Steve Pemberton tells Graham Norton about THAT Inside No. 9 episode: ‘A lot of people weren’t sure if it was real or not’

Virgin Radio

30 May 2023, 12:51

Steve Pemberton and Graham Norton at Virgin Radio.

When Steve Pemberton joined the Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose, he spoke about how Inside No. 9 has recently ‘caused ructions’. 

Earlier this month, fans of the darkly comedic anthology series tuned in expecting to see the scheduled episode, featuring guest star Robin Askwith and be inspired by 1970s sitcom On The Buses.

However, in what appeared to be a change to the schedule, a quiz hosted by Lee Mack, aired instead. It turned out that this was all part of Steve and co-creator/co-writer Reece Shearsmith’s clever plan. “Basically we wanted to write an episode which the story happened within a quiz show, so it would look, ostensibly, like a normal half-hour quiz show, fronted by Lee Mack,” Steve told Graham. 

“We had a story going through it, but we didn’t want people to know it was an episode of Inside No. 9, so we created a false episode, which is like a Trojan horse, and it was ‘pulled’ on the night, and we showed this quiz show, so a lot of people weren’t sure if it was real or not.”

So, rather than an episode called Hold On Tight!, viewers saw a quiz called 3 By 3. “We definitely wanted the first ten minutes of it to be fairly anodyne and we didn’t know who the presenter was going to be. So, we didn’t write it for Lee, specifically, but he came on and worked so hard on that script, and it caused ructions online!” Steve said.

It did indeed become very apparent later in the episode that this was no normal quiz show. “I don’t want to give it away, but there is quite a mindblowing, shall we say, finale to it, and some people had tuned in halfway through, or just had it on in the background, didn’t really realise it was anything other than a quite, sort of, harmless quiz show, and then this act of violence happens in the soundproof booth and, according to the clickbait websites, the BBC was flooded with complaints. I don’t think it really was, I think people enjoyed [it],” the writer explained.

He added: “It was called 3 By 3, so if you had the association with number 9, three by three, a lot of people worked it out from that.

“People pointed out there were some errors in the quiz format! Give us a break!” 

The League of Gentlemen star also chatted to Graham about starring alongside Lily Allen and Paul Kaye in the revival of dark comedy play The Pillowman. “It’s set in an unspecified corner of Europe, in sort of a totalitarian regime and it’s really about an investigation. There’s been some murders, and I play a detective, one half of a good-cop/bad-cop duo, and we’re interrogating a writer to see if there is any link between the writer’s stories and the murders that have been happening.”

The play is written by Martin McDonagh, who has penned the likes of The Banshees of Inisherin, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges. “It’s very funny, as long as you like a bit of dark humour, which of course I do,” Steve said.

For tickets and information on The Pillowman, visit Watch Inside No. 9 on BBC iPlayer.

Listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show every Saturday AND Sunday from 9:30 am on Virgin Radio or catch up on-demand here.