The most creative programme of our time is returning for it’s eighth series on Thursday 27th of April, so to celebrate it’s brilliance, I, a superfan, have been compelled to rank my favourite episodes.
First, let me give you a bit of background. Inside No.9 is a dark comedy anthology series that debuted in 2014 from creators, writers, and stars Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. The duo were already established comedy greats with their shows The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville, but in my humble opinion, Inside No.9 is their magnum opus. Every episode is a completely different genre, with a completely different cast, and a completely different story. How much work must that be?!?!?! But to make this job harder, there is always a shocking twist at the end of every episode, and then ANOTHER shocking twist!!!! This is why I love the show so much; it’s an absolute wild ride watching Inside No.9 and you can never predict anything!
*WARNING* I’ve tried my hardest to keep major spoilers to a minimum, but since there’s soooo many twists in this show there may be a few tiny spoilers! Sorry x
Here are my top ten episodes:
10. ‘Seance Time’
Series 2, Episode 6
‘Seance Time’ holds a very special place in my heart as it was the first episode of the show I saw after it was featured on an episode of Gogglebox. The episode starts with Tina (Sophie McShera) consulting the spirit world via medium, Alison Steadman. Terrifying jump scares take place which had me hiding under the pillow, but fear not, it’s all revealed to be a prank TV show! Or is it? Things start going wrong when Pemberton’s character accidentally brings up some past trauma… I love this episode because it lulls you into a false sense of safety, then makes you piss your pants (iykyk). It’s an example of brilliant writers being aware of how their audience will react and also, Alison Steadman is an icon!
9. ‘Nine Lives Kat’
Series 7, Episode 3
‘Nine Lives Kat’ is a classic No.9 episode; a spooky mind-bending psychological journey! There’s about one million twists in this episode which leads us to believe the story is about a tormented DI who’s been struck off the investigation of a missing boy. The writing in this episode begins to become cliche and cringey, making you think the episode has missed the mark. That is until we learn Kat isn’t real, and then you start questioning everything! If you’re a fan of authors and the writing process, or if you want your jaw dropped for 30 minutes, this is the episode for you! Also what a funny coincidence my ninth favourite episode of Inside No.9 is ‘Nine Lives Kat’!
8. ‘Last Night of The Proms’
Series 6, Episode 6
In all honesty, this episode is too clever for me and I don’t understand the symbolism of the big reveal. So why is it my favourite episode? Well, it’s the one that makes me laugh the most! (that is until the very chaotic and shocking ending) Shearsmith and Debra Gillett play a hilariously dysfunctional couple who’s marriage is falling apart, whilst Pemberton plays his classic loud mouthed hubby character (think Mick from Benidorm but posher!), and the struggling family dynamic makes way for lots of sex jokes. Despite my first statement, I did understand the political elements to this episode, which also makes me rank it highly.
7. ‘Tom and Gerri’
Series 1, Episode 3
According to The Insider’s Guide to Inside No.9, this was the first ever episode written! Again, it’s classic Inside No.9 that delves into the psyche. Shearsmith plays Tom, a frustrated primary school teacher who befriends Migg, a homeless man played by Pemberton. Tom’s girlfriend Gerri (Gemma Arteton) is upset by the presence of Migg in the flat, and too right gal because Migg starts ruining Tom’s life (or does he?) The twists in this episode are perfect, and it’s one you’re gonna want to watch multiple times to spot all the clues and to fully understand what is going on. Tbh, I always thought this was my favourite episode, so I’m shocked it’s ended up at no.7, but I guess that’s a testament to how good every single episode is!
6. ‘Hurry Up and Wait’
Series 6, Episode 4
Matt Lipsey is a long-time director for Pemberton and Shearsmith, and I had never really thought about how well the show is directed until Lipsey joined the duo on their podcast Inside Inside No.9. Generally, there are so many wonderful shots in the show, and the mise-en-scene is often a puzzle piece to the final reveal. This episode stars Adrian Dunbar as Adrian Dunbar, or perhaps a more ‘celebrity’ version of himself, and he is absolutely hilarious! I love a piece of fiction that plays around with reality! Actor James (Shearsmith) is waiting ‘backstage’ in a caravan owned by Oona and Stan (Pauline McLynn and Pemberton) but they are an odd couple whose stories don’t add up. This episode is exciting af, and will constantly keep you questioning who you can trust and what (or who) on earth the family is hiding in their static caravan!
5. ‘Death Be Not Proud’
Series 5, episode 2
Although it’s not a particularly happy episode (are any of them?!?!?), this is the one I put on when I need a laugh. Shearsmith and Pemberton’s much loved Psychoville mother-son duo, Maureen and David Sowerbutts, make a return. Since Maureen’s death, serial killer enthusiast David has moved on, but Maureen hasn’t and she’s still haunting their old flat, which is a problem for Jenna Coleman and Kadiff Kirwan as they try to get on the property ladder. The episode plays great attention to continuity of character and scene and blends comedy and horror perfectly. It’s also slightly sentimental through David’s retrospective narration and his recount of how much he loved his mother, despite her orders for him to chuck his child in a saucepan. The funniest part is when Maureen’s ghost appears and she tells David how much fun she’s having with all his favourite murderers in heaven. Gets me every time!
4. ‘Live: Dead Line’
Series 4, episode 7
What you have to understand when watching this episode is that it went out live. Viewers thought technical difficulties ruined the whole production and the episode had been scrapped mid-air. Suddenly, a frightening jump scare appears and you go ‘what the hell am I watching?!?!?’. This episode still works well now, but watching it live was a different story, as the audience fell into the palms of the duo’s hands, falling for every trick! ‘Dead Line’ is incredibly clever, and a great episode to watch to celebrate Halloween, and also if you’re a TV production nerd. Again, I love a show that plays around with reality, and this really was the biggest TV trick of the century!
3. ‘La Couchette’
Series 2, episode 1
This episode stars Jack Whitehall, which could absolutely be enough for most people to watch just based on that, however, if that’s not done it for you, it also stars familiar faces, Julie Hesomdhalgh and Mark Benton. They play a group of travellers on a sleeper train who have to put up with an intoxicated German who keeps farting and also a dead body, resulting in the Inside No.9 version of Murder on the Orient Express. The episode exposes the chaotic intimacy of a sleeper train, which doesn’t seem so sinister, and yet the writers still manage to create one of the creepiest episodes yet, again, sourcing material from the exploration of people’s minds. The big reveal in this one is so shocking, and that’s down to the writing again, which makes you fall for every trick!
2. ‘The 12 Days of Christine’
Series 2, episode 2
This episode is magnificent, and tends to be every No.9 fan’s favourite. It stars Sheridan Smith as the eponymous Christine who we watch fall in love, get married, have a child, grieve her father, and dress up as a witch for Halloween. If you’re looking for a funny episode, this isn’t the one for you, although Pemberton’s camp best friend character does lighten the mood sometimes. I can feel the lump in my throat form as I’m writing, just the meer thought of the final few scenes making me want to cry all over again. The writing and acting is so perfectly done that it leads you to think you’re simply watching a woman’s life fall apart, and then Sheridan Smith goes ‘Oh, I know what it is now’ and so do you and suddenly every symbol and sound and weird prop makes sense and you’ll just silently sob and think about it for the rest of your life. This episode is devastating, but so incredibly done.
1. ‘Cold Comfort’
Series 2, episode 4
This is the episode I use to introduce people to the series because it’s so creepy and mysterious, yet it’s also so funny! Andy, played by Pemberton, takes a job as a call handler for Comfort Support Line. He’s a nice guy and gets along well with his colleagues (including the comedic Jane Horrocks), but his patience gets tested once one of his callers starts stalking him and getting him to sing Take That’s ‘Shine’. It seems the mystery is who is Chloe and why does she keep calling Andy, but the ending will send shivers down your spine and make your toes curl up. Everything in this episode is phenomenally done, including the decision to make us watch everyone’s every move through the security cameras, which means you have to watch closely! This episode is so easy to watch but so hard to predict, and a classic mind-bender!
Shearsmith and Pemberton say the formula to writing every episode of Inside No.9 is to make the audience think they know what they’re watching, and then turn that on its head. They have created a genius catalogue of horrors, thrillers, comedies, and much more! You know what they say, expect the unexpected…
Inside No.9 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. You can watch the Series 8 trailer here: