Many years ago, when I was living in London, I was locked in my block of flats. Some bright spark had decided it was be a cracking idea to double lock the front door from the outside, making it impossible to open from within. Much cursing and tantrum throwing later, I finally did manage to escape thanks to a kindly postie whom I managed to flag down by shouting through the letterbox. Passing him my keys through the bristles, daylight was upon me, and I could go on my merry way to work, which, considering it was my first day in a new job, was a rather strange affair, all being told.
With this in mind, you’ll understand why the weekend’s Peep Show held more intrigue to me than most, as this was exactly the predicament Mark and Jez found themselves in. Like a very British farce, the pair were in Zahra’s flat as Jez finally wooed her into his naughty ways of thinking, and Mark went over to pick him up to attend his son’s (James Ian or Ian James?) christening. And then the farce began.
I find episodes based around a tight, enclosed situation intriguing, and this instalment, following our main pair in the one location, was exactly that. The problem is, it just wasn’t that funny. For the first time in what has so far been an outstanding series, we were dealt a surprisingly flat episode. The script, thus far a tour de force in Peep Show terms, had too many laboured jokes, the plot was paper-thin and struggled to stand up over the half hour, and the acting too seemed a little uninspired. All-in-all, this was quite possibly the worst Peep Show episode of any series.
That’s not to say that there weren’t any high points. Mark’s admission that he had nothing else in the ‘dad bank’ than punctuality raised a laugh, as did the general notion that Jez is surely the single worst person to be locked in a hallway with, berating Mark (‘Mr Patheto Hand’) and bemoaning everything about their predicament without actually doing anything about it, other than ordering pizza, of course.
In the main, though, the show descended into the worst kind of comedy: farce. A very crude farce at that, and while I have no problem at all with the depths to which Peep Show plumbs, there has to be a great joke behind the crudeness for it to work. Eating a charred dog to save face, for example, is a genius example of when the show gets the balance bang on. Listening to a man on the toilet while hiding behind a shower curtain, on the other hand, is woefully obvious farcical comedy and, importantly, not that funny.
Too many jokes here followed a similar pattern and, in the end, the gamble with the format simply didn’t pay off. Thank goodness for the escape in the last couple of minutes to reintroduce us to a more familiar Peep Show world, a world in which Sophie is disappointed in Mark and in which the mighty Jeff turns up to belittle him at every opportunity. Mark also didn’t get his way with the name, now the proud father of baby Ian, named after Sophie’s father, and while Mark is usually the architect of his own downfall, it was gutting to see his friend put paid to his hopes.
I don’t doubt that the series will return to form come Christmas Eve, which can’t come round soon enough. Not enjoying an episode of Peep Show is a strangely disconcerting experience.
Read our review of the third episode here.
Peep Show airs on Channel 4, Friday nights at 10:00pm.
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