More true comedy classics with Inside No 9

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Thursday: Inside No 9 (BBC Two, 10pm)

Britain has more than its fair share of amazing TV scriptwriters.

The likes of Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders and the recent version of Great Expectations), Peter Morgan (The Crown), Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You), Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley) and Abi Morgan (The Split) are just a few that spring to mind.

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Two who aren’t usually mentioned in such exalted company – but certainly should be – are Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. The pair first became known as members of The League of Gentlemen, a show they co-wrote with their friends Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson; they reteamed again on Psychoville – an episode of which inspired what will probably go down in the annals of TV history as their greatest achievement, Inside No 9.

That edition of Psychoville was shot in a single room; every edition of Insight No 9 happens in a particular location, all linked by the numerical figure.

When the very first story, entitled Sardines, aired in February 2014, the BBC had high hopes for it, but nobody quite expected it to become such a cult hit. Since then, viewers have been amused, shocked, horrified, moved and hooked by the duo’s tales. They’re all very different, but have a couple of things in common – they’re incredibly inventive and hugely entertaining.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end – although thankfully, there’s plenty more of Inside No 9 to come, at least in the near future.

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Last June, Pemberton and Shearsmith announced: “In the greatest plot twist ever, the BBC have commissioned another two series from us, taking Inside No 9 to series nine. Since 2014, it has been the greatest gift to conjure these stories into being and we are thrilled there’s still an appetite for more. What horrible surprises are there left to uncover? We remain as delighted and curious as you to find out.”

But after that, the show’s creators have said the programme will go on hiatus – maybe it will return, but perhaps they’ll both go on to pastures new. Whatever happens, at least we have three more editions of the current run to go, as well as six next year before the plug is potentially pulled. By then, 50 episodes will have been made, which is impressive going.

“Reece and Steve are extraordinary talents,” says executive producer Josh Cole. “Very few comedies reach nine series, and even fewer scale the hare-raising heights of Inside No 9. We’re delighted to be making a true comedy classic.”

Each run has featured some great guest stars, and the latest is no exception. Last week saw Shearsmith reunited with Amanda Abbington, his co-star in recent stage hit The Unfriend. Another member of that production, Frances Barber, pops up this time around in a tale involving online dating.

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Vicky is hoping to find her perfect match on one particular site, little realising she’s more likely to bump into a murderer dubbed the Lonely Hearts Killer.

Claire Rushbrook, Mathew Horne and Asim Chaudhry also appear, but as ever, it’s Pemberton and Shearsmith’s story that’s the real star of the show.