullshit and ‘out of nowhere’ ending. But a second viewing soon shut me up because Pemberton and Shearsmith have (once more) put together a very well-written and tight story that does not cheat the viewer. A great end to a great series.


Normally with TV shows, the fatigue sets in around the third or fourth series and I often begin to lose interest. With Inside No. 9, the exact opposite seems to be happening. If Forrest Gump were to describe this show, it most definitely would be like a box of chocolates, which is a phrase I’ve never understood because all boxes of chocolates that I have bought tell you exactly what you are going to get. Anyway, these two series cover everything from comedy and horror to kitchen-sink drama and even a bit of Shakespearean prose. Even when I thought that I got the measure of an episode, it still managed to surprise me. The live Dead Line Halloween special really is a wonderful slice of modern TV. I may not have thought much of the actual plot and it didn’t ultimately catch me out, but the production and process of the episode was amazing and something that I deeply admire.

Inside No. 9 is a show that has me smiling from ear to ear at one episode, to feeling heartbroken with another… sometimes in the same episode. The fatigue that I mentioned has not happened yet and as I am now five series in and heading to the finish line of this retrospective with the last two series, I’m like a 6-year-old kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to turn up. I really want to take a cheeky peek at my presents and get an idea of what I will be getting… but I won’t.

Inside No. 9: A Perversely Humorous Retrospective – Series Two And Three

Series Two

This series was shown between the 26th of March and the 29th of April 2015. Coming off the back of the first series and now a little wiser to Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s style of writing and aim with this show, I find myself a little wary of what to expect. Getting things underway with an episode that takes place in a train carriage.

La Couchette


Maxwell (Reece Shearsmith) is a doctor heading to France for an important job interview, while trying to get some sleep in a small and shared train carriage. A drunk a rather ‘windy’ German named Jorg (Steve Pemberton) keeps disturbing Maxwell from his sleep. More people enter the carriage for the overnight trip. Kath (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and Les (Mark Benton) are a couple travelling to France for their daughter’s wedding. Shona (Jessica Gunning) is on a sightseeing tour around Europe and she brings Hugo (Jack Whitehall) to the carriage for a bit of nookie, creating more disruption… which annoys Maxwell. When a dead body is discovered in one of the beds, everyone needs to decide if they should let the train staff know and delay the trip, making everyone late or just leave the body where it is.

This one is kind of similar to the Sardines episode from series one, in that it takes place in a cramped location and feels very claustrophobic with characters introduced as the story unravels. However, it does lean on comedy a lot more and even gets a bit scatological, you’ll never see a shoebox in the same way again. Pemberton and Shearsmith do a cracking job of not just the tight and funny writing, but they also put in great acting performances. The ending is a good one and feels very Hitchcockian too.

The 12 Days of Christine

Christine (Sheridan Smith) comes home to her flat after a New Year’s Eve party with Adam (Tom Riley), after only just meeting for the first time. It then jumps ahead to Valentine’s Day, Christine and Tom’s relationship has blossomed. Onto Mother’s Day and Christine’s mother, Marion (Michele Dotrice) meets Tom and thinks he is great. Fast forwarding to Easter the following year, Tom has moved in with Christine. A few months later, Christine and Tom are married, with Christine now pregnant. Just over a year later, Christine and Tom have a baby boy to care for. Just over another year later and Christine is celebrating her 30th birthday and the relationship between her and Tom seems to be decaying as Tom turns his attention to a work colleague. Fast forward another year and while packing for a family holiday, it becomes clear that the couple’s relationship is breaking down. Jumping forward in time again, Christine and Tom are now divorced. Everything eventually leads up to Christmas and as Christine sits down to enjoy a traditional family Christmas dinner, something is not right.


To put this as simply as possible, this is one of the finest pieces of TV that you are likely to see. Sheridan Smith playing Christine is astonishing and the writing is wonderful. The continual time skips make little sense at the time and even Christine seems to be getting more and more confused as the story unfolds, while everyone around her is seemingly fine. Then when this one reaches its finale, you understand exactly why time is jumping forwards and why Christine is getting confused. The great thing about this one is the many clues that are running throughout that actually give the end away before the reveal. But the beauty is that the clues only really make sense when you already know the ending and re-watch the episode again. For me, this is the best episode so far with fantastic acting and even better writing.

The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge

Set in the 17th century. Mr Clarke (Steve Pemberton) and Mr Warren (Reece Shearsmith) are a couple of witch-finders hired by Sir Andrew Pike (David Warner) to determine if a local woman is a witch or not. The woman, Elizabeth Gadge (Ruth Sheen) is put on trial in front of the village as several of its residents offer proof of her witchcraft, including her own daughter and son-in-law. While Sir Andrew Pike and Mr Warren are 100% sure that the accused is a witch, Mr Clarke seems to be less convinced.

This one is really an out-and-out comedy that pokes fun at the stupidity of the witch trials of the time. Imagine if the Monty Python team had ever made a Hammer Horror-styled film and you would probably have something like this episode. This very much evokes the whole ‘she’s a witch’ scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and ramps it up tenfold. Even though this is an episode that does lean more towards the comedic, it also highlights some of the idiotic methods used to try to seek out witches and does have at least one foot planted in reality, and that does add a certain strand of horror in all the comedy. I quite liked this episode and it really displays how this show can flip-flop from one style of storytelling to the other following The 12 Days of Christine episode.

Cold Comfort

Following the death of his sister, Andy (Steve Pemberton) decides to try and help other people who are feeling depressed. Landing a volunteer job at Comfort Support Line (CSL), a Samaritans-like crisis hotline, Andy is talked through how things work by George (Reece Shearsmith), the manager of CSL. Liz (Jane Horrocks) is one of the other volunteer workers and offers her own brand of help in any way she can. Andy gets a call from a 16-year-old girl called Chloe who says that she has had enough of her life and has taken an overdose of pills. Andy tries to help her and insists that she calls for an ambulance but she refuses. The two continue to talk until Chloe is no longer on the line, with Andy helplessly listening as she dies. Frustrated that he couldn’t do anything to help Chloe and being reminded of the death of his sister, Andy takes it out on the next caller.


The way this one is filmed is great as you see everything through CCTV cameras (see the above picture). Save for a scene showing Andy turning up on his first day at the very start, the entire episode is played out with you, the viewer, watching multiple camera feeds at the same time and it all feels very ominous. Why you need to be watching multiple cameras is not made clear at first but once the ending is revealed, you’ll want to go back and re-watch to see if you missed anything on one of the other screens… and you most probably did. A well-written drama with just the right amount of comedy to break things up and it all leads to an ending that you won’t see coming.

Nana’s Party

Angela (Claire Skinner) is anxiously putting the final touches to a birthday party at her home for her mother, Maggie (Elsie Kelly). Angela’s husband, Jim (Steve Pemberton) wants to pull a practical joke on Pat (Reece Shearsmith), who can’t help but pull jokes on everyone he meets. Jim’s practical joke revenge doesn’t work out how he wants and so, he tries to rope Angela into helping him. A decision that has the potential of destroying not only the party but Angela and Jim’s marriage. Especially when Angela’s sister, Carol (Lorraine Ashbourne), a recovering alcoholic, begins to sneak off to enjoy her ‘suntan lotion’.

This one begins with a paramedic rushing to the house, before cutting back to earlier in the day as we, the viewer, are taken on a journey to see just what the paramedic was rushing to. Another episode that relies on comedy but uses class divide and a metaphorical ticking time bomb that is set to explode. Various secrets of the family are revealed as this episode plays out. From Jim’s ‘Countdown‘ tapes to far more damaging issues that could tear this typical family unit apart. Often, this episode feels like a high-wire act as you just watch and wait for everything to come crashing down. With some great and sharp writing, we know that things are going to go very badly… even if we don’t know exactly how or when.

Séance Time


Tina (Sophie McShera) arrives at a house to take part in a séance. Greeted by Hives (Reece Shearsmith), who takes Tina to meet Madam Talbot (Alison Steadman) and the séance begins. Tina steadily becomes scared but before things go too far, it is revealed that Tina is taking part in a hidden camera TV show called Scaredy Cam and that the séance is fake. The show is hosted by Terry who was playing the character of Hives and Madam Talbot is really just an actress called Anne The production crew of the show appear including the director Gemma (Cariad Lloyd), Amanda (Alice Lowe) the make-up artist and an actor portraying a demon (Dan Starkey). The fake séance set is re-prepared and the room is made ready for the next ‘victim’. Enter Pete (Steve Pemberton) who swears too much for TV and doesn’t seem to be falling for the prank in the same way that Tina did. When the ‘demon’ appears, Pete punches it, not knowing it’s just an actor in make-up and the fake séance begins to go awry from that point on.

This is a great episode that deals with horror and the meta idea of making a TV show… within a TV show. With several scenes that would not feel out of place in a horror film. Even though we know that the séance is fake and part of a TV show, this still manages to pack in a few genuine scares and surprises. I did feel that the ending was a bit too predictable and I don’t think that anyone will be surprised by where this one goes. Still, this one is more about the journey than the destination and the journey is a great one and a worthy finale to the series.

Series Three

This series began on the 27th of December of 2016 and ended on the 21st of March 2017. Even though I have definitely got a feel for Pemberton Shearsmith’s writing after two series, I also know that they still had the skills to subvert expectations and I am certainly expecting some big rug pulls with series three. The great thing about this one starting in late December meant that they could have a Christmas episode… at Christmas.

The Devil of Christmas


Starting out with a TV slate letting us know that we are watching a TV show called The Devil of Christmas. The episode begins and is set in the 1970s complete with film grain, low-quality props and so on. Julian (Steve Pemberton), his wife Kathy (Jessica Raine), their son Toby (George Bedford) and Julian’s mother, Celia (Rula Lenska) all arrive at a chalet in snowy Austria for a Christmas break. They are joined by Klaus (Reece Shearsmith), a guide who tells the family the story of the Krampus. A kind of anti-Father Christmas who kidnaps naughty children. As the episode of the TV show that we are watching continues, the director (voiced by Derek Jacobi) speaks up asking for the footage to be rewound so he can point out a continuity error. That is when it is made clear that we, the viewer, are watching a recording of someone else watching The Devil of Christmas. It all then gets very, very meta.

It is painfully clear from this episode just how much love and respect that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have for classic anthology TV shows with this episode. You are essentially watching a fictional director (in our universe) provide commentary on a real TV episode that he made (in his universe) and it is handled with an amazing attention to detail, to the point where this does feel like we are watching a genuine documentation of a real TV show, even though we know it is not. Things like the director calling out the previously mentioned continuity error, actors flubbing lines, missing marks and more. This episode was even shot with genuine 1970s cameras and the studio was retro-fitted out with 70s tech just so this episode would look like typical 1970s TV. I seriously have to praise Pemberton and Shearsmith and the rest of the (real) TV crew for going to this much effort, because it worked very well. As for the actual story of the episode? It is fantastically well done and works on two levels. It works as a fictional story that we are watching as an episode of Inside No. 9 and a great little Christmas scary yarn. It also works as a story within the story being told. The ending is just chef’s kiss-perfect too and will leave you gobsmacked. This episode doesn’t break the fourth wall, it obliterates it, and all with a wonderful style and panache.

The Bill

Set in an ‘up north’ restaurant in England. Three friends, Archie (Reece Shearsmith), Malcolm (Steve Pemberton), and Kevin (Jason Watkins) have taken Londoner Craig (Philip Glenister) out for a meal after a game of badminton. They are the only customers in the restaurant too as it’s getting late. The restaurant has been closed by the waitress Anya (Ellie White) and she presents the quartet with the bill. Just who will pay for the meal results in an argument as they can’t decide if they should split it four ways, two people split the bill two ways or if one person should pay for the lot. As their guest, none of them wants Craig to pay, even though he is far better off than any of them. Each of the friends wants to outdo the other and none of them can agree on how the bill should be paid or who should pay it. Meanwhile, Anya just wants to go home after a long shift and does her best to get the bill paid for.


This is one of those claustrophobic-type episodes with a small cast in a small location, covering a small story. How something as simple as paying a bill for a meal could descend into the madness shown in the episode is wonderfully realised and very darkly humoured. Lies, betrayal, straight-up bullshit and more are all thrown in as these four characters battle it out to do something as basic as pay for a meal. It’s a simple and shallow premise that really shouldn’t work. And yet, it does. The way that the four main actors play off each other is a joy to witness. I do have a niggle and that is that there is a very final sting after the twist is revealed that just felt utterly superfluous. The twist reveal before it is great though and I kind of wish the episode just ended there with a layer of ambiguity. But it goes on for one more scene that, for me, fell flat. Other than that though, this is a great episode that shows some deft writing to pull off a great story from such a plain premise.

The Riddle of the Sphinx

Nina (Alexandra Roach) lets herself into a room at the University of Cambridge on a stormy night. The room belongs to Professor Nigel Squires (Steve Pemberton), who finds Nina snooping around his belongings. Nigel questions Nina on why she is in his room late at night. It turns out that Nina’s boyfriend is a big fan of cryptic crosswords and she wants to impress her boyfriend with her crossword skills… only she is utterly useless at them. The Professor just so happens to write cryptic crosswords under the name of the Sphinx. Nina has sought out the Sphinx to teach her how to read and work out cryptic clues so she can solve the puzzle the following day and show her boyfriend that she isn’t as clueless as she seems.


In terms of writing and story structure, this is one of the best episodes of Inside No. 9 so far. I did say that I wasn’t going to do spoilers here, and I am sticking to that too. But it’s a great shame as there is so much to digest and analyse here that I just can’t get into. How this one plays out is pure genius and how the crossword clues and answers play into the narrative of the story is sublime. It is unbelievably dark and bleak, but so thoroughly clever too. Complex with so many layers that must’ve taken an inordinate amount of planning. I’m not even a crossword fan and yet, this one drew me into its web of words like no other episode up to this point. The ending is an absolute corker too. I watched this one three times, one immediately after the other and I spotted something new each time, and I still think that there’s more to see or hear with the carefully placed props and skilfully worded dialogue. Oh, and the crossword in this episode actually appeared in The Guardian newspaper and was created by Steve Pemberton himself.

Empty Orchestra

Set in a karaoke booth, a group of work colleagues celebrate one of them getting promoted. Greg (Reece Shearsmith) is the first to arrive and he sets about getting the party started. Connie (Tamzin Outhwaite) turns up next and the two share a passionate kiss. That is when Fran (Sarah Hadland) enters the karaoke booth, Greg and Connie quickly end their kiss as Fran is Greg’s girlfriend, so Greg and Connie are up to some naughties. Roger (Steve Pemberton) and Janet (Emily Howlett) are next to arrive. Roger is the one who has been promoted, Janet his assistant is deaf. Lastly, Duane (Javone Prince) turns up and everyone starts to enjoy the party, everyone except for Roger. Greg does a bit of detective work and believes that Roger is planning on sacking one of them and sets about to find out who.

This episode feels very different from any of the others so far. There’s no horror here, no bleak comedy, no grim darkness. In fact, this one is very upbeat with a happy ending. It still has its twists as the plot may not go down the route that it first seems to be heading. This is a down-to-earth drama that uses the music and singing of the karaoke to great effect, as the songs picked do foreshadow and clue you into the plot. There’s no blood and gore, no macabre or gruesome finale. What you get is an interesting yarn about trust and communication.

Diddle Diddle Dumpling


David (Reece Shearsmith) is a stay-at-home dad who looks after his daughter Sally (Rosa Strudwick), while his wife, Louise (Keeley Hawes) goes to work. One morning, when out for a jog, David finds a shoe left on the street. The shoe looks pretty new and David begins to wonder who it belongs to, as it doesn’t seem to have been thrown away. He takes the shoe home and sets out to try to find its owner. As the weeks and months pass, Louise begins to worry about David’s mental state as his obsession with the shoe grows and grows. When someone finally comes forward to claim the shoe, it seems like all is well… but it isn’t.

Okay, so… this episode is wonderfully fucked up. The story is split into the four seasons of the year and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is used to denote the changing of those seasons too. But what you have here is a tale about a man finding a shoe and that should be a really dull premise to base a story on. Yet, this is amazing. Again, my not going into spoilers means that I can’t really get into this one as much as I would love to. The way it is shot with fantastic uses of pairing symbolism works well, with subtle clues that all is not well. Reece Shearsmith puts in a stunning performance as the overly obsessed David as the lone shoe begins to take over his life. The ending is utterly gut-wrenching, depending on how you choose to look at it. There is a layer of ambiguity to the finale and I saw two possibilities, one was fucked up and the other was really, really fucked up. This is a story about a man finding a shoe and that is a banal plot point. Yet, it works as a testament to Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s expert writing, that they could pull off such a twisted piece of storytelling from that bland set-up.

Private View

A group of complete strangers are invited to attend a new art exhibit called ‘Fragments’ in a basement gallery. Bea (Montserrat Lombard) is the dry and sarcastic greeter and drink server. Carrie (Morgana Robinson), a clueless z-lister celebrity, with an IQ in the same region as her shoe size, is the first to arrive. Maurice (Reece Shearsmith), a snooty art critic is next and he can’t wait to get stuck into the art. The short-tempered and utterly humourless Kenneth Williams (Steve Pemberton) arrives, as does Jean (Fiona Shaw), a dinner lady who knows very little about art. Then Patricia (Felicity Kendal) is the last to arrive, a visually impaired, but not blind, writer of low-quality erotic fiction. With all of the invitees in place, the exhibit can begin and when one of the art pieces includes a dead nurse called Neil (Peter Kay), it soon becomes clear that this art exhibit is not all that it seems.


Have you ever watched the classic Vincent Price horror flick Theatre of Blood or his Dr. Phibes films? Those are what this episode put me in mind of, with a bit of an Agatha Christie, ‘whodunit?’ thrown in for good measure. This is a bloody piece of horror but with that dark sense of humour that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith pull off so damn well. You go from characters making Carry On jokes at the expense of the humourless Kenneth Williams character, played by Pemberton, to straight-up bloody gore and horror without missing a beat. You just don’t know what to expect here and why all of these characters have been brought together for the art exhibit. It is a twisted look at ‘modern art’ and leads to a resolve that (honestly) I kind of knew was coming, but still managed to surprise me with the details in the end.


Still now, three series in, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have the talent to surprise me. I like to think of myself as being rather clued in when it comes to twists and stings in stories. I genuinely am a fan of the classic anthology TV shows that Pemberton and Shearsmith are also clearly big fans of. And yet, they have fooled me multiple times through series two and three. It’s hard to know exactly what kind of story you are going to get now. It could be a nice drama about communication and relationships, that leads to a happy ending like the Empty Orchestra episode. Or it could be a real kick in the balls The 12 Days of Christine type of yarn. Then again, it could be a well-observed and wonderful recantation and fourth-wall-breaking look at 70s film-making as with The Devil of Christmas. Maybe you’ll be thrown into a brilliantly conceived and written The Riddle of the Sphinx-type episode that is beyond clever and incredibly inventive.

Honestly, as I write this conclusion to series two and three, I have no idea what to expect… and I love it. Series four and five are next and I am genuinely excited to be fooled again and again.

Inside No. 9: A Perversely Humorous Retrospective – Introduction And Series One

I have always had a bit of a penchant for anthology storytelling in movies and TV shows. A couple of Halloweens ago, I did a big Creepshow retrospective looking at all the films, the first season of the TV show and everything in between. Before that, I did a longer retrospective looking at all of the Amicus anthology films of the 60s through to the 80s. So, I wanted to cover some more anthology stories with my Halloween special this year.

The truth is that, I actually began doing a full retrospective of the awesome 90s (though it started in 1989) TV show, Tales From the Crypt. I got three seasons in and decided to take a break. For that break, I watched the first series of Inside No. 9 and well, let’s just say that I got very, very distracted. My Tales From the Crypt retrospective was put on the back burner (maybe next year?) as I got completely lost in Inside No. 9 instead. Now, just what is Inside No. 9 I don’t hear you ask? Well then, allow me to fill you in.


Inside No. 9 is a British anthology show massively inspired by the likes of Tales of the Unexpected, The Twilight Zone, Armchair Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the like. Not always 100% horror but certainly stories with a dark, macabre vein of perverse humour. Yarns with twists or stings in the tail that can surprise, entertain and even outright bemuse or just straight up unsettle you. The show is the brainchild of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith who not only write every single episode, but at least one of them also appears in every single episode, either as a main character or just a supporting one.

The title of the show comes from the fact that every episode takes place in somewhere numbered or connected to 9. A train carriage, a house, etc. It is also partly influenced by the Hammer House of Horror episode called The Mark of Satan, which featured a character obsessed with the number 9 (apparently). Each episode is self-contained and because they usually take place in one confined place, they really feel more like short plays than TV show episodes. There is no direct connection between any of the stories, except for a small ornament of a hare in the background that you can try to spot for fun. Episodes vary in style and tone too from family dramas to black comedies and even straight-up horror stories. It also features some really clever and inventive filming techniques and ideas, of which I will cover as I go through the episodes. Speaking of which…


Oh yeah, before I do get into this. I’m purposely not going to be doing spoilers here. Though I will be looking at each individual episode, I am not exploring the endings and I won’t be going into detail (except for one particular episode that I will look at in a separate very spoiler-rific article). So, this should be safe to read if you’ve not yet watched the show. Still, I do recommend that you just watch Inside No. 9 without reading this, if you’re not familiar with the show yet.

Before I forget and just for clarity. This intro that you are reading right now, I wrote after watching all of the series and every episode. However, for the coverage of each series and the episodes themselves, I wrote them as and when I watched them (except for series one, which I watched before I decided to write this). So, I never knew what was coming with each series and the episodes at the time… if that makes sense. Let’s crack on.

Series One

First shown between the 5th of February to the 12th of March 2014. This series started with an episode that was far from being horror-centric, but it did serve as a great introduction to the bizarre, unusual and confined style of storytelling that Inside No. 9 creators, writers and actors, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, would use for every single episode.



At a party to celebrate their engagement, Rebecca (Katherine Parkinson) and Jeremy (Ben Willbond) decide to play a game of sardines with their guests. Sardines being a variation on hide-and-seek where one person hides but when found, the finder then hides with the hider in the same place. Ian (Tim Key) is the initial hider and when Rebecca finds him hiding in a wardrobe, she joins him. More and more guests find the wardrobe hiding place and climb inside. This is when the various guests (both in and outside of the wardrobe) begin to chat and numerous secrets and pasts of the party members are slowly revealed.

Having the entire episode filmed inside and around a wardrobe is a perfect example of the confined style of tales that would be the show’s selling point. A small-ish cast (though this episode featured one of the show’s biggest casts) in small locations dealing with intimate storytelling. The secrets of the various guests that are revealed really do venture into some dark places at times too, leading to an ending that certainly has a sting in the tail.

A Quiet Night In

Taking place at a very expensive-looking and very modernist house. Gerald (Denis Lawson) sits down to enjoy a bowl of soup. Listening to some Sergei Rachmaninoff, Gerald is unaware of two burglars (Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith) trying to break into his home, who are aiming to steal a very expensive painting. Gerald is seemingly having a few relationship issues with his partner Sabrina (Oona Chaplin). As the couple bicker and argue, they fail to notice the two burglars claim their prize. However, getting out of the house unnoticed with the painting will prove to be a lot harder than getting in without it.


The genius element of this episode is that it is mostly silent with pretty much zero dialogue. The fact that Oona Chaplin (the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin) was cast to be in a silent episode was genius. Then there is the fact that A Quiet Night In is very slapstick comedy-like, something else that Charlie Chaplin was famed for. However, the slapstick here is far, far more macabre and disturbing than anything that Chaplin ever did. I mean, there is this bit with a Yorkshire Terrier dog and an umbrella stand. There are a lot of surprises here and just when you think you know where the episode is going, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith pull the rug from under your feet with some deft writing. Definitely one of the darker episodes of the show and one of the better episodes too with plenty of unsuspecting twists from the start to the end.

Tom & Gerri

Tom (Reece Shearsmith) is a primary school teacher who really doesn’t enjoy his job and dreams of being a writer. Tom lives with Gerri (Gemma Arterton), a struggling actress who has just landed a part in a play and is often away rehearsing. Tom becomes preoccupied with a homeless man called Migg (Steve Pemberton) who has been hanging around outside of his flat. Migg knocks on Tom’s door saying that he has found Tom’s wallet and wants to return it. Tom invites Migg into his flat and the two start an unusual friendship. Meanwhile, Gerri begins to worry about Tom’s mental state as he quits his teaching job, spends all day in his flat with Migg and becomes very withdrawn from his own life.

This is what I adore about Inside No. 9, we just came from the slapstick (but dark) comedy of the last episode involving two bumbling burglars and straight into one bereft of comedy and an episode that focuses on mental health and depression. This one is just bleak and has no respite, with an ending that is a complete downer but wonderfully realised. This may not be a 100% accurate depiction of real-life mental illness and depression issues, but it really does make for an excellent slice of TV using it as a theme. This was an episode that certainly wrong-footed me too as I thought that I had guessed where it was going before the halfway point. But no, my guess on the plot direction was wrong and by the time the credits rolled, I was dumbfounded. Both Pemberton and Shearsmith put in amazing acting performances too.

Last Gasp


Terminally ill Tamsin (Lucy Hutchinson) is celebrating her 9th birthday. Her parents, Jan (Sophie Thompson) and Graham (Steve Pemberton) have arranged for a charity to organise a very special surprise for their daughter, a visit from famed singer Frankie J Parsons (David Bedella). When Frankie dies while blowing up a balloon for Tamsin, a plot to try to sell his last gasp of breath, which is in the balloon, is hatched. The grown-ups of Tamsin’s parents, charity worker Sally (Tamsin Greig) and Frankie’s assistant Si (Adam Deacon) begin to fight over just who owns the dead man’s breath.

This episode, with the grim nature of selling a dead person’s dying breath, is loaded with dark comedy and is very watchable. Plus, it really is a twisted look at pointless celeb culture, worship and adulation, while mixing in an interesting narrative on greed and human nature. Lucy Hutchinson playing the terminally ill 9 year old steals the show as she watches the supposed ‘adults’ bicker like children over something as pathetic as a balloon.

The Understudy

Tony (Steve Pemberton) is an overbearing stage actor currently appearing as Macbeth in a production of Shakespeare’s famed play. Jim (Reece Shearsmith) is Tony’s understudy who often dreams of becoming the star of the show. During a performance of Macbeth, Tony gets drunk between acts, Jim is poised to take his place and is encouraged by his girlfriend (Lyndsey Marshal) to do so. However, Tony insists that he goes on, meaning that Jim misses his big chance to take over and play the lead role. When Tony drunkenly falls off the stage during the performance, Jim finally gets his chance to become a leading actor… but at what cost?


The structure of this episode is split into five acts, following the standard for theatrical productions. It also heavily borrows from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to tell its story too, though you really don’t need to have knowledge of Macbeth to follow the plot. In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t know much about Macbeth to get the most out of this one and not spoil any of the surprises. Though you will most probably miss out on most of the in-jokes and references. This episode definitely takes a statical swipe at actors and I do adore it when people (in this case, actors) can have a pop at themselves. The story is deliciously dark, twisted and it leads to a great resolve.

The Harrowing

Schoolgirl Katy (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is hired to housesit a stately mansion owned by Hector (Reece Shearsmith) and Tabitha (Helen McCrory) while they attend an event. The house is kept at a frosty −3°C as Andras (Sean Buckley), who is Hector and Tabitha’s disabled brother, needs it to be set at that temperature to be conformable. Andras will ring a bell if he needs anything, though Hector and Tabitha say he never uses it anyway and then, Katy is left alone. Shell (Poppy Rush), a friend of Katy, turns up at the house to offer her some help and support…. then the bell rings.

This is the most overtly horror-centric episode of this series, with a gloriously gothic tone throughout. Harking back to classic horror films of the 50s and 60s with the likes of House on Haunted Hill but with a modern edge. This one really is more like a short horror film that really does lean on the macabre more so than any other episode so far. There is some comedy here but it is jet-black comedy that even makes the A Quiet Night In episode look positively jovial… which it isn’t. An episode that really does hit home a much more horror perspective and showcases just how dark Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith can get with their writing.


Series one of Inside No. 9 is a great mix of genres and writing styles. This is what I love about anthology storytelling, you can say and do pretty much anything and only be limited by your own imagination. Imagination is something that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith seem to have by the truckload too. There are dark comedy, slapstick comedy and stories with zero comedy here. Tales that look at serious issues such as mental illness and ones that are just outright stupidly silly for the sake of entertainment.

While I have always been aware of Inside No. 9, as a fan of these types of shows, I never really got into it until this year when I decided to take a break from my (now unfinished) Tales From the Crypt retrospective. And do you know what? I’m glad about that too. This first series is a great start and I honestly can not wait to get everything else watched and written up.


Before I move on to the rest of the series. There was a special Internet-only and interactive webisode called The Inventors from 2014. I believe it used to be on the BBC site but isn’t any longer. I’ve not seen this one and the show’s creators and writers, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, weren’t even involved in it (so I don’t count it as canon). I did find this article that covers what it was all about though. Plus there is a YouTube video that you can watch, though it (obviously) has lost its interactive USP. And with that out of the way, series two and three.