Inside No. 9, BBC Two
- Brian Donaldson
- 3 February 2020
Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's innovative mystery show returns with a low-key end-of-season affair
Among its many attributes, Inside No. 9 has been daring, clever and occasionally astonishing since its debut in 2014 with the claustrophobic 'Sardines'. So during the very few episodes when any one of those adjectives can't be applied to proceedings, they stick out like sore, probably heavily blooded thumbs. 'The Referee's a W***er', its season five opener, is a half hour that does slip slightly under the high bar that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith have set across those previous 25 segments.
With relegation and promotion issues on a knife edge, 'Rovers' are set to meet 'United' in the last game of the season. All the action for the viewer takes place in the referees' room before, at half-time, and in the aftermath of a highly controversial match as respected whistler Martin (David Morrissey) officiates his last game before retirement. He's joined by his assistants, the San Siro-obsessed Brendan (Shearsmith) and vending machine-addicted Oggy (Pemberton) while the fourth official Phil (Ralf Little) is hellbent on being picked to run the line at the forthcoming Qatar World Cup while making sure his hair looks good for the Sky cameras.
With chaos breaking out due to some extremely dodgy decisions, United's season is seemingly left in tatters with a climactic twist that, sadly, is not actually conclusive thanks to tedious things such as Football Association inquiries. Mercifully, the amount of character building that's possible over a mere 30 minutes is solid, while Inside No. 9's standard wry humour is still intact: sly digs at Robbie Savage and Arsene Wenger hit home while Shearsmith and Pemberton once again deliver a higher class of toilet humour. Let's hope the winning formula returns with a vengeance when later episodes feature tales about a spooky flat, two cops uncovering their secrets during a night shift, and a family trying to do Christmas on the cheap.
Episodes watched: 1 of 6
Inside No. 9 starts on BBC Two, Monday 3 February, 10pm.