Cold Comfort is the fourth episode of series 2 of Inside No.9, and gave us a brief peek into the goings-on of Samaritans-style call centre, Comfort Suppor Line, where several volunteers try to help members of the public, most who are phoning up simply to have someone to talk to, while the occasional caller wants to pleasure themselves in order to wind up the agent answering.
Where the location came into play this week, is that it centred around the calls coming in to booth No.9, which we’re told was recently vacated by longest-serving volunteer Victoria, about whom supervisor George (Reece Shearsmith) said: “She had three dead dads in two days, so it’s probably tipped her over the edge”, and is now the home of new recruit Andy (Steve Pemberton).
He sat back-to-back to five-years-served Liz (Jane Horrocks), and it showed how, due to the nature of call centres, Liz is quickly whisked back to her phone when a call comes in, just as Steve’s telling her, in deeply heartfelt style, about his sister who passed away and how he could’ve done with the help of a place like this, hence why he volunteered.
Given the nature of this series, something dark had to happen, and Andy’s day was darkened when he spoke to a woman called Chloe who talked solemnly about taking 30-40 tablets, as if she wanted to end it all. This call was followed by a complete gear change, with an old woman phoning up to moan about her dead cat, Picasso. Andy gave her the short shrift, but in a turn of events, learned later in the week from Liz that it was the latter who took her own life, causing great distress for her squaddie son to whom she spoke.
Andy was taken aback when he spoke to Chloe later in the week and she said she knew about how he told that old woman that “It’s just a cat“, which led to her taking her own life. he had previously been led to believe that Joanne (Nikki Amuka-Bird) was pretending to be her, as some people in the office think of her as the office bitch, causing him to eventually flip at the caller when he spoke to her again.
As for who Chloe was… it was George?! That made no sense since she sounded female – and was actually played by a female actress, not Reece Shearsmith putting on an iffeminate voice (until the reveal).
I have to ask – why did the callers seem to have the direct number of each individual booth? Surely a hunt group would be better?
Curiously, this was shot in 4:3, positioned on the left of the screen, while the right-hand side was made up of three smaller 4:3 images – supervisor George’s desk, the corridor and an overview of the cubicles, and there was a small part from the always-reliable Tony Way as new recruit Michael.
I take my hat off to those who do this form of volunteering, but as a comedy/drama, while earlier entries in the series, such as La Couchette and The Trial Of Elizabeth Gadge, show that one-room episodes can work quite well, this just plodded along until it reached a conclusion which made no sense and had an unnecessarily violent end. I can see why it ended the way it did, but it was too daft to be entertaining.
I’m now seeing why The 12 Days of Christine was placed early on in the run – so as to drum up interest for those which were to come… which doesn’t seem to bode well.
Cold Comfort is available on the BBC iPlayer until May 16th.
Inside No.9 continues next Thursday at 10pm on BBC2 with Nana’s Party, starring Claire Skinner.
Overall Score: 5/10
Directors: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton
Producer: Adam Tandy
Writers: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton
Sound: Matthew Brace
Andy: Steve Pemberton
Liz: Jane Horrocks
George: Reece Shearsmith
Joanne: Nikki Amuka-Bird
Michael: Tony Way
Callers: Edward Easton, Vilma Hollingbery, Kath Hughes, James Meehan, Vicky Hall
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.