Badvent Calendar Day 9

Come in, number 9!

Inside No. 9 is a psychological horror comedy series that reminds me of an advent calendar stuck on the same number, which is the starting point for a different story co-written and co-starring League of Gentlemen alumni Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton, often disguised by a variety of grotesque hairstyles. The number nine is the hook for each tale, which could be anything from the door to a hotel room or a suburban house to the number on a pedalo boat, so it’s fitting that this ninth post in this Badvent Calendar is dedicated to this wonderful series.

Two of the show’s best episodes have had a winter holiday theme — ‘The Twelve Days of Christine’, with its mind-bending, time-bending tragedy set on New Year’s Eve and its tour-de-force from Sheridan Smith, and also ‘The Devil of Christmas’, set on Krampusnacht 1977, a beautifully well-observed parody of nineteen seventies TV, an era when drama programmes were often referred to as ‘plays’, with good reason. Many took place in the confines of a studio set, and this gave them a stagey feel that, while stilted, could be surprisingly effective. When the drama switched between interiors shot on video and filmed exteriors, as was often the case, it was almost like watching two different types of visual story-telling bolted together. But ‘The Devil of Christmas’ is styled after the kind of claustrophobic chamber piece videoed on a single set, of which the 1973 Dead of Night episode ‘The Exorcism’ is a prime example.

I noticed that Graeme Harper was the director of this episode: an inspired choice, as a veteran director who worked on Doctor Who both in the Eighties and in its post-2005 revival, so he must have remembered how to run a studio the old three-camera way, and it shows! In fact, with its faux DVD commentary from Derek Jacobi as an aging director, it was rather like watching one of the extras on the DVD of the Harper-directed 1983 Who serial ‘The Caves of Androzani’. But the director’s asides, while they add to the humour at first, pointing out errors and shortcomings in his own rushed production to begin with, take a more sinister turn as the story progresses…

‘The Devil of Christmas’ is currently on i-player, along with all the rest of the Inside No. 9 series, but there is another Inside No. 9 Christmas Special coming up, ‘The Bones of Saint Nicholas’, hitting BBC2 on Thursday 22nd December, 9pm…

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2 Responses to Badvent Calendar Day 9

  1. Pingback: Badvent Calendar Day 11 | tomjohnstone

  2. Pingback: Badvent Calendar Day 22 | tomjohnstone

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