Being the adventures of a prematurely middle-aged young man and an adolescently-stunted wannabe musician, Peep Show might just be the greatest sitcom of the past decade.
Comedy fans across the nation should really get down on their knees and acknowledge Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain as their new gods. After all, this pair of genius comedy writers created Peep Show, the sitcom that went from cult favourite to national institution thanks to the unswerving brilliance of its writing, not to mention the performances of David Mitchell and Robert Webb as the eternally pathetic flatmates Mark and Jez. Oh, some credit should also go to Mr Woody Allen – it was a scene in his masterpiece Annie Hall, in which the characters' real thoughts are written out in subtitles while they talk about other stuff, which inspired Peep Show to give us access to Mark and Jez's inner monologues of anguish.
It's little wonder that David Mitchell became a superstar off the back of Peep Show. He completely embodies the role of Mark Corrigan, who's basically someone's embarrassing dad trapped in the body of a youngish professional bloke. Hopelessly hooked on history (whether that's in the form of history books, history computer games or, um, dressing up as a Nazi for a war re-enactment day), he's also begins the series hopelessly in love (or some weird queasy version of lust) with his co-worker Sophie. Mark being Mark – ie, the unluckiest man in the world – he only winds up marrying Sophie after coming to terms with the fact that he doesn't actually like her all that much. Which leads to the messiest nuptials since that scene at the end of The Graduate.
Then there's Jez, the greatest undiscovered musician of our era. When he's not making bleepy-bleepy noises on his keyboard, he's getting hung up on other-worldly beauties like Big Suze and hatching evil plans (you know, like a young Richard Branson). To say he's a bit amoral is like saying Mark's a bit into history. Put it this way, he at one point literally poisons Mark's Lemsip so he can be suitably zonked out and not interfere with an LSD-infused party Jez throws with the express intention of bonking Suze. There are so many wrongs there, we don't even know where to begin.
Clinging onto these two like a kind of spindly parasite is Super Hans, who was very nearly played by Russell Brand but is in fact portrayed with rancid charisma by Matt King. Think Danny from Withnail & I, only randier and even more dangerously whacked out on drugs. He's basically every bit as deluded as Jez, but marginally more successful with women – when he's not crawling around vomiting on things, or campaigning to have a pub renamed Free the Paedos. He doesn't like Coldplay, but he's a sucker for a bit of crack. It’s really more-ish, that stuff.
Also trapped in Mark and Jez's awful web is Sophie, Mark's long-cherished beloved, who for a while is torn between Mark and obnoxious office worker Jeff before unfortunately choosing Mark. Straight-laced but a little bit naughty, she's pretty much completely wrong for poor old Mark – a fact he's determined not to notice until it's far too late. Jez has a similarly misguided attachment to liberated, hippy dippy American Nancy, who marries Jez for visa purposes and seems happily oblivious to the fact that the merest glance from her turns him into a blubbing, wobbly-lipped but uncontrollably horny wreck.
Oh, it's not easy being Mark and Jez, but long may they carry on being absolute prats together for our viewing pleasure. Here's to the El Dude brothers – honk honk!
When is it on?
The series is currently off-air.
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