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“We never want to be formulaic”

“We never want to be formulaic”

With the darkly comic anthology series Inside No. 9 returning to BBC Two, we chat exclusively to co-creator Reece Shearsmith

Expect even more grim laughs as Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton present six devilish new stories…

Inside No. 9, Monday 3 February, 9pm, BBC Two HD (CH 102). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer

Since it first aired in 2014, Inside No. 9 has made horror-laced comedy its unmistakable calling card. These precision-engineered masterclasses in the macabre don’t do things by halves. Whether they’re making you howl with laughter, scream in terror, or reel after an emotional gut punch, episodes often linger in the memory.


Now it’s back for a fifth series and creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are ready to bring you even more of these addictively twisted tales. Starring in these six new episodes will be such stars as Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who), Maxine Peake (Silk), David Morrissey (Britannia), Phil Davis (Whitechapel), plus many more familiar faces besides. Don’t expect things to end well for any of them.

The new series kicks off with the episode “The Referee’s A W****r”, which finds a football referee (David Morrissey) and his assistants (Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Death In Paradise’s Ralf Little) caught between a rock and a hard place when they officiate a vital match at the end of the season.


Here, we chat exclusively to the show’s co-creator Reece Shearsmith about reaching a fifth series, collaborating with Steve Pemberton, guest stars and more…


9 of the best from Inside No. 9

Inside No. 9 has given viewers plenty of moments they’re unlikely to forget in a hurry, but what are the show’s best episodes? Here, we take a look at nine classic instalments…


A Quiet Night In (series 1)

Almost completely without dialogue, this madcap episode is heavy on the slapstick – and all the better for it. A pair of not-so-clever cat burglars attempt to rob an unusual painting from a large house in the middle of nowhere. The owners, however, are home and repeatedly scupper their chances of running off with the loot.


The Harrowing (series 1)

A young girl is employed to housesit for eccentric siblings Hector (Shearsmith) and Tabitha (Helen McCrory). Their disabled brother, Andras, remains upstairs, but the girl is told not to go up there. When she eventually does, she really wishes she hadn’t. There are plenty of laughs to be had here, but it’s the disturbing ending that’ll stay with you.


The 12 Days Of Christine (series 2)

Sheridan Smith shines in one of the show’s more experimental episodes, yet despite playing around with the idea of time and its passing, it’s also one of the most poignant instalments. As we glimpse key moments in the life of the increasingly confused Christine, is everything what it seems? Of course not.


Cold Comfort (series 2)

More invention from Shearsmith and Pemberton, this time using fixed-camera footage to tell the story of Andy, a volunteer at a crisis hotline. His first day on the job isn’t without incident, though it soon becomes apparent that a tormentor is in his midst in this claustrophobic thriller.


The Devil Of Christmas (series 3)

At first, this special festive episode about a family being terrorised by a monster in an alpine ski lodge is a witty (if not particularly scary) homage to the schlocky TV horrors from the 1970s that Shearsmith and Pemberton so love. Then the whole thing totally flips on its head with a truly horrific twist ending.


The Riddle Of The Sphinx (series 3)

Love cryptic crosswords? Then you’ll love this unashamedly clever instalment. Set in the hallowed chambers of Cambridge University, Nina (Alexandra Roach) calls on professor Squires (Pemberton) to help her with a crossword in the university newspaper. He’s more than willing to help, but is there another reason why she’s there?


Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room (series 4)

No horror here, just an incredibly touching study of the friendship between a former comedy double act. Cheese (Shearsmith) and Crackers (Pemberton) reunite after 30 years apart to prepare for a special performance. When old wounds are opened, however, the show is plunged into doubt. Hankies at the ready.


To Have And To Hold (series 4)

Frustrated by his marriage and finding himself in a rut, a wedding photographer (Pemberton) is revealed to be a hiding terrible secret within the confines of his own home. You won’t look at instant noodles in the same way ever again.


Dead Line (Halloween special)

A show within a show, this disorientating 2018 Halloween special has no shortage of shocks. In that classic Inside No. 9 way it leads you into thinking it’s one thing before tightening its icy grip around your neck. Sure, this kind of thing had been done before with the groundbreaking Ghostwatch, but that doesn’t mean this nasty little episode is lacking in fresh terror.


When is Inside No. 9 on TV?

The new series of Inside No. 9 starts at 9pm on Monday 3 February on BBC Two HD (CH 102). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer

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Image credits: Inside No. 9 © BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian