Easily and instantly, Peep Show has squeezed its way into my top five favorite television comedies, alongside Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development. I recently discovered the British comedy favorite, created by Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Andrew O’Connor, and proceeded to binge-watch the Netflix gem in a matter of weeks.
The show follows Mark and Jez, best friends since college, in their late twenties to mid thirties living very mundane lives as flatmates in London. They don’t seem to have anything in common, yet they depend on each other to be equally miserable, luckless and morally compromised.
Originally, the sitcom, starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb, aired on Channel 4 in England. But thanks to Netflix, you can binge-watch the hilarious series in eight easy, digestible seasons of six 22-minute episodes each. The series struggled with low ratings and has faced multiple cancellation scares, but its strong cult following and DVD sales have kept the series alive for 10 years, as the longest-running sitcom on Britain’s Channel 4.
(Peep Show creators have confirmed that the ninth series will be the last of the long-running sitcom. They recently collaborated with Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle with their new British police drama Babylon.)
David Mitchell plays Mark Corrigan, whose life is so terribly humdrum and unexciting, he’d rather stay home and watch history programming than ask the girl at work out to dinner. He works a nine-to-five suit job, and is desperate to find “the one” with whom he will spend the rest of his life, but he lacks the self-confidence necessary to make big things happen.His self-deprecating sense of humor, akin to a British George Costanza, is further amplified in the show’s creative POV camera style. Mark’s submissive personality is a perfect match to Jez’s alpha-loser persona.
Robert Webb plays Jeremy Usborne, also known as Jez, an aspiring DJ/musician with the temperament of an artist and the ambitions of a 17-year-old boy. He’s the typical irresponsible roommate: unemployed, chasing impossible women, and doing drugs with Super Hans, his washed-up-looking rock ‘n’ roll sidekick and bandmate. Their band name changes about as frequently as Super Hans lights up a cigarette.
"Oh, right now we’re called ‘Various Artists’, just to f*** over people with iPods," Jez explains.
Nearly every scene is shot from a character’s perspective in a POV camera style à la 1999's Being John Malkovich. This technique offers unique perspectives from various characters as they express their honest, unfiltered inner thoughts. Mark’s inner monologue polishes every scene depicting awkward encounters, social catastrophes and life-changing decisions. His dark and dry sense of humor is supported by years of life failures and mediocre relationships.
The writing in Peep Show is quick, smart and fresh. Mark and Jez are deeply flawed, and while their intentions might be in the right place, they seem to drop the ball at every social situation with the same cringe-worthy commitment as Larry David. My favorite element to this series is the way the writers weave pop culture references and European history innuendos into the script, and can produce something so organically funny, yet unlike any other scripted sitcom on television.
Start with Series 1, Episode 1: “Warring Factions” which exhibits Mark’s best attempts to flirt with neighbor Toni during a party when it’s finally just the two of them.
“You know, the Red Army shot 16,000 of their own men at Stalingrad. And, of course, the majority of the Wehrmacht had no winter clothing,” Mark begins, as Toni listens romantically unscathed.
“See, by the winter of ’42, the whole city was surrounded by the massed Sixth Army. It was pressing, pressing…” Mark takes Toni by the hand. “The Russians couldn’t hold on much longer. Many wanted to submit.”
Peep Show is one of my favorite discoveries on Netflix. It deserves praise for not only its originality, but also for its loyal following, which has helped keep the series alive for so long. I love this show, and recommend it to anyone who thinks he or she has the weirdest inner monologue. Peep Show definitely is worth binge-watching.
Series 2, Episode 1: “Dance Class”
Series 1, Episode 4: “Mark Makes A Friend”
Series 8, Episode 3: “The Love Bunker”
Series 3, Episode 3: “Shrooming”
Series 2, Episode 2: “Jeremy Makes It”