QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Inside No. 9 and Room 104

These are two television shows with a very similar theme. Presently both are available on HBO, where I watched them.

Inside No. 9 is a BBC anthology series were every episode involves the number nine, usually in the form of a location. Karaoke room nine, hotel floor nine, many buildings with address number nine. For many all of the action takes place on a single set, but some branch out a bit. Multiple rooms in a single building, brief outdoor scenes setting location, that sort of stuff. The creators act in all of the episodes, but sometimes just bit parts, the rest of the cast rotates.

Room 104 is an HBO anthology series were every episode takes place in the same location, that of a motel room numbered 104. The time jumps around, and there's some standard room decoration that will indicate what decade, but a few of them stretch that, eg a campfire on the site of a to-be-built building, a therapy session with dolls in a motel room diorama, etc. This is much stricter about location, a large room with a pair of beds, a small closet, and the adjoining bathroom. For this the entire cast rotates.

Both of them hop around genres a bit. In Room 104 there's a noir-ish one that turns supernatural, a musical sword and sorcery episode, an animated episode that looks like kids TV but deals with rape, a "documentary" about a father-son art collaboration, a Faustian bargain, and a nearly wordless dance. Inside No 9 doesn't stretch the genres as far afield, but still seems more creative with the stories.

Inside No. 9 is billed as a "dark comedy". Most episodes have a twist at the end. Death, fraud, and theft are frequent plot points. One episode is very much like a Shakespearian comedy, with separated at birth twins, love story, and a murder plot (and done in iambic pentameter). Some use well-known stories as jumping off points, there's a monkey's paw gimmick in one, another has an art show has echoes of Christie's And Then There Were None. But the flexibility with location allows creativity you can't get with the same motel room over and over.

Room 104 has four seasons of twelve episodes each, and is finished. I felt season one was the weakest.

Room 104 at imdb

Inside No. 9 has five seasons of six episodes each, and a new season has just started in the UK (not available on HBO). There are weak episodes -- I think s1e1 is not very good -- but not particularly weak seasons.

Inside No. 9 at imdb

There's no continuity between episodes, feel free to jump around. And if you don't like one, that doesn't mean you won't like the next. FWIW, there are some out of season things for No 9. I found the web-only episode on youtube, but I didn't think much of it and didn't save the link.