TV review: Inside No 9 Season 4, BBC Two (4 stars)

TV review: Inside No 9, Season 4, BBC Two

More ingenious dark and twisted tales from the minds of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

Anthology shows are back in vogue. Inside No.9 and Black Mirror spearheaded the resurgence in these quick one shot stories inspired by Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone (which is also making a comeback under the guidance of Jordan Peele).

'Zanzibar' is one of the most ambitious entries in Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton's Inside No. 9 yet. It's a wicked modern twist on Shakespearean comedy featuring a wayward prince, prostitutes, plots, deceptions and rhyming couplets as they take over the entire ninth floor of the Hotel Zanzibar. In the second episode, 'Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room', we head backstage as an old school double act, Cheese & Crackers, prepare for a comeback – a dark tale of desperation, loneliness and resentment. The third, 'Once Removed', features a moving day from hell, a story of death, murder and cardboard boxes told in reverse.

Diversity is the key: 'Zanzibar' is an elaborate farce; 'Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room' is a cracked character study; 'Once Removed' is a bloody suburban thriller. If you don't enjoy a particular episode don't worry there's a brand new story next week. It's a real skill creating 30-minute standalone stories, constructing characters and situations that connect in such a short timeframe.

The League of Gentlemen proved Shearsmith and Pemberton knew their way round dark and nasty black comedy. With Inside No. 9 their writing feels more confident with every series. They have perfected the formula, instantly setting the scene, drawing you in before pulling the rug from under your feet. With no overarching narrative Inside No. 9 constantly refreshes and reinvents itself, we hope it's a format that runs and runs.

Inside No. 9, Season 4, starts on BBC Two, Tue 2 Jan, time tbc.

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