Inside No 9: dark, funny and totally riveting – this is the best comedy the UK has ever created

Oh, so weird. I thought they were meant to be more careful with these. Anyway I’ve been given a leaked script from the new – and final – series of Inside No 9 (8 May, 10pm, BBC Two), so I suppose it is my duty as a journalist to publicly leak it. Shame to spoil the series but that is part of the job. I take no pleasure in reporting this.

STEVE PEMBERTON DRESSED AS A WOMAN: Ooh, are we doing a growing sense of horror in this one or a ludicrous farce? Oooooh!

REECE SHEARSMITH AS A HARRIED NERD (HOLDING THE BRIDGE OF HIS NOSE): Yes yes, all right, we get it! It’s either one or the other! Either that or a sort of puzzle piece that you only need to watch once because once the twist has been revealed it’s unrewatchable! Thank you!

REECE SHEARSMITH CAMP CHARACTER NO 1: Could we do one where the dialogue is too theatrical? I like them ones.

STEVE PEMBERTON AS A SNEERING PROFESSOR: Catch the cat once / Shame about the ghost / Catch the cat twice / A goat’s half the price.

REECE SHEARSMITH CAMP CHARACTER NO 1: Summat like that.

STEVE PEMBERTON JUST BEING NORMAL: Well then! Are we doing any TV previewing then or? Are we just going to do whatever this is?

REECE SHEARSMITH WITH THE WIG AND AFFECT OF A DEEPLY IRRITATING GUARDIAN WRITER: Well I suppose what Inside No 9 will be remembered for is being some of the most interesting and genre- and format-pushing television this country has ever produced, to a truly remarkable level, and it’s surprising America hasn’t tried to copy it very badly even once. In a few years’ time, once the dust settles on and we’ve had time to have critical hindsight on it, we’ll collectively be astonished it ever got made, especially in this volume. This is the exact kind of good TV they cancel after two perfect series and you can only find on DVD for some reason, but somehow Inside No 9 kept wriggling away from Britain’s “kill all interesting television” golden edict, being darkly funny, endlessly inventive and often riveting, and by the end of this run we’ll have 54-odd episodes of it. But I suppose the question in all that is: really, by the end, how many episodes of that were good?

ELITE BRITISH ACTOR WHO IS DOING THIS BECAUSE THEY LOVE THE SHOW BUT THEIR PART ISN’T ACTUALLY VERY GOOD: Erm, sorry: is someone going to make a wild accusation at some point?

STEVE PEMBERTON DRESSED AS A WOMAN: It’ll either be a wild accusation, luv, or a sudden knock at the door.

REECE SHEARSMITH IN A REALLY THICK PAIR OF GLASSES: Hello! Can you let me in? It’s raining!

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AN ORNAMENTAL HARE: It’s easy to point to the good episodes of Inside No 9 – A Quiet Night In, the silent burglar farce, was the point where everyone stood up and took notice of the series. And obviously Sheridan Smith’s turn in The 12 Days of Christine was some of the best minutes of television this country has ever made. Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room, The Bill, The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge and To Have and to Hold were all personal favourites of mine, and episodes such as 3 By 3 (the Lee Mack-hosted quizshow) and Dead Line (the audacious and truly chilling live Halloween special) pushed TV into a place that, simply, it had never been to before. The critic in me …

REECE SHEARSMITH AS A VICIOUS NORTHERN WOMAN: Ooh, here we go!

REECE SHEARSMITH AS AN IRRITATING GUARDIAN WRITER, AFTER A SMALL STATIC SOUND: … As I was saying, the critic in me thinks that some later episodes started to clunk: they were reaching too far for a twist, they were leaning too hard on the genre-of-the-week, they were made in Covid. But after watching this week’s episode (absolutely no spoilers beyond this: it features Mark Bonnar, Susan Wokoma, Siobhan Finneran and Charlie Cooper, and does something memorable that no other show could do) and going back to rewatch a couple of classics, I think that’s the point: it’s hard to think of a series with the ambition of Inside No 9, and to get to its heady heights it sometimes had to do the thinking-out-loud of, say, broadcasting the episode about karaoke. Or all of season seven.

REECE SHEARSMITH AS A VICIOUS NORTHERN WOMAN: Ohh, will someone just kill him and get it over with!

ME, DOING A SMUG REVEAL THAT DOESN’T QUITE MAKE SENSE BUT REDDIT WILL LIKE IT: Well that’s the very thing, isn’t it. I was dead all along and you didn’t notice. Or you were dead all along. Something like that. Someone was dead or someone’s locked in a cage or something. Anyway, whatever, roll the credits …

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