I can think of few comedy shows that, seven series in, still deliver the same consistent belly laughs as Peep Show. It’s a testament to all involved that, from the opening five minutes of this series opener, it felt like it had never been away. I make no bones about declaring that this is one of my all-time favourite comedy shows, and deserves to be mentioned in the same company as Curb Your Enthusiasm, I’m Alan Partridge and Spaced.
Picking up directly where the last series finished, the episode began in a labour ward where Sophie was giving birth to what has been firmly established as Mark’s baby. It would end with the little fella being born and cradled by Mark, accompanied by the finest line of the entire episode: “My son. Minimal water damage.”
That line was such a perfect ending to the episode, as it brought together several strands that were running throughout. Mark’s boiler – the cause of so much happiness, and distress, last series – is on the blink and, finding this out during the impending birth, it’s in his nature to not let such a pressing matter go away, no matter the situation currently facing him.
Asking Sophie for her opinion on the matter brought one of many chuckles from me, as this was a perfect indication that Mr Corrigan hadn’t changed a bean since we last saw him. Finding out that the boiler repair by Super Hans had caused little water damage, then, was a perfect finale to round things off. And that line? Perfection, although that term could be applied to the writing throughout.
Wonderfully crafted and pitched exactly right for each and every character and situation, it seems to get better and better with every new series. If they keep this up, there’s no reason the show couldn’t go on for years to come.
In truth, the show retreads much old ground. There’s Mark’s self-loathing and failure to stand up to his responsibilities, and Jez’s ongoing mission to bed anything that moves. But this familiarity is all key to Peep Show’s charm, placing you right back with a couple of friends you know all too well, but placing them in new, exciting situations week-in, week-out. It’s the hallmark of what will surely be recognised as a stone cold classic in years to come.
Take Jez’s exploits in this episode. Only he could find himself pondering whether or not it’s right to make a play for a girl whose boyfriend is in a coma, and while that might not sound all that funny on paper, it was exquisite to watch. That’s probably largely down to the fact that while Jez does horrible things and thinks terrible thoughts, he is not, deep down, a bad person.
Earlier series painted him in a less favourable light, but the Jez of the last few series has mellowed out a little, and become more of a friend to Mark than ever before. He’s growing up, just not that quickly. Hence the moments of madness he frequently finds himself in. But if you can’t laugh at a man wondering whether to tell someone that their boyfriend’s foot has just moved, as, if he doesn’t, the life support machine will be switched off and he’ll get his girl, then it’s probably time to switch over on Friday nights.
As for moments of madness, they don’t come much worse than Mark finding himself down the arcades, trying to avoid Sophie’s birth canal. You see, they might go about things in different ways, but Jez and Mark are both really rather superficial, selfish blokes. More alike than Mark would wish to let on, the arcade scene was really well played out, with even a stray interloper getting Mark’s goat.
The episode also rang true with me on another level. As someone who has attended his own baby’s birth, and encountered many a brusque midwife while doing so, the scenes of Mark’s ‘negotiations’ struck a real chord with me, which elevated the humour that little bit more. When you’re in the heat of the battle, so to speak, the last thing you need is an officious nurse proving less than helpful. Kudos to Mark for reacting so sternly, though. (“Very well, good day.”)
Oh, and I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning the brilliant Olivia Colman, as Sophie. She played pregnant highly effectively, but also with great humour: “I want an epidural, or just someone to smack me over the head,” and “She put her whole hand in… I didn’t think she’d put her whole hand in!” are just two of her choice lines. Also, her gritted teeth reaction to Mark having to “weaken his negotiating position” was a truly beautiful moment among many for one of our finest comediennes.
So, a glorious return for the El Dude brothers. They’re back in the game.
Peep Show airs on Channel 4, Friday nights at 10:00pm.
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