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Monday, 24 May 2021

REVIEW: Inside No.9's 'Lip Service' continues a run of classic episodes.

The latest episode of Inside No. 9 is a story of surveillance and secrecy. A rather drab man has booked himself into an even drabber hotel room so that he can spy on a woman across the road, worried that shes seeing another man. But is he the only one whos watching?

On the BBCs excellent Inside Inside No. 9 podcast, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have discussed how the show was impacted by the coronavirus. After the first lockdown put a halt to shooting series 6 at an early stage, Shearsmith and Pemberton took the time to write series 7 with each other remotely.

Then, as an opportunity to resume shooting series 6 drew nearer, they ended up swapping certain episodes originally intended for this series with some of their newly written series 7 episodes which were deemed more Covid-safe, with a smaller cast involved. Last weeks Simon Says was one such episode, and this weeks Lip Service appears to be one as well. Or if not, it was perhaps just a happy accident that its an intimate episode starring just Shearsmith, Pemberton and Sian Clifford (FleabagQuiz).

The number 9 in question this time is not the hotel room in which the story unfolds, but another hotel opposite, where Felix (Pemberton) knows the woman he loves is meeting with a hunky client. He has concerns that theres more to their relationship than just business  after all, how can he compare to a man whos a lawyer, political agitator, human rights activist and all-round do-gooder?

After checking in and acclimatising himself to the grotty room, Felix is joined by Iris (Clifford), a professional lipreader hes hired to help him at the advice of someone on Dadchat (its like Mumsnet but with sad men rather than competitive women). Their efforts are continually interrupted by uptight hotel manager Mr Müller (Shearsmith), whos suspicious that Felix is using the room for nefarious purposes.

Following his alpha turn as a TV showrunner in last weeks episode, Pemberton puts in a very different but equally great performance here as beta male Felix, with whom our sympathies keep changing throughout the episode. Sian Clifford gets an enjoyable guest role, lipreading in between commenting on how gorgeous Felixs love rival is and supplying facts about the revoltingness of hotel rooms (apparently the kettles are generally used for boil-washing underwear or peeing in). Meanwhile, Shearsmith is clearly having a lot of fun as the pencil-moustached hotel manager, whipping open wardrobes in the hope of catching out his guests and delivering lines like I just need to check your toilet roll situation as unnervingly as possible.

Last year, the first half of Inside No. 9s fifth series had an experimental feel to it, with the first three episodes respectively focusing on football, revisiting characters from Psychoville, and serving more low-key kitchen sink drama than the usual twisty-turny dark comedy. It seemed to me like an unusual selection of episodes to start the series with, but this certainly hasnt been the case with series 6. Although Wuthering Heist, Simon Says and Lip Service have varied greatly in tone, they all feel like classic Inside No. 9 at its very best, and if the series continues in this vein, it could prove to be one of the strongest so far.

                                        Inside No.9 Continues Monday at 9.30pm on BBC Two

Contributed by Sophie Davies.

1 comment:

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