Hold on Tight! (Inside No. 9)

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"Hold on Tight!"
Inside No. 9 episode
A poster for "Hold on Tight!" in a dated style, featuring the faces of the three characters and a double-decker bus.
Steve Pemberton as Wolfie, Robin Askwith as Mr. Cole, and Reece Shearsmith as Clarke in a fake promotional poster for the episode.
Written by
  • Steve Pemberton
  • Reece Shearsmith
Guest appearance

"Hold on Tight!" is a fake episode of the British dark comedy anthology television programme Inside No. 9. Advertised to be broadcast on 18 May 2023, the episode was a hoax, tricking audiences before then broadcasting the real episode, "3 by 3", which was filmed to look like a pilot quiz show hosted by Lee Mack. The hoax involved creating fake photos, an advertising poster and clips for a trailer.


The episode was announced as part of the reveal of details of Series 8 of Inside No. 9. A publicity photo for "Hold on Tight!" featuring the show's stars and writers Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, and guest star Robin Askwith, was used to promote the series. The episode appeared to be a parody of the 1970s ITV sitcom On the Buses,[1] with Shearsmith playing the driver Clarke, Pemberton as conductor Wolfie, and Askwith as customer Mr. Cole.[2]

Inside No. 9 is set in various different locations, all of which share the number nine. Reportedly, fans of the series kept suggesting that an episode should be set on a No. 9 bus. "Hold on Tight!" appeared to be a reaction to this. The episode came with a fake synopsis which read: "Wolfie and Clarke love their bus – but perhaps not as much as the mysterious Mr Cole and his dolly-bird nieces. As Clarke would say, 'plenty of room up top!'"[3][4] As part of the hoax, the BBC refused to put out a preview of the "episode" for critics to review.[2] Sound designer Chris Mac revealed that the crew had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to prevent them legally from revealing the true nature of the episode.[5]


When "3 by 3" was broadcast instead of "Hold on Tight!", there were complaints on social media, with some viewers switching channels not realising that they were victims of a hoax. Others found clues to "3 by 3" as the real episode, such as the title of the episode being a product: 3 × 3 = 9. There were also references to other Inside No. 9 episodes such as "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge".[2]

The hoax was compared to another similar episode of Inside No. 9, "Dead Line", which had been billed as a live episode broadcast especially for Halloween, about a man who receives phone calls from the dead, which in fact was a trick, the real story of the episode veering wildly off-course into a story about the broadcast being overrun by spirits haunting the TV studio and starring Shearsmith and Pemberton as themselves.[6] Juliette Harrisson writing for Den of Geek argued that both of these hoaxes were an example of tricks that could only be performed on broadcast television rather than streaming services, saying that they best work when people are made to watch them at certain times as part of a schedule.[7]

Writing on Twitter, Askwith said that being part of the hoax was, "a hard secret to keep", adding it was "interesting to watch the anger and despair turn to delight" as the real episode aired.[8]

Some fans of Inside No. 9 remain convinced however, that "Hold on Tight!" is a real episode and will appear on television at some point. After Series 8 ended, BBC Two scheduled a repeat of Series 7 episode "Mr. King" to air on 1 June 2023, but some fans believed this may have been another trick and instead "Hold on Tight!" would be broadcast.[9][10] Ultimately, it was "Mr. King" that was shown.


  1. ^ "Inside No. 9 Series 8 guest stars revealed". British Comedy Guide. 19 May 2023. Archived from the original on 6 March 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Dessau, Bruce (18 May 2023). "TV: Inside No 9, Hold On Tight!, BBC Two". Beyond the Joke. Archived from the original on 18 May 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  3. ^ Cormack, Morgan (18 May 2023). "Inside No. 9 season 8 cast: Meet the guest stars in new episodes". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 18 May 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  4. ^ "Series 8, Episode 5 - 3 by 3". British Comedy Guide. Archived from the original on 18 May 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  5. ^ Dessau, Bruce (19 May 2023). "Insider Reveals More About Inside No 9 On The Buses Quiz Show Stunt". Beyond a Joke. Archived from the original on 19 May 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  6. ^ Stolworthy, Jacob (19 May 2023). "Inside No 9 tricks BBC viewers with Lee Mack quiz show episode". The Independent. Archived from the original on 19 May 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  7. ^ Harrisson, Juliette (23 May 2023). "Inside No. 9 Hoax Proves Broadcast TV Can Do What Streaming Can't". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on 23 May 2023. Retrieved 23 May 2023.
  8. ^ Craig, David (19 May 2023). "Inside No. 9 stuns fans with fake bus episode reveal". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 19 May 2023. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  9. ^ Dessau, Bruce (28 May 2023). "Inside No 9 Fans Still Convinced There Is One More Twist To Come". Beyond the Joke. Retrieved 28 May 2023.
  10. ^ Tobin, Christian (31 May 2023). "Inside No. 9 fans think there might be a secret new episode this week". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 June 2023.