Although Inside No. 9 has always experimented with different settings, formats and genres, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have said that they think this fifth series of their anthology show is the most varied one they’ve done so far. Three episodes in, this certainly seems to be the case. We’ve had a story of corruption inside a football referee’s locker room, an unexpected return to the duo’s previous creation, Psychoville, and now in episode 3, they’ve managed to deliver a beautifully understated domestic drama.
Love’s Great Adventure follows a Northern, working-class family in the month leading up to Christmas. Each scene begins with the opening of an advent calendar door, before giving us a snapshot of that particular day in the family’s home.
What Shearmith and Pemberton have achieved here is quite remarkable. The pair have penned a script that wouldn’t feel out of a place as a prominent 9pm drama. The story begins with Trevor (Steve Pemberton) helping young Connor (Olly Hudson-Croker) with his homework, Julia (Debbie Rush) preparing packed lunches, and teenage Mia (Gaby French) returning home from driving lessons with Uncle Alex (Reece Shearsmith). However, there are also requests for a prom dress that can’t be afforded and calls to ask if monthly payments can be delayed… and the family’s money troubles are soon exasperated with a visit from Trevor and Julia’s son (and Connor’s father), Patrick (Bobby Schofield).
Every instalment of Inside No. 9 may be set in a single location, but this one feels particularly intimate, with a naturalistic style throughout. Letting us into the home of a struggling family, it has some bleak moments – but it never strays into the sort of ‘grim up North’ kitchen sink drama territory which Shearsmith and Pemberton satirised as part of The League of Gentlemen, because we see the family have just as many good times as bad.
This being Inside No. 9, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Shearsmith and Pemberton find ways to cleverly play around with the advent calendar format, offering a rug-pull reveal related to door number 9. This subtle episode also has a fittingly ambiguous twist in its tail, which is very easy to miss on first viewing. One of Inside No.9’s more serious offerings is ultimately one of its more engrossing. The brilliance of the series is that we have no idea what episode 4 will bring, but raring to go!
Contributed by Sophie Davies.
Inside No.9 Continues Monday at 10.00pm on BBC ONE