This review contains spoilers.
8.2 Business Secrets of the Pharaohs
When the ideas dry up, out come the gimmicks. That has to be the explanation for this week’s Peep Show body swap episode. At some point between the events of the storming series opener and this, Mark and Jez must have rubbed Hans’ magic crack pipe and exchanged essences, turning Corrigan into a gullible ego-monster and Jez a caution-advising sexually anxious sceptic.
It was uncanny to see Mark sat in front of Tool Academy delivering Jez’s lines, a brief glimpse into a parallel dimension where David Mitchell played the caution-to-the-wind half of Peep Show’s dysfunctional double act, and Robert Webb the smug told-you-so rationalist. It can’t have been half as uncanny as Mark must have felt, though. Even his inner monologue was moved to remark on the unlikelihood of Super Hans proffering sensible legal advice on his new book deal.
Not that Jez was entirely in Captain Sensible mode. He still believed that a pamphlet, a five-day course, and boffing the training leader were sufficient preparation for a new career. Come graduation day though, instead of life coach certification he was awarded the cold shoulder and an accusation of sexual perversion. “In a bad way?” he asked. Yes Jez, in a bad way.
Long-time viewers will have felt the nudge of recognition in Jeremy’s bedroom scene, as Celia’s taboo-breaking talk shot us right back to series two’s “Now fuck me and pretend I’m your mum” Nancy.
Even for an industry with roughly the same level of professional rigour as those people who leave shoeboxes of maggoty apples and an honesty jam-jar outside their front gate, Celia the life coach behaved wildly inappropriately. Sleeping with a trainee, then refusing to grant his imaginary qualification because of something uttered in the heat of the moment is hardly the height of probity, and – in the awareness that this may well be an unwise debate to enter into – surely cutting off and eating someone’s hair ranks lower on the sex-psycho spectrum than turning other people’s severed genitals into beachwear?
Jeremy’s sexual escapades weren’t the only element that felt recycled about this week’s episode. Mark’s inner disdain for Dobby’s clubbing, hipster mates was a return to Sophie’s series three foray into class As (in the episode that contains a shining moment for Mark Corrigan: that speech disabusing loved-up ravers of their tedious notions of interconnectedness).
The borrowing wasn’t contained to Peep Show either. In a revealing moment of shared parenthood with Armstrong and Bain’s Fresh Meat, Mark’s “Literary greats […] Ian McEwan or Tony Parsons” line hit the same comic note as Vod’s “Andy Motion and Purple Ronnie” poets gag from last week’s finale (unless it didn’t, and I’ve just been unnecessarily rude about Tony Parsons… Hang on, no, that’s wrong. There’s no such thing as unnecessary rudeness about Tony Parsons). The exchange went both ways, happily, as Oregon’s “…put her handbag in the fridge” suggestion on Fresh Meat took us all the way back to Mark’s nefarious plan for Sophie the promotion-stealer in Peep Show’s first series.
Speaking of Mark, his flim flam encounter with a fly-by-night vanity publisher this week was a chastening one, the climax of which sent his original essence dribbling back into his body. Surrounded by generous proportions of self-funded peanuts, Mark publicly admitted that the publication of his non-fiction debut, ‘Business Secrets of the Pharaohs’ (Dobby’s endorsement: “It’s good, because you sit down thinking this is going to be boring, but then you’re like, hmm, maybe not?”), was a disaster of his own making. That just left time for Mark and Jez to make amends in an industrial lock-up, and press the reset button for episode three.
I can’t say Business Secrets of the Pharaohs topped, or even came close to last week’s for laughs (Dobby’s damning with faint praise review of Mark’s book, and “the velvet spoon” were the only lines that really made me chuckle), but the show’s characters are still more fun to spend time with than almost any others on TV, even on an off-week. This episode may have made a withdrawal from its goodwill account, but Peep Show has a good long way to go before it even comes close to dipping into the red.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, Jeremy Therapised, here.
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