Inside N ° 9: The little British gem to (re) see on Arte.TV

Inside n ° 9

For Halloween, the channel is putting seasons 5 and 6 online, never before seen in France.

Essayist and novelist, Tristan Garcia is as strong in philosophy as in series, in metaphysics as in pop culture. He wrote, among others, The Best Share of men; Faber. The destroyer ; Six Feet Under. Our lives without destiny; Intense Life. A modern obsession; We… During the summer of 2018, to prepare our First special issue n ° 6, devoted to “100 best series you haven’t seen”, he had agreed to present a small nugget from across the Channel, Inside n ° 9. After offering the first four seasons in October 2020, Arte.TV do it again for Halloween by programming, from October 29 at midnight, seasons 5 and 6, new in France.

Escapees from the legendary Gentlemen’s Club, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are arguably the two biggest berserk currently active on the BBC. Their series Inside n ° 9 is in any case the most virtuoso anthology of the time. Even stronger than Black mirror?

Two nickel-plated feet creep silently into a nouveau riche mansion at # 9. We won’t hear a word – until the end of the episode. They attempt to steal a ridiculous modern art canvas, but a series of disturbances (which include a dog, a transvestite, and a mute cleaning agent) prevent them from doing so. In the following episode, the same two actors, Shearsmith and Pemberton, who are also the creators of the series, play two guests at a wedding, in a beautiful aristocratic mansion, still at number 9, on another street. Everyone is talking, rumors are rife and a dozen characters find themselves locked in a closet, to play “Sardine game”. The closed door is maximum: there, cramped, stuck with the unfortunate Farty John, who has always smelled bad and who refuses to wash (we will understand why …), everyone is chatting and it is almost difficult to follow the funny and cruel lines …

Writing virtuosos

In two acrobatic episodes, Shearsmith and Pemberton set the limits of their café-theater world: pure movement comedy without a word, pure verbal comedy without movement … From number 9 to number 9, in places of more and more incongruous, they will take one or the other of these recipes (The bed replay Sardines in a sleeping car compartment). Mad little chemists, they will also seek to hybridize their comic formulas, as in the performance of Zanzibar, screwball comedy crossover in a narrow hotel hallway. Coming from the brilliant troupe of the Gentlemen’s lub, Shearsmith and Pemberton share with Charlie Brooker (Black mirror) a taste for writing virtuosity, the conception of scriptwriting symphonies in the confined space of a telephone booth. Unlike him, they do not seek to capture their time, and their mental constructs are almost never accompanied by a political or moral message. Nostalgic for another age of comedy (this is particularly noticeable in the episode Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room, which features two old-fashioned clowns who meet for the last time), the two authors are looking for a kind of ultra-condensed formula of an old comic, who comes from the café-theater: The Riddle of the Sphinx asks the non-English-speaking viewer for an incredible degree of concentration in order to grasp the nuances of each line; it marks a limit point in their search for density, intensity, speed and intellectual and verbal acrobatics. The incessant reversals of the situation leave you speechless and threaten to abandon the spectator, exhausted but happy, on the side. In Once Removed, incredible reverse narrative construction that recalls the episode of Seinfeld mounted upside down, they fulfill their dream of a permanent double reading, which is the key to their art. With them, we always laugh twice: the first because we do not understand anything and the situation is absurd; the second because we finally understand the reason for the apparent absurdity, and we are delighted by the explanation.

Ambience changes

Yet, and this is what makes the show both so charming and its limits, Shearsmith and Pemberton aren’t just looking to perfect what they do so well. Two or three times a season, they would like to try something else entirely. Stunned, the viewer then discovers episodes that are either terrifying or moving, which no longer aim to make people laugh but, by playing on the expectation which is now that of the viewer (who thinks he is going to have a good time), the ice or bring tears to his eyes. On a few occasions, without rediscovering the absolute brilliance of their ultra-calculated burlesque, Shearsmith and Pemberton manage to make us nightmares or squeeze our throats: The Harrowing is one of the most sordid stories that we know (a kind of Tale from the Crypt deviant, which would bill itself as a teenage sitcom); The 12 Days of Christine is a succession of vignettes crossed by a false anguish, which leads to a real sadness, and which could claim the title of San Junipero of Inside n ° 9. But we must also take into account the many failures of the series: the bad witchcraft trial (The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge), horror satire of reality TV (Time session) or contemporary art (Private View) … After these gloomy episodes, we blame them for a while, then we learn to love them all the more. When we see them losing their balance, we realize the value of their successful performances, like acrobats whose incredible agility we can better measure after seeing them fall.

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