Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton managed to shock, confuse, terrify and thrill viewers on Sunday night with their incredible live special of Inside No 9.
The darkly comic anthology series has disturbed fans in the past, but they pulled out all the stops for the Halloween episode, tricking viewers into believing that the broadcast had been cancelled due to technical difficulties.
However, those who didn’t change channel following the first ‘sound interruption’ were in for a remarkably constructed tale of TV horror.
It turned out that the story that opened the episode – about a man finding a mysterious lost mobile phone in a graveyard – was a red herring.
Instead, the rest of the episode played out behind the scenes at Granada Studios in Manchester (where the episode was apparently being filmed), as an unknown presence picked off members of the cast and crew.
It all got hilariously – and occasionally frighteningly – meta from there, cutting to CCTV footage of the duo complaining about their technical difficulties, Shearsmith reacting live to viewers’ complaints on Twitter, all intercut with an episode of Most Haunted which revealed that the studio was built on a Victorian mass grave.
Fans took to Twitter to label the episode the “TV event of the year”, after many had initially aired their disappointment at the technical issues.
“Everything was linked!” Cameron Yarde Jr wrote on Twitter. “EVERYTHING!” They have been dropping threads randomly all week to tie up in this! I can’t put into words how clever this episode is.”
These ‘threads’ included an appearance on The One Show in which they denied believing in ghosts, and a scurrilous story about late stars ‘haunting’ the Coronation Street studios.
“Tonight Inside No 9 created one of the greatest live TV events,” Harrison Taylor tweeted. “In an era of catch-up TV and streaming, what a way to treat live viewers – who are often the biggest and most dedicated fans.”
Elliot Gonzalez added: “Only Reece and Steve could have pulled that off. Incredibly meta. Knowing what perfectionists they are, I should have guessed. But that’s the beauty of their work, you never can.”
Broadcaster Danny Bakker said, “Nothing to touch the creators of this magic. Nothing. No one.”
Producer Adam Tandy shared a photo of the – thankfully apparently still all alive – team behind the episode, including Shearsmith, Pemberton and guest star Stephanie Cole.
An average audience of just over 700,000 tuned in to the episode live on BBC2 – although with almost a million viewers at the start of the broadcast, it is clear a number of viewers turned off thinking the technical difficulties were genuine.
The episode is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer – although whether the experience can match the experience of watching live is another matter.
Check out more fan reactions below.