Inside No.9 is so many different shows in one brilliant package, it's worth the BBC licence fee on its own

If anything would get me off the sofa and marching on Parliament, placard in hand, it would be the end of the BBC and the ‘unique way’ it is funded,

Friday, 7th February 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 5:22 pm

The latest salvo in the ongoing assault on the Beeb has been the renewed debate over the licence fee, which it was announced would, in April, rise by the princely sum of 25p a month.

Yet this week has also seen the return of a programme which justifies the very existence of the licence fee, given that it is umpteen programmes in one.

Inside No.9 (BBC2, Mondays, 9pm) is the creation of Chorley’s own Steve Pemberton and his League of Gentleman colleague Reece Shearsmith.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Reece Shearsmith, Ralf Little, David Morrissey and Steve Pemberton in Inside No.9, which returned for a fifth series this week. Picture: BBC / Sophie Mutevelian

An anthology series of half-hour episodes, each set in a confined space – even, incredibly, a wardrobe – it’s a horror, a thriller, a comedy, a heartbreaking drama. Often in the same episode.

However, Pemberton and Shearsmith retain a laser-sharp focus, with barely a wasted line.

This week’s episode was confined to a referee’s changing room before, during and after a promotion crunch match.

There are some funny lines, Shearsmith’s fourth official claims the Premier League rot set in when the officials were told to were told to wear bright colours – “we look more like Showaddywaddy”.

But this show relies on the twists. One comes halfway through and you think it will go one way, but it’s all misdirection and there’s another, bigger, about-face at the end which leaves you nodding and saying to yourself, “oh yes, of course, I see how they did that”.

There are more horrific episodes to come, but all four previous series and a couple of specials are on iPlayer, which I would urge you to seek out.

Oh yes, iPlayer. Another good reason to keep on paying the licence fee.

While Silent Witness plods along at a funereal pace on BBC1, Baghdad Central (Channel 4, Mondays, 10pm) shows how you can do a police procedural but make it different. Really good watch.

Barrymore: The Body in the Pool (Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm) reminded you that, lost inside the appalling tabloid scrum, a family had lost a loved one, and they are still, 19 years on, broken by it.