‘Once you are in number 9 you are stuck in this space’: Constraint, Creativity and Inside No. 9

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, I will explore the ways in which the critically acclaimed British TV comedy anthology series Inside No. 9 (BBC Two, 2014–), created and written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, uses constraints to facilitate creativity.
While the generative properties of constraint have been explored by a wide range of scholars, their application to understanding the creative process in film and television has been limited, with studies of pedagogical approaches at the National Film School of Denmark and their influence on Danish cinema and television being the key example. While frequently described as ‘dark
comedy’, Inside No. 9 embraces a wide range of subject matter and genre conventions, ranging from gothic horror to naturalistic drama. But the primary distinguishing characteristic of the show is that the self-contained stories are confined entirely or predominantly to a single location – frequently the No. 9 in
question – and feature a limited cast. In addition to this foundational premise, the series embraces the generative properties of constraints in a rich variety of ways – including spatial, temporal, narrative and intertextual. This article will
explore how these have functioned to create one of the most innovative and critically successful British TV shows of the last decade.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-52
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Inside No. 9; Steve Pemberton; Reece Shearsmith; BBC Two; creativity; constraint; dark comedy; intertextuality.

Cite this