Nic Wright

TV review: Inside No. 9, series two, La Couchette

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After a critically-acclaimed first series, offbeat portmanteaux comedy Inside No. 9 is back to peer behind the doors of six new No. 9s.

Once again, League of Gentlemen alumni Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith pen and star in the stand-alone episodes, alongside a host of familiar faces, in settings such as a barn, a call centre and a Victorian villa.

The No. 9 in sophomore series opener La Couchette, is a sleeper train carriage, where a pernickety traveler is trying to get some shut-eye.

Harking back to series one’s inaugural episode, Sardines, La Couchette is all tight, claustrophobic angles, as we’re wedged into the six-berth tinderbox to watch the horror unfold.

La Couchette‘s particular horror is a timeless and adult sort of nightmare; being trapped in a small space full of insufferable berks.

The odd couple premise is flagrant from the off, as Shearsmith’s fannying Dr. Maxwell has his peace is shattered by a spluttering, noisy German gentleman.

Though completely unlikable, it’s impossible not to sympathise with Maxwell, as his potential sleep slips away like sand through an egg-timer, with every blistering clot that fumbles through the sliding door.

The mounting irritation is palpable, as grubby drunk follows arrogant backpacker follows bickering couple; everyone you don’t want to be anywhere near on a train, save for a bawling infant.

The episode’s sweaty, cramped repulsion, and the prickling urge to lamp every twat in the compartment eventually gives way to a more conventional horror when one of the travelers rolls out of bed, dead as a doornail.

Instead of going full Murder on the Orient Express however, the travelers make a shaky agreement to curb any disruption to their respective journeys that a murder enquiry might cause, by simply stuffing the stiff back in his bunk, and forgetting all about it.

Spattered with gags both smart and puerile – suicide and explosive diarrhea have rarely gone hand in hand in such a climatic finale – and rounded off with the sort of smart, subversive closing moments Inside No. 9 has become known for, La Couchette is perhaps more accessible than some of its previous bedfellows, and a solid opening to a very welcome series.

Inside No. 9 airs on Thursdays at 10pm.