I’m going to preface this post by saying that if you’re not entirely up to date on the magnificence that is Inside No.9 – stop what you’re bloody well doing right now and don’t go any further…there will be spoilers.
Having been a fan of The League of Gentlemen for a good 16 years (followed by the wonderfully weird Psychoville), to say I was excited to hear that Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton were working on an anthology series together would be an understatement.
Four series later – and with one week to go until the Live Halloween Special – I’m well and truly hooked.
To celebrate the upcoming Halloween outing, here’s my five personal favourites for you to peruse at your leisure…
A brief disclaimer – this post is totally and utterly biased. With every episode being entirely different from the one before it, I’d highly advise you to watch all 24 yourself and make up your own mind. Whilst these are some personal highlights, each one is a perfectly constructed piece of TV, so this is by no means a definitive list.
As Reece and Steve have already said ‘it’s all down to taste’…
Feel free to share your favourites in the comments below.
A Quiet Night In (Series 1)
There’s nothing like an episode (almost) entirely free of dialogue to remind you of just how brilliant the writers are, and this was a prime example of just that.
A tale of two burglars silently attempting to steal a priceless painting (with a lovely nod to the Yasmina Reza play ‘Art’ neatly woven in), this episode is a personal favourite of mine for a couple of reasons.
Not only does it have you spellbound for the full 30-minute duration as you’re compelled to keep your eyes fixed to the screen, but it also aired at a time in my life when I was going through a particularly difficult period.
As it ended I distinctly remember realising that I’d had a full half an hour free of any of my worries – where I was solely focused on this story as it played out on the screen. It’s rare that a piece of TV has this effect, and for that I owe it a huge debt of gratitude.
Nana’s Party (Series 2)
I’ve always been most fascinated by drama that puts ordinary family life under the microscope, not least because it makes some of the most relatable TV.
Nana’s Party plays out like a Mike Leigh all wrapped up in a neat little package, with poignant moments of realism and just the right amount of comedy to balance out the tragedy. You can’t help feeling a warmth towards Pat as he misguidedly attempts one bad prank after the other to mask his own personal sadness and laughing out loud in shock as the ‘ambulance crew’ bursts in to save the day at the end after that shock affair is exposed.
It’s TV that I can watch repeatedly.
The 12 Days of Christine (Series 2)
It’s impossible to let a list of No. 9’s go by without a nod to the brilliance that is The 12 Days of Christine.
I’ve loved Sheridan Smith since the Two Pints days, and her turn here as Christine will leave you crying into the sofa cushions. It’s a gorgeous half hour of telly that perfectly encapsulates a young woman’s life from the first stages of a relationship, through to marriage and children, the realities of dealing with aging parents and – ultimately – how every moment in your life be it a high or a low holds value for your personal story.
An absolute must see.
Empty Orchestra (Series 3)
It’s already been acknowledged elsewhere that this is a rare moment when a No.9 ends on a happy high, and for this reason (and the fact that I couldn’t stop smiling after it aired), it makes my top five.
Set entirely in a karaoke booth for a staff leaving do, Empty Orchestra examines the sometimes-fraught relationships that play out at work, with bullying, affairs and staff politics all making their way into this well-crafted episode.
Watching it made me happy, and the cheaters getting their comeuppance in the form of being exposed to the unsuspecting girlfriend made the ending even more delightful. I also had Titanium stuck in my head for at least three days after viewing…
Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room (Series 4)
This is probably my favourite episode to date (but give it a week – Halloween’s a-coming).
In Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room we’re introduced to Cheese and Crackers – a variety act which has come a long way from the days of the interview sketch and ‘Brown Bottles’, to a point where one of the pair, Tommy ‘Thomas’, has well and truly moved on to pastures new (Angry Tomato being possibly the greatest marketing agency name of all time).
On the contrary, Len delights in reminiscing about the good old days, much to the irritation of Tommy who just wants to put it all behind him – with a most excellent Psychoville reference thrown in for good measure.
When the ending comes around you can’t help but be choked up by the obvious affection Tommy still holds for his long-lost comedy partner, and the closing number ‘Tears of Laughter’ – an original song created by Reece and Steve – leaves you with a warm feeling that they could so easily be singing about their real life partnership as long-term friends and collaborators.
Really moving TV that everyone should watch.
Note: Photograph of Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton by David Levene. All Inside No.9 images copyright of the BBC.