Shiny Shelf

Peep Show

By Eddie Robson on 05 October 2003

Three episodes gone and this new comedy is starting to settle in. It’s a flatshare sitcom with the added gimmick that it is all composed with point-of-view shots, and when we see things from the viewpoint of either main character – Mark or Jeremy – we also hear their internal monologue. This apparently minor addition to a well-worn format is actually what makes ‘Peep Show’ so fresh – most of the comedy is located within the characters’ snatches of commentary on banal events.

This is why I found the first episode a little disappointing: as though afraid of alienating the audience, writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain fell back on a rather predictable farce plot. The second episode had more funny moments, but slightly lacked cohesion; however, the third hit the mark exactly. Embittered office drone Mark and self-aggrandising slacker Jeremy attend a ‘wicked’ party, where Jeremy continues his attempts to get into the pants of their neighbour (whose attractiveness belies the fact that she is possibly insane).

Meanwhile, Mark surprisingly manages to attract a cute teenage goth. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Robert Webb, who plays Jeremy, since his co-star David Mitchell clearly has the better role. Jeremy is an amusing character, making appalling techno tracks in his bedroom and deluding himself that there’s something noble about his refusal to get a job, but nobody will ever identify with him. There are people like Jeremy in the world but they wouldn’t recognise the similarity. (Some of them may even be reading this now. Don’t you see? He’s YOU. Now wake up and DO something about it.)

Mark on the other hand is crippled with self-doubt, wants to improve his situation but lacks the assertiveness to do so, and is reduced to taking pleasure in tiny victories like finding good offers in the supermarket or the bus arriving at the stop at the same instant that he does. For all that he’s a loser, I see Mark as the hero. The introduction of a goth girl as a love interest this week was a subtle masterstroke – they seem an unlikely pairing, but when she discovers the depth of his misanthropy she thinks he’s kind of cool. Unfortunately for Mark he’s still fixated on his disinterested co-worker Sophie.

Increasingly, the best comedies on British TV have to start in the margins and move up the ranks: the two other notable comedy debuts of the year, ‘Little Britain’ and the excellent ‘15 Storeys High’ are due for more prominent slots on BBC2. ‘Peep Show’ isn’t in a bad slot right now – 10:40pm on a Friday – but with all of Channel 4’s US comedy imports having been shunted to Fridays to cover for the network’s recent lack of home-grown shows, the 9:30pm slot in which ‘Spaced’ and ‘Black Books’ prospered is no longer open. This is where ‘Peep Show’ should be, and I would be surprised if a second series doesn’t materialise there within a year.

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By Eddie Robson

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