Inside No 9 is a new crown jewel of comedy

Wednesday:Inside No 9; (BBC Two, 10pm)

Donna, Darren, Callum and Lawrence
Donna, Darren, Callum and Lawrence

Are Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith the most inventive writers working in British TV at the moment?

Probably. In fact, they may be the most inventive working anywhere in the world.

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While that might seem like an exaggerated, overblown statement to make, who else has spent the past eight years devising 37 fiendishly twisty-turny dark, comedic and sometimes moving standalone tales for our entertainment? We’re guessing very few, if any.

Now the League of Gentlemen members are back with another half dozen stories as the seventh series begins. No doubt they’ll go down a treat with viewers while Pemberton and Shearsmith can look forward to more plaudits when next year’s awards season begins – perhaps it will be the latter’s turn to win a Bafta for Best Male Comedy Performance following his friend’s success in 2019.

So what it is that makes Inside No 9 so special? Well, it’s spooky, scary, disturbing and very, very funny. It can be the stuff that nightmares are made of, but can also leave you in hysterics – of the amusing kind rather than the ‘off-your-rocker’ type.

Pemberton himself describes it as like “a big box of chocolates that you’ve got to rummage around in, and you may love them all, but you might be aware that one of them has a drawing pin in…

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“It doesn’t fit into any particular genre or any particular characterisation – we think that makes for a richer viewing experience.”

Its scripts are brilliantly conceived vignettes with not a line, look or gesture misplaced – and that’s why such fine actors as Fiona Shaw, Keeley Hawes, Helen McCrory, David Warner, Derek Jacobi, Monica Dolan, Maxine Peake and Paterson Joseph have been keen to appear.

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This time, Daniel Mays, Jason Isaacs, Sophie Okonedo and Jessica Hynes are among the guest stars, while the first episode features someone the show’s creators are very familiar with – their old friend and League of Gents colleague Mark Gatiss. Diane Morgan is also in the cast.

Pemberton claims that the less we know about individual episodes the better, so don’t expect any in-depth synopses, but what we do know about the opener is that it takes place on a boat, the setting for a university reunion party.

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Lawrence, Darren and Callum (no prizes for guessing who play the trio) are looking forward to a catch-up, but head for troubled waters during a fraught journey across a lake.

“We hope you’ll join us and another incredible cast of actors for more surprises that will make your jaws drop and spines tingle,” say Pemberton and Shearsmith. “Heads might even roll, and if not heads, definitely eyes.”

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“It’s a joy to be back in the Inside No 9 saddle,” claims Josh Cole, head of comedy, BBC Studios Production. “Reece and Steve are comic masters, and their new scripts are better than ever.”

Gregor Sharp, commissioning editor at the BBC, agrees: “Inside No 9 is a crown jewel of comedy and we can’t wait to see what twisted gems Reece and Steve have in store for us.”