Peep Show series 8 episode 4 review: Big Mad Andy

Review Louisa Mellor 18 Dec 2012 - 07:03

Mark’s eye wanders and Jez continues to be the world’s worst life coach in this week’s Peep Show…

This review contains spoilers.

8.4 Big Mad Andy

A loud hurrah for the return of writer Simon Blackwell, the only safe pair of hands to which to entrust an episode of Peep Show not led by regular writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong. Blackwell’s repertoire includes some of the show’s finest, including the episode in which Super Hans accidentally ran to Windsor, series six’s walking tour instalment, and the series five ep that, were Peep Show to go by Friends-style appellations, would be called ‘The One With Gunny’.

A hesitant blokey handshake to Andy the carpenter too (Liam Noble), to whom the five years between this and his series three appearance have not been kind. Back then, Andy was just a workshy chippy with a therapist and a temper, now he’s a violent drunk with a maniac's nickname, and the most recent graduate of the Jeremy Usborne school of life coaching. Troubled does not begin to cover it.

Robert Webb was on particularly good form this week, not least when setting about poor self-hating Andy in that garage. Jez, surely the most instinct-driven, suggestible character in UK sitcom, is only ever a nudge away from dreadful behaviour, so pitting him against a mentally ill masochist was bound to end in yet more glorious unprofessionalism.

Aside from Mark being a notorious cheapskate, the question of why he rehired Andy the door-breaking shirker can be added to the list of ‘Things to ponder during the Peep Show ad break’. Also on this list are the questions: Have Jez and Mark now been in love with all of each other’s girlfriends? Is Mark ever going to see his infant son? And, why doesn’t Dobby get the hell out of Dodge (or in her case, Croydon)?

This week’s plot was pieced together from unrelated chunks – the cat, Hans’ promotion and use of Freecycle as an introduction agency, Jez and Andy, Mark and Stephanie, Dobby’s European dreams. There was none of the beautiful synchronicity to be found in an episode of say, Curb Your Enthusiasm, which draws together its pigs ear threads into the silkiest of purses at the close of each instalment.

Scatter-plotted it may have been, but Peep Show continues to provide enormous value on the quotable phrases front. Big Mad Andy was as densely packed with choice lines as ever (“tasteless misery sand”, “bottle of twats”, “gather ye pearls while the hog walks”), and Mark’s “I hate and fear every facet of that idea” when faced with the prospect of InterRailing is as wonderful a summation of a sitcom character’s outlook on life as Victor Meldrew not believing it.

Sharply as it’s written, plot-wise, this series has been spinning its wheels somewhat. The Jez-loves-Dobby strand feels like the extended director’s cut of Mark’s brief infatuation with Big Suze. The supper with Stephanie could have slotted into any point of the previous seven series, and the excision of baby Ian (so far) leaves Mark feeling uncannily past-less, as if a 1984 has been done on the Sophie-related events of the last few years.

While the characters have to be kept on the hamster wheel to some extent - they can’t actually marry, spawn, or move out of the flat without the show’s premise deflating - I can’t help feeling that Peep Show’s missing a trick by not showing Mark coping with life as a parent (surely a workaround for Olivia Colman’s busy schedule could be written in).

Still, while there’s still so much fun to be had with Peep Show’s script, griping about holey plots and recycled set-ups feels - what's the word? Ungrateful. With only two episodes of the current series left, I plan to savour every remaining minute.

Read Louisa's review of the previous episode, The Love Bunker, here.

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