Inside No. 9 Halloween special to air live on 28th October
James R | On 18, Oct 2018
Inside No. 9 returns for something spooktacularly different this Halloween: a live one-off special.
The horror anthology, created by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, is a unique presence in today’s TV schedules. Its fourth season kicked off with the highest launch and consolidated rating the show has ever seen (1.8m). It also scooped the Writers’ Guild Award for the Best TV Situation Comedy and was crowned Comedy Of The Year and Best TV Comedy Drama 2017 in the Comedy.co.uk Awards. Last Christmas, all previous episodes were added to BBC iPlayer, helping to contribute to a bumper festive period of record traffic for the site.
Part of its achievement has been its creativity and variety over the years, both in terms of tone and format; previous chapters have ranged from silent comedy and Shakespearean farce to a 70s-style retro scared, complete with old-fashioned video cameras. Now, with a fifth season already commissioned, Shearsmith and Pemberton have come up with something perhaps more terrifying for them then the viewers: a special that will be broadcast entirely live.
This episode marks the 25th story from the Inside No. 9 team. Called Dead Line, it stars and is written by Pemberton and Shearsmith. It will be directed by Barbara Wiltshire and produced by Claire McCarthy. The series producer is Adam Tandy, the executive producer is Jon Plowman and the Commissioning Editor is Gregor Sharp for the BBC.
“It’s an unusual prospect for us – we’ve never done anything like this before. It’s much more like how they used to do it in the old days – a lot of prep, a lot of build-up, and one chance to get it right,” says Steve.
“We thought it would be a different thing to do because we’re always striving to do storytelling in a different way and thought it would be a nice event. Also it harks back to the ethos of No.9, which is a Play For Today and Armchair Thrillers thing,” says Reece.
“It was actually the BBC’s suggestion, and when someone puts that challenge down it is really impossible to ignore,” adds Steve. “Especially as we have done other things like a whole silent episode, a musical episode and one set entirely in a wardrobe. We like the idea of putting a challenge into what we are doing.”
Now, the first details of the episode have been unveiled. It will follow Arthur Flitwick (Steve Pemberton), who finds an old mobile phone in his local graveyard, and makes the mistake of trying to contact the owner. But some mysteries are best left unsolved, and as Halloween draws near, Arthur is plunged into a nightmare of his own making. It seems that no good deed can go unpunished, in this world or the next.
The contemporary story will see the duo return to their scarier roots, after a lighter tone in the show’s fourth season.
“It is quite a spooky story and we wanted to draw on the lovely Halloween special creepiness of EC Comics and Tales From The Crypt,” explains Steve.
“There’s a few things in the mix that we have wanted to explore as far as story elements go that have never quite fitted into anything else, so we have put them into this,” notes Reece.
The pair will be joined by guest star Stephanie Cole.
“We’ve always wanted to work with her – and nearly have a few times – and we are delighted that we will be working with her on this particularly special episode. I play a vicar who gets involved in the story down the line,” comments Reece.
The live broadcast marks a first for both.
“Mark (Gatiss) did the The Quatermass Experiment a few years ago on BBC Four, and there were a couple of commotions on that, such as a bit of the set falling over, and I think that’s what people want to see! We definitely want to make it the best we can,” says Steve.
“We did an episode of Psychoville a few years ago which was all in one take, and that was quite a challenge,” he continues. “There are always tricks, theatrical tricks, you can use and that’s what we have tried to think about. It’s like a ballet between us and the crew as we are moving around into different positions; it’s going to be an exciting evening and let’s hope it is scary in the right way.”
“Having just done League Of Gentlemen Live for months, I feel that if we rehearse it well enough we will be all right,” says Reece. “It’s like doing a play, you can’t get your lines wrong.”
Dead Line will air on Sunday 28th October on BBC Two at 10pm.