TV Editor Morgana Chess praises Fleabag's astounding comedic genius and ability to frankly and honestly depict millennial lifeWritten by Morgana Chess on 18th May 2019
Review: Inside No. 9 Live
Deputy Editor Kat Smith discusses how Inside No. 9 successfully managed to pull off the biggest live TV prank of the year
With four series under its belt, Inside No. 9 had already made its name as an anthology series comparable to the mastery of Black Mirror, with creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith firmly established as connoisseurs of the unexpected.
But following the live Halloween special on Sunday night, the duo shocked even the most seasoned watchers. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must. Stop reading and watch it. With writers, producers and actors alike failing to miss a single beat, the episode was terrifying, exciting but above all, ridiculously clever.
With vast advertising in the days preceding it, viewers were led to believe that Pemberton and Shearsmith were to perform an episode live, where the set-up felt like we were the audience of a sitcom. I wasn’t entirely convinced by a live episode, assuming it would merely diminish the quality of the filming and acting. I was even worried there’d be the occasional fake laugh coming from an overly-enthusiastic member audience (there wasn’t).
“I should have known that I was being entirely naïve to what was to come
As noted in the promotion for the episode, it all started with a phone being found in a graveyard. Admittedly this was a suspiciously clichéd premise for such ingenious creators and although doubt crossed my mind, I didn’t give it too much thought. The characters felt familiar to the usual personalities found in Inside No. 9 even if the darkness came a little earlier than is normal for a show that seeks to shock. Suggestions of ghosts were interjected, but for the most part the episode felt like it was following a similar vibe to previous episodes of the show. I should have known that I was being entirely naïve to what was to come.
After cutting to a scene where the duo’s characters meet and speak about the owner of the phone, the sound began cutting out. I was worried it was just my laptop, switching browser and refreshing to see if the sound came back, but there was nothing. A continuity announcement apologised for the ‘technical difficulties’ and after these failed to be resolved, nine minutes in we were offered a re-run of ‘A Quiet Night In’. But this is where things started to get weird. The final shots shown of the episode gave us a glimpse of a terrifying ghost edited into the background, and this is when I started watching the remainder of the episode through split fingers.
Flitting erratically between the ‘rehearsal’ for the live show, ‘behind the scenes’ of the live show itself and old episodes of Most Haunted and other vintage BBC clips, the viewer was enlightened to the many layers of this grand plot. As the episode progressed we learned that Granada Studios, where they were supposedly filming the live special, was built on a Victorian mass grave and reports of hauntings were abundant. Throughout the remainder of the half-hour episode, it was jump scares galore, with all I knew being was something bad was going to happen. Finally, each cast member was ‘killed off’ after super-natural happenings plagued the studio and we were given glimpse upon glimpse of Victorian ghost. It’s safe to say, I wasn’t sleeping well that night.
“The show escaped the boundaries of the TV screen with Shearsmith not having tweeted since, continuing the games
In a generation of TV where so much is seen on catch-up or on streaming websites, Inside No. 9 Live made spectacular use of the traditional format. When you can’t skip forward to see what happens next when your curiousity gets the better of you, or Google what happens next, there was a definite sense of exhilaration that electrified the story even further. That being said, I’m confident it is still a stunning watch even if you know the twists and the shock-factor is diminished. It’ll still make you jump out of your seat and spend the next hour scrolling through Twitter for everyone’s insights. The prank was even set up on The One Show, where Pemberton and Shearsmith laughed off questions over their belief in ghosts. It was all very surreal as the show escaped the boundaries of the TV screen with Shearsmith not having tweeted since, continuing the games.
Carefully crafted and perfectly executed, there’s no doubt Inside No. 9 pulled off the TV event of the year. Sure, you may have to sleep with one eye open for a few days, but it’s a small price to pay for a stunning experience.