Many of us are still in mourning after finishing the latest season of Charlie Brooker’s incredible Black Mirror. This groundbreaking Netflix series – for those of you who don’t know – is renowned for its dark twists and incredible stories that are all completely detached from one another, creating a short film of sorts for each episode. I am here to inform you of a series that has a very similar format and same level of pure genius as Brooker’s masterpiece, though appears to be somewhat unheard of amongst the younger generation.
BBC’s Inside no. 9 is a series brought to you by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, the creators of Psychoville and The League of Gentlemen. Its main premise and greatest similarity it shares with Black Mirror is the fact that each episode bears no correlation to one another, minus the setting typically being associated with the number nine (number nine flat, number nine booth in a call centre, etc…), and the occasional easter egg. This distinct lack of continuity between each episode guarantees that there is always going to be at least one to cater for everybody’s taste in television. In addition to this, Pemberton and Shearsmith, along with being the creators of the series, both act in all of the episodes, playing different characters in each one. This repetition of familiar faces certainly adds an element of uncanniness to the series, emphasising the feeling of deja vu and thus enhancing the overall darkness of the stories.
Unlike Black Mirror, where there is always an underlying theme of the planet spiraling into a bleak dystopian world, Inside No. 9 has no predictability whatsoever in terms of narrative. Some episodes take place in a set location such as a typical London flat, whilst another takes place in the wardrobe of a stately home. There is no guessing and this adds to the beauty of the twists and turns Pemberton and Shearsmith manage to perfectly execute. On top of this the inclusion of guest stars constantly popping up in individual episodes certainly reminds the viewer of the shows underlying British tone, which makes the whole show seem all the more authentic.
This series is advertised as a dark comedy, a genre that not many are familiar with. With this turn of phrase in mind one could link it with the notion of slapstick jokes about dark subject matters such as racism, sexism, or death. This is certainly not the case here. Each episode is entirely unique, with small inserts of comedic acting, the episodes focus on different conflicts, each tending to result in a gruesome or shocking conclusion, emphasizing the ‘dark’ part of the comedy side.
The sheer variety of episodes and stories in Inside No. 9 makes me urge you watch an entire series to gather which episodes are for you or not. Similarly to Black Mirror there will be the occasional episode that doesn’t suit you, but the series is too good to give it a miss from the dislike of merely one or two episodes. Due to the beauty of there being no chronological order for each of the episodes you can pick and choose which ones to watch first. For a more spooky viewing I would suggest watching the ‘The Harrowing’, ‘Private View’ or ‘Tempting Fate’. For a less obvious scare perhaps ‘Sardines’, ‘Cold Comfort’ or ‘To Have and To Hold’. And finally for the most creatively put together and original screenplays I recommend ‘Twelve Days of Christine’ and ‘A Quiet Night In’.
Series 1 and 2 of Inside No. 9 are available on Netflix.