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From Across the Pond: "Peep Show"

Every once in a while a show comes along that makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable to be a human being. In a good way, that is. That is the joy of watching this series, from the twisted minds of The Thick of It's Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain.

Peep Show is a deliriously sordid Britcom where you can't help but squirm as you watch sad sacks Mark (David Mitchell) and Jeremy (The Smoking Room's Robert Webb) go about their pathetic ways. While the delightfully creepy theme song may have become a little more upbeat in the series' second season, Mark and Jeremy's outlook hasn't; they're just as messed up as they were last season. Mark and Jeremy are the "El Dude Brothers," two completely dysfunctional roommates who have lived together since university and who are destined to spend their lives together in a state of fitful co-dependence. Mark, a loan manager, is the more "grounded" of the two, though by grounded I mean less likely to engage in a drunken orgy or sleep with their insane married neighbor Toni (Coupling's Elizabeth Marmur), but more likely to urinate in a co-worker's desk drawer in a fit of revenge. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Jeremy is a wannabe musician who all too often falls for the wrong woman... Or druggie friend Super Hans (Matt King), if they're completely wasted. Well, just that once, anyway.

Peep Show's genius is that it presents the audience with Mark and Jeremy's point-of-view, directly capturing the action as though we were looking out from their respective eyes, whilst listening to their every perverse, pathetic, poignant thought, whether it be about Mark's fixation on his deformed genitalia or Jeremy's misguided beliefs that he will one day be a rock god. The effect could have been overbearing or unbearable altogether, but it's a credit to both Mitchell and Webb's acting, as well as Armstrong and Bain's writing, that it works. You might be tempted to look away from the filth and squalor of what's in these manboys' heads... if it weren't so damn funny.

Together, Mark and Jeremy form a warped, funhouse mirror version of The Odd Couple, with Mark playing the uptight, slightly sinister one and Jeremy the fun-loving and lazy guy stuck in a state of arrested adolescence. In last week's episode, Jeremy was caught stealing a candy bar in the convenience store where he and Mark used to shop in their university days together; locked in the storeroom while the police are being summoned, this less-than-dynamic duo discover a way to escape, but Mark decided to leave a note and a ten-pound note. (That's just the sort of guy he is.) And then he goes back to stalking a beautiful and young college student named April, whom he met while buying shoes and then followed back to Dartmouth. All this while trying to put his love for co-worker Sophie (The Office's Olivia Coleman) behind him, a somewhat noble endeavor if it weren't Mark who kept screwing things up for himself by being so damn... creepy.

But that's the beauty of Peep Show, that we're able to exist within these characters' heads for half an hour and then we're able to return to our relatively normal lives. It's a glimpse of the madness and dysfunction inside every thirty-something single guy, a quick and terrifying peep that reminds us how lucky we are not to be as messed up as Mark and Jeremy are.

While the second season of Peep Show is coming to an end tonight with a one-hour special, BBC America will begin re-airing the entire series from the beginning, starting on Saturday, 5 August (5 am ET/2 am PT) with the first two episodes of the series. (Subsequent episodes will air in the same timeslot in the following days.) While it's an odd hour to be catching some televised comedy, set your TiVo's to Season Pass and feast on one of the most twisted Britcoms ever to hit our shores. You'll thank me in the morning.


Anonymous said…
"Peep Show" is comedy as only the Brits can do - mad, cringe-inducing fun. I love it!
Anonymous said…
Series 4 of Peep show starts this Friday in the UK!!
the promos look hilarious!

has Series 3 aired over there yet?
Anonymous said…
new (08) series in UK has hit new highs/ lows of comic "genius". Mark with a £5 note (think it was £5 as had to turn away!) trying to get excited about the image of the Queen - Super Hans/ Mark's big music break being ruined by Super Hans getting "blown" by Sophie's brother (think it was her brother) Best current British comedy by a distance ...

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