BBC Two – Tuesday 7th March 2017 – 10pm
Created and written by: Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton
Directed by: Guillem Morales
KOLLEGUE KARAOKE KHAOS
Billed as a dark comedy and at its best when subverting our expectations, there is never a guarantee that each individual instalment of anthology series Inside No. 9 will be out-and-out horror. So far in this third run we’ve had festive snuff victims (“The Devil of Christmas”), throat-slashing con artists (“The Bill”) and an ingeniously intricate double death revenge scheme (“The Riddle of the Sphinx”). In comparison, this week’s colleague backbiting in a cramped karaoke pod feels somewhat… tame. This is the closest to a straight-laced drama the series has ever veered.
Roger (Steve Pemberton) has been promoted to the “sixth floor” and to celebrate him and his team are spending an hour drinking, dancing and murdering popular pop songs while dressed up as famous singers (Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Boy George, Britney Spears and… “Gangnam Style”!). But tension is high amongst the frayed workforce with lay-offs imminent. Roger could give any one of the group their P60 at any time… and their boss doesn’t exactly seem in any mood to party.
The complicated relationships and shouted-over-the-music interactions between the office workers are impeccably set up, with juicy details dribbling out over the 30 minute episode and things are often poised on a knife-edge. Deaf admin colleague Janet (Emily Howlett) has her eye on sociable funster Duane (Javone Prince), but bitchy and resentful Connie (Tamzin Outhwaite) has no qualms with orchestrating the awkward union, all in the name of mean-spirited ‘fun’. Connie is certainly no angel, sleeping with sumo-suited Greg (Reece Shearsmith) while still pally with his unsuspecting partner, Fran (Sarah Hadland).
Horrible people embarrassing their nicer colleagues is “Empty Orchestra” in a nutshell. But even when the mic is metaphorically dropped and the shit really hits the fan, the conclusive twist is more redemptive and less sinister than ever before. It’s not a bad half hour of grounded people watching and it does end on a high, but aside from the whacky locale and crazy costumes, it’s far from a memorable episode, lacking a killer concept.
CR@B’s Claw Score: