Shiny Shelf

Peep Show Series 3

By Eddie Robson on 07 December 2006

It’s semi-remarkable in itself that a Channel 4 sitcom made it to a third series only two years after the first. The work-rate of writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, and that of stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, is hugely creditable – like anybody involved in a successful British sitcom they’ve all done other stuff whilst ‘Peep Show’ has been around, but it’s only now, with Mitchell and Webb tied up with their BBC2 sketch show and the associated tour, that they’ve had to skip a year (the fourth series starts shooting very soon).

Whilst we wait, a slightly belated look back at the recently-released-on-DVD series three is in order. ‘Peep Show’ achieved a slight tightening-up between its first two series, and series three initially seemed hadn’t managed to sustain that quality, opening with an episode which felt like it had strayed too far into ‘Extras’-style comedy of humiliation without enough sympathy to make you keep caring. The story of Mark’s phone being stolen by some ASBO youths didn’t quite chime with what makes the character so good: he’s at his best when his humiliations are internal, so he tortures himself whilst the world is oblivious.

Most sitcoms shove their best episode up front to maximise viewers, so this was a bad sign for the rest of the series. However, it just turned out that the series was quite deliberately constructed and couldn’t be reorganised, with a clear arc to Mark’s relationship with Sophie, and it works well taken as a whole simply because practically every episode is better than the last. The episodes in which Jez starts a relationship with Mark’s sister, and where Jez does his jury service, are both ‘Peep Show’ highlights on a par with the series two episode where Mark stalked the shoe shop girl all the way to her university course. Yes – that good.

Some assumed the show had come to an end when Mark and Sophie got engaged at the end of this series, but to those of us who are aware of the ability of ‘Peep Show’ to find new depths of awkwardness to sink into, the announcement of a fourth series came as no surprise. Bring on the pain.

The DVD is not bad by comedy standards, featuring a handful of deleted scenes and commentaries by the creative team across three episodes. It’s not quite as good as the presentation of the first two series – which you can incidentally buy as a boxed set for very little money, if you shop around. So if you don’t yet own the first two series, you can indulge in a seven-and-a-half-hour cringe this Christmas.

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By Eddie Robson

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