Inside No.9 – Special live Halloween episode, Dead Line. A high-risk comedy

Michael Moran
·Contributor
Inside No.9
Scared yet? You will be…

Tonight’s Inside No.9 special Hallowe’en episode answers the age-old question. What’s scarier than ghosts, witches and vampires – at least for a performer?

Live TV.

Anything can go wrong. The most experienced actor can fluff a line. A prop that worked every time in rehearsal can suddenly decide to misbehave. A camera operator can lose their way and miss a crucial shot.

Why have Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith decided to do it to themselves? Why is this week’s Inside No.9 a one-off live performance?

Because, Steve Pemberton told the Radio Times, “We’ve been doing this for 20 years now in some form or another, and it’s hard to find things that do make you scared and challenge you in that way. This is certainly one of them.”

Dial ‘Inside No.9’ for an outside line

The spooky story begins with Steve’s character Arthur arriving home on Hallowe’en.

Cutting through a graveyard, he stumbled upon a lost mobile phone and being a decent person tried to find out who it belongs to.

And then bizarre events begin to unfold…

‘My husband’s just come in…’

He’s found a lovely classic-looking Nokia in candy-apple red.

The first call comes in – and it’s a spooky sound from beyond the grave. Then we learn it’s Elsie Mitchell’s phone. There’s some silly business with ‘Moira’ and getting Elsie’s number.

Unfortunately, at this point there’s one of those tricky moments and the sound cuts for a few moments

<span>Arthur Flitwick (Steve Pemberton), Moira O’Keefe (Stephanie Cole), Reverend Neil (Reece Shearsmith)</span>
Arthur Flitwick (Steve Pemberton), Moira O’Keefe (Stephanie Cole), Reverend Neil (Reece Shearsmith)

Oh dear. The brownies gag. It’s almost a mercy when the sound cuts out again. There are gremlins in the works this Hallowe’en.

It’s at this point that the BBC2 controllers give up on the live transmission and it’s replaced with their backup – the truly brilliant A Quiet Night In.

And that goes wrong.

Wait. Is this all a Halloween prank?

Inside No.9, <span>no good deed can go unpunished, in this world or the next</span>
Inside No.9, no good deed can go unpunished, in this world or the next

This is brilliant, but risky. Surely a lot of people will have tuned out by now, believing that this really is a technical breakdown rather than a cleverly-constructed meta comedy.

…and now there’s a jump-cut to Most Haunted? This is bonkers!

And we’re being encouraged to believe that the studio is haunted. Very spooky!

Inside No.9 – Special live Halloween episode
Inside No.9 – Special live Halloween episode

It’s all terribly surreal, jumping from the dispirited actors in their dressing-room back to a VT of the rehearsal to the set…where actress Stephanie Cole has apparently been possessed by an evil spirit.

“You’re thinking of Black Mirror Stephanie, this is Inside No.9”

People will be talking about this big, bold, bonkers television experiment for years. It’s the riskiest bit of TV since Ghostwatch.

But this is playing out in real time on Twitter as well as on air.

This episode could only be enjoyed at its best live. It’s entirely ingenious.

There’s an even more surreal section where we’re somehow getting Reece Shearsmith’s point of view as he races around a pitch-dark studio.

Then, unexpectedly, there’s a credit sequence. Are we sure it’s over? Will this brilliant, mad, terrifying episode of Inside No.9 ever end? Is your TV haunted? We may never know…

Did you miss this special episode of Inside No.9? It’ll be available to view on the BBC iPlayer shortly after the broadcast ends.

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