Inside No. 9: A Farewell to One of Britain’s Most Innovative TV Shows

The ninth and final season of Inside No. 9 will soon come to an end and one of the most brilliant and innovative shows of recent years will be over. Inside No. 9 is the creation of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith and has featured an assortment of the best British actors working today.

Inside No. 9, BBC
Episodes come with highly stylised posters // Credit: Inside No. 9, BBC

Inside No. 9 is an anthology horror-comedy show. Each episode is a self-contained story with the loose premise that it takes place “inside number 9” and over the seasons this has included houses, train carriages and even a pedalo. The episodes range from silly comedy to genuine horror – with the action being down to supernatural creatures, everyday terrible people or just breached social conventions.

Pemberton & Shearsmith

The was created by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, long-time collaborators who had previously worked together on The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville. It would be fair to say that their comedic taste runs to the dark, the weird and the twisted. The League of Gentleman featured a pair of shopkeepers who would regularly murder people for not being local, Psychoville a librarian who saw an imaginary singing person while he terrorised a family over an overdue library book. The anthology format of Inside No. 9 allows them to explore many different themes and tones and whether an episode will be funny, scary or both is unknown.

Pemberton and Shearsmith typically appear in the episodes but they have brought together a dazzling array of talent over the nine seasons. They have had Derek Jacobi playing a dying lawyer regretting a deal he made sometime ago, David Morrissey playing an incredibly committed football referee, Jane Horrocks as a volunteer in a crisis helpline, and Keeley Hawes as a woman dealing with her husband’s obsession over a lost shoe.

Stand Out Episodes

 Inside No. 9, BBC
The brilliant episode The Riddle of the Sphinx // Credit: Inside No. 9, BBC

Reece Shearsmith has been quite public with his feelings when people have ranked the episodes or discussed which ones are better than others…but there is probably a clear fan favourite episode The 12 Days Of Christine, a heart-breaking episode with a fantastic twist, but there are many other brilliant ones. Shows doing “gimmick” episodes like musical episodes or silent episodes run the risk of it feeling like they’ve ran out of ideas, so Inside No. 9 making their second episode have no dialogue was quite a gamble but it is one of their best episodes. The crossword-based Riddle of the Sphinx is a very clever and twisty episode of puzzles, revenge and betrayal and also teaches you how to do a cryptic crossword. The Bill is an almost real-time episode of an argument of who will pay for the bill in a restaurant with the characters resorting to all manner of dirty tactics to claim the honour of paying for the meal. This final season has already at least one stand-out episode “Boo To A Goose” set almost entirely on a train carriage.

A Quiet Night In //credit: Inside No. 9, BBC

The show is sometimes described as hit and miss but this is in the nature of a wide-ranging anthology format show where the creators are trying to be original; some episodes will resonate more than others. You don’t get great episodes without the opportunity to risk making ones that aren’t as popular. All nine seasons are now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.