TV Review: The South Bank Show – Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton

Receiving the full-length documentary treatment is certainly an accolade for Inside No 9 creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. The challenge for Melvyn Bragg and the makers is how to condense what is now a pretty lengthy career into a single one-hour (including ads) programme. 

They seem to have done a pretty good job. While the emphasis is on Inside No 9 and we get to see some exclusive snippets of them filming an episode from the next series in which they play contrasting magicians, the doc also manages to fit in a potted history. From their meeting while studying drama at Bretton Hall through the League of Gentlemen and onto Psychoville (I thought Bragg called it "Satanville" at one point, but maybe that's just my bad hearing) before bagging plaudits for the ever inventive Inside No 9.

The nice thing is that there have been no fall-outs among the original League, so we also get interviews with Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson. This is a pretty heavyweight profile, not one padded out with celebrities waffling on about loving the show.

Obviously obsessives will be familiar with the background. I'm not that obsessive but I knew the story that when they have writing meetings there is a tradition that whoever arrives first has to scare the other one, but it is still fun to see Shearsmith acting this out. And the Inside No 9 hare has a cameo that is not explained, just left there as an in-joke.

But I didn't know – or remember - that in the League's Jobseekers sketch Steve and Reece swapped parts. Reece knew a real Pauline so was initially down to play her. And I didn't know that Steve never liked the name League of Gentlemen and wantd them to be called The Porn Dwarves, though somehow I can't believe he has never revealed this gem before (I'd rather not google "porn dwarves" to check).

They certainly pick some juicy episodes to home in on and dissect – Sardines, A Quiet Night In, The Twelve Days of Christine and the more recent Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room. We probably didn't need shots of them walking through graveyards and woods though. Their horror is very much the horror of the everyday. They are creepy enough just sitting at their laptops.

The South Bank Show – Reece Shearsmith & Steve Pemberton, Available on Sky Catch Up.

Picture: BBC

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