Thursday, 20 February 2014

INSIDE NO. 9, 1.3 – 'Tom & Gerri'

Thursday, 20 February 2014

After three episodes, it's clear Inside No.9 is largely defined by restrictions. As each episodes takes us behind the door of various residences, this is perhaps to be expected. It's given the show a theatrical feel (as every instalment could be performed as a one-act play), and that feeling continues with "Tom & Gerri"—although it's the least restrictive of the three to have aired, as things aren't largely confined to a wardrobe and dialogue wasn't in short supply.

Tom (Reece Shearsmith) is an intellectual primary school teacher living with his beautiful girlfriend Gerri (Gemma Arterton) in a modest but clean flat, whose life is transformed by the arrival of a bearded tramp called Migg (Steve Pemberton). Migg (named after the Silence of the Lambs character who flicked semen at Clarice, I presume) first appears as an unlikely Good Samaritan, returning Tom's lost wallet without stealing the cash inside. Tom's amusingly but understandably reticent about involving himself with Migg, but the social pressure becomes too much when the poor man returns with an unnecessary "thank you" gift for the £40 reward Tom felt obliged, or pressured, into giving.

From there, Tom's life changes quite remarkably—once he realises Migg actually met his literary hero Charles Bukowski whilst living as a hobo in New York, and the two men develop an unusual friendship that ultimately leads Tom down a path of self-destruction as Migg's bad influence takes grip and the two men's identities begin to transpose.

"Tom & Gerri" had the most enjoyable plot of the three Inside No.9's that have broadcast, although I preferred the dialogue of premiere "Sardines" and the humour of last week's "Quiet Night In". I think the thirty-minute runtime wasn't enough to make the transformation of Tom feel entirely plausible (he went from clean-shaven teacher to bearded layabout in the blink of an eye), but this was a relatively minor issue and one hard to avoid without the luxury of another quarter-hour. Tom's slide into depression and poor hygiene, unknowingly being taken advantage of by the conniving Migg, was nevertheless a lot of fun to watch... and while there was a somewhat predictable twist in the tale, Shearsmith and Pemberton were clever enough to add a second twist that was less obvious.

At this halfway point in the series, Inside No.9 hasn't disappointed me yet. I think S&P's writing is much sharper when it has structural and locational limitations (compared to Psychoville, which seemed to drag a few character arcs past their natural end), and the fact it's an anthology series means there's no chance of boredom setting in. It's funny and creative TV that's justly attracted some fantastic guest stars (even happy to appear in fairly minor roles), each episode made with obvious care, skill, and attention. There's always going to be room for improvement, but for the most part I can't fault "Tom & Gerri" in any meaningful way.

19 February 2014 | BBC2