This review was originally published in The Student, The University of Edinburgh’s student-run newspaper (Tuesday 4th December 2012)
Peep Show, Channel 4, Sunday 10pm
When Peep Show first aired in 2003 it was bold, imaginative and highly original. Its use of point-of-view shots (with the camera actually strapped to the actors’ heads), alongside the fact that the audience could listen in to the characters’ thoughts, was unlike anything that had been done before. The writers, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, were relatively unknown, as were its stars, David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Everything felt new and exciting.
Now onto its eighth series, it’s business as usual as we continue to follow the mundane/ludicrous lives of repressed, middle-class Mark (Mitchell) and perennial slacker Jeremy (Webb). When Mark asks his girlfriend Dobby to move in with him it means Jeremy must vacate the premises. Pathologically lazy Jeremy is, of course, dragging his heels, whilst Mark is terrified that Dobby will choose to move in with his rival, the sickly (and milking-it) Gerrard.
There are some wonderfully funny moments. Mark, riddled with anxieties prior to a job interview, rehearses his introduction to interviewer Robert Grayson so many times that when he eventually enters the room he holds out his hand and says ‘Hello, I’m Robert Grayson’; excruciating stuff, and classic Mark. Jeremy attempting to eat his way through an enormous portion of curry, having just secretly consumed another, is classic Jeremy.
Mark’s old boss, smooth-talking lothario Alan Johnson, including the phrase ‘the great little guy in this big old box here’ during a funeral speech is classic Johnson, and everything that crack-enthusiast-turned-bathroom-salesman Super Hans says is classic Super Hans. This character, played by Matt King, is a particularly brilliant comedic creation, especially when he’s as high as a kite; let’s hope he returns to the crack he finds so incredibly ‘moreish’ soon.
The trouble is, although it’s still extremely well-written, it’s just not fresh anymore. Perhaps the reason why certain British comedies (from Fawlty Towers to The Office) have gained cult status is that they burned brightly but briefly. Isn’t it always better to leave a party early, when people are asking you to stay and have another drink, rather than when the music’s stopped and the host is pointedly putting empty cups in a bin-liner?
Ratings suggest that people are happy to keep the party going, but speaking as a huge fan of the show I’m not so sure. The recently-aired second series of the excellent Fresh Meat, also penned by Armstrong and Bain, has been a well-deserved hit and feels as exciting as Peep Show once did. Might it be time for the older show to grab its coat and leave while the music’s still playing? It’s been one hell of a party.