This review contains spoilers.
8.1 Jeremy Therapised
Nose-tubes at half-mast people, The Dobby Club has lost a founding member. Yes, sickly Gerard (Horrible Histories’ Jim Howick) has breathed his last, leaving Mark with no-one but his own awfulness to scupper his chances with the Dob. (Somehow you know, I think he’ll still manage it.)
There’s no shortage of plot in this neatly packed first episode of the new series. Gerard’s funeral, Mark’s interview, and Jeremy’s therapy are all folded into twenty-five minutes of what remains one of the funniest comedies on TV. Mark might be turning Jez’s room into a home office, and Super Hans may have swapped the crack pipe for a shiny suit and a job in a toilet showroom, but Peep Show still fizzes with the same dysfunctional, sharply scripted magic.
We last saw Mark and Jez on the point of disbanding the El Dude Brother alliance. Dobby had said “Fuck it” and agreed to move in with Mark (shall we have a bunch of ‘Don’t Do It Dob’ badges printed up à la Charles and Di?), while Jez’s irrepressible horniness had lost him even the booby prize accommodation of Hans’ bag. Was it finally to happen? Was Mark and Jez’s uni hangover co-dependence actually about to come to an end?
Of course not. Luckily for us, Jeremy unleashed the same ferocious ambition on his ‘moving out of the flat’ plan as he had on his music career, with precisely the same result: he’s going nowhere.
That’s not to say Jez didn’t make some progress in the episode. Though he’s no more likely to actually move out than Johnson is to become a grief counsellor (poor Gerard, what a couple of eulogies…), in the first of the episode’s funerals, Jez said goodbye to his music dreams. That’s right, The Hair Blair Bunch, Spunk Bubble, Momma’s Kumquat, Coming Up For Blair, Various Artists, Curse These Metal Hands, Danny Dyer’s Chocolate Homunculus, Man Feelings, and latterly, The Thirteen Bastards are no more, having ended up not in the annals of music fame, but in a bin, on fire. Quite punk, that really.
Jez’s next adventure involves him training to becoming a life coach, a job for which he’s so magnificently unsuited that when it occurred to Peep Show’s writers, they must have grinned from ear to ear. Would you take life advice from Jeremy Usborne, a man who can’t get to sleep unless he’s wearing a woolly hat? It was brilliant stuff, as was Robert Webb’s fantastically Jezzy (now a word) Curly-Wurly tirade to that filthily monikered therapist.
After pulling a Tyler Durden in the special sauce at the Mexican restaurant, Mark was back on the job hunt too, after receiving a tip-off from an unexpected source.
I can’t express how much I love the idea of Super Hans going straight and getting really into bathroom fittings. Just when you thought the character had played his last, messy, crazed hand, along comes a passion for soft-close toilet lids. Joyful.
Which leaves Mark, who’s still no better at turning up to church on time. Whether crowing over his defeat of Gerard on what turned out to be his deathbed, offering words of ersatz grief outside the funeral parlour, or hastily redacting his funeral speech, Mark remains something of a shit. He still treats human relationships with military strategy (his high points this week were ambushing Jez with a passive-aggressive takeaway and sabotaging Dobby’s microwave rather than have an honest conversation with her) and David Mitchell’s portrayal of his emotional constipation is huge fun to watch.
It’s been said that Peep Show’s coup is bringing us to care about despicable characters, which is half true. Its real genius though, is in bringing us to see that we’re all sort of despicable; that in a way, we’re all Mark and Jez. Not the dog-eating perhaps, or the top-hat urination (not recently anyway, in my case), but in the things that alarm them, their idle thoughts, good intentions, and ruinous paranoia.
Mark and Jez are beautifully, bathetically inarticulate in the face of what Facebook coins ‘life events’. Death occurs, so Mark reappraises his phone tariff; last series he held his new-born son in his arms and could only channel his feelings into the phrase “minimal water damage”. Alongside the unedited self-regard that spews from Mark and Jez’s inner voices is a deeply human and familiar bewilderment at the world. Well that, and a heartening number of knob gags.
The only negative I have is that this new series is already a sixth of the way over, though salve to that wound is that Channel Four has bagged a ninth in advance. Until next week then, that is, assuming we all survive the scythe’s remorseless swing…
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