‘Inside No.9’ Is Back

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, two of four of The League of Gentlemen, have returned for a third season of black comedy Inside No.9. The series takes inspiration from series like Tales of The Unexpected, and each stand-alone episode takes place in a single setting and has some macabre subtext. To paraphrase a description from an interview with the duo in The Guardian, it’s a comedy which doesn’t try very hard to be funny.

Of all of the past ventures of Pemberton and Shearsmith, it is the only one for which this could be said. Both League of Gentlemen and their past solo undertaking Psychoville (although perhaps to a lesser extent) were heavily underpinned by the laughs they brought, and this is not a crutch present in Inside No.9. Instead, we see a stripped back older brother of those mentioned, a dark burst of drama and carefully woven plot lines. Each episode is like a bite size piece of first class story telling, with subtle touches that work to enormous effect. They are either small, genius pieces of comedy, or some grim details in the acting that are not easily forgotten. Pemberton is consistently a skin-crawlingly creepy character, the reason for which I expect is how well he carries the roles. Shearsmith tends towards the more extreme and slightly ridiculous characters (although more often than not this can be said for all of them), and both have a brilliant flexibility and something about them with makes them endlessly watchable.

Season three so far (we are only two episodes in) has been much to the same high standard as the past couple of series, and noticeably more star-studded. The Christmas special (which features no less than Derek Jacobi) was something of a feat in my view, and demonstrated perfectly the pair’s deep understanding for the medium and genre, as well as their startling attention to detail. Each episode seems spectacularly lavish despite their simple, single sets. The formula works, and works superbly. It’s always a treat, and season three so far promises not to disappoint.