TV Preview: Inside No. 9 – Cold Comfort, BBC2

Cold Comfort

I don’t know who decides on the running order of Inside No. 9, but each episode is so distinctive it would be impossible for this six-part series to start to feel samey. The only thing each instalment shares is the ability to shake you up. Well, shake you up and take up residence in your psyche long after the credits have rolled.

Following last week’s 17th Century witchy romp we are back in the present day with Cold Comfort, directed with radical rigour by writers Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Pemberton also takes centre stage as Andy, the new recruit to the Comfort Support Line, which offers telephone solace and conversation to the sad and the suicidal. Andy is given a quick induction in his cubby hole by George (Shearsmith) and then he is on his own.

It doesn’t, of course, take long for the disturbing calls to start coming in and while Andy is good at his job some calls are harder to deal with than others. Further advice comes from colleagues Liz (Jane Horrocks) and Joanna (Nikki Amuka-Bird). It’s a bleak environment, though. A harshly-lit open plan office with closed circuit television monitoring every move.

In fact it’s the CCTV that gives this episode its haunting flavour. While the style is very static, we don’t just see Andy at his desk. We can also see what is going on elsewhere in small live footage down the side of the screen, as if we are monitoring the entire office ourselves. It’s a visual grammar that makes the viewer both intrigued and anxious. Did we miss something here? What are they doing there?

The setting looks mundane, but rest assured the skilfully plotted narrative and great performances mean that you’ll be watching them as they themselves are being constantly watched by others. Cold Comfort is funny, but the kind of funny that leaves you with a chill. 

Inside No. 9 – Cold Comfort, BBC2, 10pm. Then on iPlayer here.

Read a review of The 12 Days of Christine here.

Read a review of La Couchette here.

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