If Hell is other people then the worst kind of Hell is other people at close quarters. At least that’s the premise of Sardines, the first episode of dark comedy anthology Inside Number 9 – Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith‘s latest attempt to extinguish the final flickering light in the dark cave of human existence. Sardines is both the name and the game at Rebecca (Katherine Parkinson) and Jeremy (Ben Willbond)‘s engagement party. One by one guests slot into the bedroom closet where Rebecca discovers dreary IT teed Ian (Tim Key). Funny thing though – he calls her Rachel. A lot of people make that mistake.
If you didn’t know better you’d think that Jeremy’s ex Rachel (Ophelia Lovibond who you may remember as triple teamed nause ment Biba in The Poison Tree) was something to do with that. She’ll join them soon in there along with Rebecca’s brother Carl (Pemberton) and his borefriend Stuart (Shearsmith). While literally in the closet they are figuratively way out of it and the two bitchy old queens sass each other relentlessly like bit part players in a 70s sitcom (or the entire effing show in Vicious) as the sardines pack in.
Before long the room’s bleak history is being hinted at. The forced bonhomie quickly withers in the oppressive confined space. All of a sudden no intimacy is off-limits and all we know are resentment, fear, lust and shame. It’s like a Woody Allen custody hearing.
All of a sudden no intimacy is off-limits and all we know are resentment, fear, lust and shame. It’s like a Woody Allen custody hearing.
It’s an unsettling and brilliant start to the new addition to the League of Gentlemen canon. Inside Number 9’s a clear lineal descendant of Tales of the Unexpected and this particular episode will put you in mind of Bad Sugar but the diseased LoG brand is still shot through it like Blackpool rock. Pemberton and Shearsmith are at the top of their game as writers and performers and even though the familiar obsessions and fixation on the morbid are still there it still manages to be surprising in its first three episodes.
It’s the week the Chuckle Brothers testified in the Dave Lee Travis trial. You’ve got to be pretty dark to keep up with real life these days.
The verdict: Death becomes them.
Marks out of 10: 8