INSIDE NO. 9, 4.3 – “Once Removed” (TV Review)

Image result for inside no 9 once removed

BBC Two – Tuesday 16th January 2018 – 10pm

Created and written by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

Directed by: Jim O’Hanlon



Christopher Nolan’s intricately-assembled head-scratcher Memento meets black British comedy in Inside No. 9‘s inventive latest instalment, a murder mystery which starts at the end and works backwards in chunks of ten minutes at a time. By the end start (?) of “Once Removed” the scenario is clearer, the loose ends tied up and nobody is quite who they first purported to be.

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INSIDE NO. 9, 4.2 – “Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room” (TV Review)

BBC Two – 10pm – Tuesday 9th January 2018

Created and written by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

Directed by: Graeme Harper



“You can’t have crackers without cheese!”

Thirty years after once-hot comedy double act Cheese & Crackers bowed out of the limelight at the “arse end of variety,” Len (Steve Pemberton) and Tommy Thomas (Reece Shearsmith) reunite for one final gig in front of an invited crowd, at the invitation of Len’s daughter (Sian Car Share Gibson). But whereas Len is desperate to recreate their glory days (and antiquated “racialist” sketches), Thomas has moved on. Now a hot-shot business owner in digital marketing, he is deeply embarrassed by his frivolous novelty past.

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INSIDE NO. 9, 4.1 – “Zanzibar” (TV Review)

BBC Two – 10pm – Tuesday 2nd January 2018

Created and written by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

Directed by: David Kerr



After arguably kicking off 2017’s festive television in the run-up to Christmas with a trio of celebratory “Anniversary Specials” marking 20 years of their surreal BBC breakthrough hit The League of Gentleman, two of the League return to bookend the yuletide schedules with the first episode in the fourth series of their wickedly macabre anthology series. All it would have taken was for Mark Gatiss’ Sherlock to have a New Year’s adventure as in years gone by, and it would have been nothing short of an outright TV takeover!!

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INSIDE NO. 9, 3.6 – “Private View” (TV Review)

BBC Two – Tuesday 21st March 2017 – 10pm

Created and written by: Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton

Directed by: Guillem Morales



Mastermind all-rounders Pemberton and Shearsmith bring this third batch of their comedy-horror anthology series to a fittingly glamourous close with this witty murder-mystery set in a modern art installation, featuring a remarkable all-star cast. While “Private View” doesn’t quite hit the exceptional highs of deceptively simple post-Christmas special kick-starter “The Bill”, it is the funniest, most audacious and grizzliest story yet.

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INSIDE NO. 9, 3.5 – “Diddle Diddle Dumpling” (TV Review)

BBC Two – Tuesday 14th March 2017 – 10pm

Created and written by: Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton

Directed by: Guillem Morales



“A pair of shoes deserve to be together… have to be… they belong.”

Jogging around the cul-de-sac one Spring morning, husband and father David (Shearsmith) comes across a single black leather shoe, a seemingly random find which turns his and his family’s world upside down. Over the course of the next year, David becomes first distracted then consumed by the mystery of his “odd” procurement: who did it belong to, why was it lost in such a precise location and how can he return it to its other half?

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INSIDE NO. 9, 3.4 – “Empty Orchestra” (TV Review)

Image result for inside no. 9 empty orchestra

BBC Two – Tuesday 7th March 2017 – 10pm

Created and written by: Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton

Directed by: Guillem Morales



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.

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Inside No. 9, 3.3 – “The Riddle of the Sphinx”

BBC Two – 28th February 2017 – 10pm

Created and written by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

Directed by: Guillem Morales



“Inform. Educate. Entertain”

Testament to the diversity Inside No. 9’s isolated anthology set-up allows, following last week’s (initially) light-hearted repartee and restaurant kerfuffle, “The Riddle of the Sphinx” presents itself from the off as a more antiquated and traditionally gothic beast, set within the rain-lashed study of Cambridge professor and Varsity crossword-compiler Dr. Nigel Squires (Pemberton), who receives an unexpected visitor in the form of Greggs employee Nina (Alexandra Roach).

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Inside No. 9, 3.2 – “The Bill” (TV Review)

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Craig (Philip Glenister), Archie (Reece Shearsmith), Anya (Ellie White), Malcolm (Steve Pemberton), Kevin (Jason Watkins). Copyright: BBC.

BBC Two – 22nd February 2017 – 10pm

Created and written by: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

Directed by: Guillem Morales



It doesn’t feel like five minutes since I was sitting in the glow of the fairy lights, sipping on eggnog while watching festive special “The Devil of Christmas,” a Krampus-flavoured twist on rose-tinted TV nostalgia and dodgy DVD commentaries. It was a story I admired in concept more than I enjoyed its execution. Skip forward almost two months and Psychoville alumni Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are back with a further five episodes of their hit comedy-horror anthology series set inside widely disparate locations with just the door number in common.

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UPSTART CROW, 1.1 – “Star Crossed Lovers” (TV Review)

Upstart Crow. Will Shakespeare (David Mitchell). Copyright: BBC.BBC Two – 10pm – Monday 9th May 2016
Written by: Ben Elton
Directed by: Matt Lipsey



Comic legend Ben Elton returns to familiar ground with this six part historical sitcom set in Tudor times. Horrible Histories’ Bill meets Blackadder in this farcical and fictionalised look at what “really” inspired William Shakespeare’s most renowned works, broadcast to celebrate what would have been the Bard’s 400th birthday.

In Monday’s opening episode, it is 1592 and rising playwright Bill (Peep Show’s David Mitchell) has had some stage success with his royal dramas (the Henrys), but is struggling to branch out into romance with his first draft of Romeo & Julian (“it’s a working title”) lacking a potent conclusion.

When his rival, “Master of Revels” Robert Green (Friday Night Dinner’s Mark Heap) demands our writerly protagonist babysit his lovelorn student nephew Florian (Kieran Hodgson) or have his play licence revoked, Bill has no option but to reluctantly agree. Will young toff Florian’s randy ways prove Bill’s undoing, or just the muse he requires to complete his unfinished work?

Upstart Crow. Image shows from L to R: Kempe (Spencer Jones), Bottom (Rob Rouse), Florian (Kieran Hodgson), Burbage (Steve Speirs), Condell (Dominic Coleman). Copyright: BBC.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience with some rather intrusive laughter signposting the punchlines, Upstart Crow is a tonally multifarious beast which takes its time to settle into a comfortable rhythm. The stagey, claustrophobic sets and high gag rate recall the hit BBC sitcoms of yesteryear, however these historical characters are gifted very modern, agitated demeanours – promoting female equality and moaning about the cheapness of knock-off brands, for instance – even when speaking in their olde worlde tongue.

“Bechambered hugger-tugger”

This is undoubtedly to make what many today believe to be highfalutin English literature palatable for a less-inclined twenty-first century audience (many jokes are made from Bill’s family failing to get the gist of his “flowery” dialogue without “lengthy explanation and copious footnotes”), but a couple of lazy anachronisms (“Master Bater”, “wankington”) sneak in simply because they raise an impish titter – as does the word “roistering” which is the only blatant case of Blackadder recycling (even if the plot veers close when a corpse is involved).

Bill strongly believes that “theatre should be challenging,” which makes Upstart Crow’s occasional reliance upon cheap laughs (“strum my lute”) all the more obvious. Thankfully in a script as replete with materials as this, a couple of awkward and cringey duds can be forgiven, as can its tongue-in-cheek potshots at its iconic source material (126 sonnets being written from Bill to a young boy… “it was platonic!”).

The bulk of the action is set in Bill’s London digs with chambermaid Kate (Gemma Whelan) and illiterate Baldrick-alike dogsbody Bottom (Rob Rouse) often unknowingly providing the Bard with vital plot assistance. But “Star Crossed Lovers” is framed by scenes set in Bill’s Stratford-upon-Avon homestead. The calibre of the actors in these brief bookends (Harry Enfield, Paula Wilcox, Liza Tarbuck) implies that their roles will be expanded in later episodes – and on the merits of this scene-establishing debut I’m willing to return next week to see if that is the case.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars