Friday, 9 February 2018

tempting fate

Plot Spoiler Warning! This blog discusses a recent episode of Inside No. 9
image from "Tempting Fate" from Inside No, 9
As anyone with even a passing knowledge of this blog will know I have long been a fan of the work of The League of Gentlemen. Two of The League - Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton - have in recent years created a series called Inside No. 9, which to my mind is even better than their first TV show.

In a lot of ways it's kind of like a more horrific version of Tales of the Unexpected - a lot of the shows have unexpected twists in them but there is also still a lot of their trademark dark comedy.

On a number of occasions the twist at the end of an episode has reduced me to tears - the classic episode 12 Days of Christine and the more recent Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room being amongst the shows that immediately spring to mind. When they avoid relying on shock twist endings, they can create some incredibly moving mini-plays.

Maybe it's to be expected when each episode is a self-contained half-hour playlet but unfortunately they don’t always hit the mark.

The last episode of the current series, Tempting Fate, particularly stuck in my craw. This told a story of three council contractors as they attempted to clear the flat of a dead hoarder. At one point it was revealed that one of the characters - played by Steve Pemberton - had a tragic home life, having a young, wheelchair-bound son (Charlie) with MS. This was introduced in a particularly clunky manner, with the youngest council worker mistaking it for M&S - har de har har.

Eventually a large amount of money is found in the flat, with an inevitable confrontation about who should have it. In the struggle Steve Pemberton's character says that the money is a godsend as it would "pay for Charlie's operation".

Which made me and Mrs D shout out, "WHAT OPERATION?!"

The whole thing just ended up making MS the laziest of all plot devices. It was as though they just grabbed a medical condition off the shelf and didn't look into it any further - "Oh, MS will do. It's all basically to do with wheelchairs, isn't it?"

It was so disappointing! A feeling only added to when Charlie appeared towards the end, saying "Look daddy, I can walk!"

I know that Inside No 9 didn’t set out to make a definitive portrayal of MS and I might not have noticed (or been so sensitive about it) had I not had a vested interest.

I guess it's like the worst thing your parents can ever say to you - "I'm not mad with you, just disappointed".

But a previous episode (Series 3's Empty Orchestra) featured a deaf character (and performer) who wasn't simply viewed as someone tragic to be pitied. In fact, in the final scenes of Empty Orchestra, she ended up putting her bullies in their places and even bagging her (hearing) man.

I just think it would just be nice if they could handle potentially sensitive plot and character devices with that level of thought.

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