For the first time in 25 episodes, Inside No. 9 went live. Did Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton pull it off, or was it an unmitigated disaster?

It all began exactly as we expected. The Inside No. 9 titles rolled and this episode’s main character, Arthur Flitwick (played by Pemberton), shuffled slowly into his home. Naturally, he lived at flat number 9. We discover he’s found an old mobile phone in a graveyard, and he’s attempting to find out who it belongs to. Cue some predictable humour with guest star Stephanie Cole on the other end of the line. So far, so good. It was a gentle start, but one with plenty of promise for a spooky Halloween special.

Shearsmith’s character proceeded to enter and… well, that’s about as far as we can go with this review, actually.

For now, at least.

Inside No 9 - Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
Inside No 9 – Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

In order to continue, we must first refer back to our original question. Was this live episode of Inside No. 9 a success, or was it a disaster? The answer to that question is decidedly less simple than it sounds. So much so, in fact, that we’ve divided this review into three separate, smaller reviews:

  • If you didn’t watch Inside No. 9 when it broadcast live at 10pm on Sunday 28th October, please proceed to Review A.
  • If you started watching Inside No. 9 at 10pm on Sunday 28th October but changed channels halfway through, please proceed to Review B.
  • If you continued watching BBC Two until 10:30pm on Sunday 28th October, please proceed to Review C.

Be honest, now. You’re only fooling yourself otherwise…

PLEASE PROCEED TO YOUR DESIGNATED REVIEW NOW.

WE WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU.

Inside No 9 - Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON), Moira O'Keefe (STEPHANIE COLE), Reverend Neil (REECE SHEARSMITH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
Inside No 9 – Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON), Moira O’Keefe (STEPHANIE COLE), Reverend Neil (REECE SHEARSMITH) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

Review A

So. You didn’t watch Inside No. 9 as it was broadcast live on BBC Two.

To put it bluntly: YOU MISSED OUT. Sorry, but it’s true. You simply had to be there. Watch it on catch-up all you like. It just isn’t going to be the same.

END OF REVIEW. PLEASE LEAVE THE SITE IMMEDIATELY.

Inside No 9: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith - (C) BBC - Photographer: Richard Ansett
Inside No 9: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith – (C) BBC – Photographer: Richard Ansett

Review B

So. You started watching Inside No. 9 as it was broadcast live on BBC Two. But then you decided to switch off, presumably because of the technical difficulties.

Oh god, wasn’t it awful?! It was such a shame to see all of Reece and Steve’s hard work come crumbling down on them on the night. It all started off so well for them, too! At first we thought it was just our TV playing up when the sound started to cut out. But then our hearts collectively sank when the continuity announcer confirmed they were having some behind-the-scenes issues. Brief glimmers of hope passed by as the episode flickered back into life, but it wasn’t long until our worst nightmares were realised. After all the build-up and excitement, Inside No. 9 had gone wrong. Officially cancelled until a later date! Oh, why did they decide to do it live…?

At least we got a repeat of Series 1 Episode 2, A Quiet Night In.

END OF REVIEW. PLEASE LEAVE THE SITE IMMEDIATELY.

Inside No 9 Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
Inside No 9 Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

Review C

THIS IS A HIGHLY CRITICAL SPOILER WARNING.

THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

(OH, WHO ARE WE KIDDING. IT’S TOO LATE FOR YOU ANYWAY.)

So. Despite the technical difficulties and unfortunate cancellation of the programme, you decided to leave BBC Two on and sit through the repeat of A Quiet Night In.

You chose well.

Inside No 9 - Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
Inside No 9 – Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith – (C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

What else is there to say, except: OH. MY. GOD?!

Reece and Steve, you got us good and proper. Just as we were about to accept the fact that everything had gone wrong… it went even more wrong! Not even the repeat was safe from the gremlins and it cut out entirely. (Turns out, if you go back and watch it again, it wasn’t quite as you remember it anyway…). The continuity announcer then kicked back in, accompanied by a sinister echo and attacked by an unseen force on the other side of the screen. This couldn’t have all been part of the show… could it?

And then things really did go live. The hilariously meta bickering and camera feed in the dressing room. The sheer thrill of seeing Reece’s tweet pop up on Twitter in real time. The sudden realisation that the seeds for this surprise had been planted weeks, if not months in advance. Absolutely anything was possible now. Inside No. 9 had defied all expectations and trapped the audience in its web. The fourth wall had been well and truly smashed, and we were left at the mercy of the horror, as much as the actors were on screen.

Our only complaint? Once the rollercoaster ride of errors and emotions was over, the clock was quickly running down. This was such a powerful set-up with such infinite potential, the ‘story’ just didn’t have time to properly stick the landing at the end. We could have happily (well, from behind the sofa) watched an entire hour of this mind-boggling, crazy whirlwind. But that’s such a minor, insignificant nitpick in what was otherwise a genius moment of television. This was a pinnacle of broadcasting that can never be repeated, and could only have come from the twisted brains of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Bravo to all involved for being so brave, so bold, and so utterly, undisputedly brilliant.

When it was originally announced that the Inside No. 9 Halloween special was going to be live, we thought: really? We love the show, but… why does it need to be live?

Now we know why it had to be live. Now we know.

Inside No 9 - Reverend Neil (REECE SHEARSMITH), Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian
Inside No 9 – Reverend Neil (REECE SHEARSMITH), Arthur Flitwick (STEVE PEMBERTON) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

Inside No. 9 returns to BBC Two next year for a fifth series.

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