A Quiet Night In
Tom & Gerri
Anthology series are a tricky thing to get right. With a broad range of subjects and issues tackled, each of the more prolific efforts in this genre usually have something in common. Whether it be The Twilight Zone’s quirky style or Black Mirror‘s intense focus on technology, the genre is chock full of interesting and varied efforts. Inside No. 9 is the latest effort from the BBC in this category, carving itself a slice of the pie and serving up a mix of dark comedy and surprise twists.
Much like Room 104, Inside No. 9 takes place in a single room or, in this case, a house or room numbered 9. From here, each of the six tales showcased spin a mix of dark comedy with a cohesive, well written tale where the characters take centre stage. What’s particularly interesting here though is the way each of these six tales unfold, most of which ending with a final twist in the tale.
The first story, Sardines, predominantly takes place inside a claustrophobic wardrobe, building an otherwise mundane episode into something quite surprising. The Harrowing takes a stab at the horror genre whilst Tom & Gerri has a particularly nice little twist at the end. Last Gasp plays out as a parodical view on celebrities whilst The Understudy is a view on fame and the price of success. The best episode by far though is A Quiet Night In. This gorgeously shot episode utilizes music and silence to showcase a unique story about two burglars with minimal spoken dialogue throughout. It’s a really stylish and cleverly written episode too and one that certainly elevates the series as a whole.
While Inside No. 9 presents itself as a dark comedy, there aren’t all that many laugh out loud moments. Some of the jokes are quite shocking and the various jibes at society play out closer to amusing anecdotes rather than slapstick segments. Still, where the series excels is in its unpredictability and trying to guess where the story is likely to go next. While the ending to The Harrowing feels a little anticlimactic, Tom & Gerri’s is much more hard-hitting and shocking. It’s this mixed bag of shocks and surprises that keep the series as endearing and watchable as it is.
At 30 minutes a pop and six episodes in total for the first season, Inside No. 9 is a very easy show to pick up and watch. The series does work better watching individual episodes rather than as a binge session, given the nature of the endings, but there’s enough variety here to prevent things from becoming too predictable.
Along with both Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton showing up as recurring characters, the first season features some pretty recognisable faces from the British television scene. Gemma Arterton and Katherine Parkinson both crop up here along with plenty of supporting British actors for good measure. As a showcase of acting prowess, Inside No. 9 keeps the drama and acting centre focus and it really helps the various characters stand out.
Stylistically, the show does well to differentiate itself from other anthology series and while it may not have the same slick cinematography as Black Mirror, it does well to showcase a more simplistic, character-driven portrayal of its stories instead. While there are better anthologies out there, Inside No. 9 is a good effort and with plenty more seasons to get through, there’s plenty of time to polish this one into an excellent offering from the BBC.