Looking Back At PEEP SHOW - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Looking Back At PEEP SHOW

Hannah looks back at Peep Show, from her point of view.
“In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn’t change half-way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.”
Jeanette Winterson

It’s a strange situation when your affinity for the melancholic prose of Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’ leads you into discovering Peep Show, arguably the biggest British sitcom of the century, but it was a situation I found myself in back in university whilst discussing quotes we live by. Upon sharing this poignant truth with my drinking partner, they nodded sagely and uttered a sentence that changed my life: “People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis. You can’t trust people, Jeremy”.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was late to the party where Peep Show was concerned; by the time I was introduced to it in 2012 it had all but run its course. So much so that I managed to pick up its first few series in CEX for a whole £2.50 the following day. In my defence, I was a pre-teen back when Peep Show started airing and therefore still somewhat subject to parental approval when consuming media (in hindsight, this was mostly determined by whether my parents wanted to watch it or not).

For those of you who are arriving to the party much later than I: Peep Show is a British Sitcom that aired on Channel 4 between 2003 and 2015 and starred the modern double act David Mitchell and Robert Webb fresh off the back of their, at the time, poorly received The Mitchell and Webb Situation. It centers around the strait-laced Mark Corrigan (Mitchell) and his slovenly friend-cum-housemate, Jeremy (Webb) as they tumble through life’s affairs.
Whilst the series may begin on an innocent vein - Mark wanting to date his co-worker but being too socially awkward to ask her out, whilst Jez tries to fulfil his dream of being a musician - it all too soon descends into much murkier waters. Blackface, The Mental Health Act, Nazism, Drug addiction and overdosing are all topics covered in the first three series alone (likely the reason my parents didn’t deem it appropriate viewing). With some incredibly dark and risqué subject matters, why is Peep Show so highly regarded and why do I constantly find myself rewatching it?

The answer to this lies in Peep Show’s innovations. Yes, the ‘Straight man and Wise Guy’ comedy trope had been stretched pretty thin at the point of airing, but the innovation lies in how the audience experiences this familiar trope. Shot POV style – hence the name – the audience was invited into the internal monologue of the show’s protagonists, deriving much of its comedy from thoughts left unspoken. The reality of this is that, when all is said and done, Peep Show is less of a black comedy about two dysfunctional and oft-distasteful friends and more of a comedic exploration of the human condition, Schadenfreude, and his lesser-known brother Gluckschmerz.

This is perhaps Peep Show’s saving grace, and the reason it is one of my most rewatched series; by bridging the gap between the watched and the watcher, it allows the audience to relate much more intimately with the characters of Mark and Jez. The beauty of Peep Show is that no matter how much we want to disapprove, by allowing us to be voyeurs of the protagonists conscious thought, we unwittingly enter a conspiracy with the characters. We understand from their internal narrative that there is no malicious intent behind the distasteful displays: only naivety and a touch of incompetence, something we have all been victim too in life.
That’s not to say it’s always easy viewing. I am a seasoned purveyor of splatter films and even I cringe when Jeremy takes a bite out of a barbequed dog. However, the follow-up where Jeremy confesses that “in the moment, it really did feel like [he] needed to eat it”, is a thought process that – albeit probably not in this exact context – we can all relate to. That is where the comedy lies, whilst we may not be familiar with the situation, we are certainly all too familiar with the thought process.

Peep Show is unapologetically bleak: time passes indeterminately through the series, and we are forced to witness two men make the same mistakes over, and over again; learning nothing and always ending up back where they started. It is a show about suffering, compromise and unwavering paranoia. It’s funny because it’s truth. Mark and Jez don’t live together because they want to live together; they do it because they must. Life isn’t always a picnic, so why should television be?

It’s hardly surprising then that my Winterson quote has since been retired for the much more succinct musings of Jez’s drug-obsessed bandmate, Super Hans. Though it is debatable whether their authors are in the same literary league as one another, they are both born from the same source: human experience.

Preferring the company of fictional characters to living, breathing people; it should come as no surprise that Hannah is a connoisseur of all things geek. Whilst their body resides in the capital of Wales, their heart resides in Middle-Earth and their mind remains firmly lodged in the memory of that embarrassing thing they did when they were eight.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad