Any comedy lumbering into its eighth series usually faces accusations of becoming stale and tired, but Peep Show doesn’t have to worry about that: it’s barely managed to rustle up a single negative review since it initially aired way back in 2003.
So with several years of comedy success behind them and nothing to lose, writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong clearly decided to do whatever the hell they wanted and up the ante. Luckily for them, it paid off.
The beginning of the first episode of series eight didn’t give us much to go on. An insecure Mark was still chasing after Dobby, whose relationship with him seems more like the love of a woman for a nostalgia-inducing toy from her youth rather than anything passionate. A Teddy Ruxpin, perhaps. Or a Big Yellow Teapot.
Mark’s insipid love life is ground Peep Show has walked all over, jumped up and down on and built a patio on top of a long time ago, so his attempts to get Dobby to move in with him felt a bit stale and recycled- like a homemade Christmas present made from bits of old bread. But before any of us could doze off, Mark’s perpetually infirm rival Gerard popped his clogs, an event that launched the entire series into fifth gear.
Gerard’s untimely death from pneumonia- almost certainly complicated by his nasal tube, asthma and general air of slightly sweaty ill health- allowed Peep Show to do what it does best: approach important life events like births, deaths and marriages with the kind of deep irreverence people usually reserve for baiting the Pope on Twitter.
Mark was instantly (internally) pleased that his main competitor in the Dobby Olympics had bought the farm, but what else could we expect from a man whose thoughts the first time he cradled his new born son in his arms were ’minimal water damage’, and who once got married out of embarrassment.
His hasty editing of Gerard’s eulogy so he could attend a second job interview for a bathroom supplies retailer racked up the wonderful, cringe inducing tastelessness to a level not seen since series one. It was classic Peep Show, as was Jez’s decision to become a life coach in episode two. It would be hard to think of a profession Jez would be more unsuitable for, apart from (possibly) pyramid selling. Or being a musician. Or…actually there are quite a few.
Jez’s failure to get a life coaching certificate from a Mickey Mouse accrediting body run by a woman he’d slept with- combined with Mark’s equally crushing defeat at the hands of a fake publishing agent- was Peep Show gold, but the third episode somehow managed to be even better.
Instantly bringing to mind a classic episode of Spaced, the hapless El Dude brothers (plus El Dude uncle Super Hans) were dragged along on a ‘no holds barred’ paintballing weekend by Dobby’s ex boyfriend Simon.
Yep, Mark had only just buried one romantic competitor when a new one showed up. But it wasn’t Simon he needed to worry about – it was Jez. Mark’s moral vacuum of a best friend finally collapsed into himself in a black hole of selfishness, cheerfully allowing himself to fall for ubergeek Dobby during a woodland walk.
Nothing’s happened yet, but we all know it will. Jez snogged Sophie in the past, seduced Mark’s sister and had sex with his mother-in-law, so you could argue this is hardly groundbreaking stuff… but Mark’s been chasing Dobby for years, any betrayal at this stage will nuke the flatmates’ unlikely friendship forever. Or until series nine at the very least.
You can watch the resulting explosion on Sunday nights, 10pm on Channel 4.
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