It was good, for that reason, to see a new series of the deliciously creepy Inside No.9 (BBC2) putting in a late appearance last night, with an all-star cast and story with the exotic title of Zanzibar.
This, it emerged, was the name of a London hotel on whose ninth floor a selection of characters checked in, with motives dark, forlorn and sleazy.
There’s a moment in every good ghost story when the hero, and indeed the readers and viewers, has that first whisper of a doubt.
A glass has moved, a door has slammed shut, there’s a figure at the window. We had one of those early inklings last night as bellboy Fred (Jaygann Ayeh) appeared from the lift and addressed us in Shakespearean verse.
For some, those lovers of Shakespeare and his verse perhaps, this may have been a moment of delight and anticipation. For others, this reviewer included, it was a knell of doom.
What followed was a half hour of verse, plotted roughly along the lines of those Tudor comedies that only ever made English teachers laugh.
Rory Kinnear starred as two characters, a perverted Prince planning a night of sin with a prostitute and a tightwad Northerner trying to woo his girlfriend back.
Reece Shearsmith was Henry, the bodyguard planning to kill his princely master and Bill Paterson popped in and out as a suicidal old man who’d lost contact with his twin sons after they were born.
Add a stage hypnotist, a confused elderly lady, a canoodling pair of hotel staff and you had a caper that would, with a few tweaks, have had an Elizabethan audience spilling their mead with mirth.
With the constant swapping of rooms and the rhyming, scanning dialogue it was without doubt a very clever piece.
It was also, I guess, a very clear demonstration that the show’s writers and main stars, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith can do more than the standard, half-hour chillers.
What fool ever thought they couldn’t? Why did they have to prove it last night with something that was, while clever, was also unfunny, outdated, tedious and most importantly, not scary at all?
If we had any fears as the end credits rolled, they concerned the next five episodes of the series. Can Michael Portillo please get some kind of award?
Watching a new batch of Great British Railway Journeys (BBC2) I realised that this is a man whose job involves travelling up and down Britain on trains.
Having just done a bit of that myself over the holiday, I can safely say no salary would ever make it worthwhile.
Michael even manages to look enthusiastic, although you may notice he’s never seen drinking the onboard coffee.
They seem to be working him harder this time, too, his inaugural trip from Cromer to Cambridge, requiring him to tap dance (in front of a team of pro tap dancers), shoot clay pigeons and operate a punt.
This was all in recreation of the activities, sporting and unsporting, of the late King Edward VII, whose racy lifestyle marked a clean break with the foregoing Victorian era.
Under King Bertie, it was all about huntin’, shootin’, sea-bathin’ and stealin’ other chaps’ wives, assisted, of course, by steam-powered locomotives.
Published at Wed, 03 Jan 2018 00:01:00 +0000