It was a sorrowful moment for TV viewers this week as the longest running sitcom in Channel 4’s history rolled its credits for the final time – Peep Show is over.
After nine seasons in twelve years, the adventures of Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) and Jeremy Usborne (Robert Webb) finally drew to a close with the two of them sinking into the furniture of their Croydon flat having become single once more. Nothing changed.
Arguably the defining British comedy of the 21st century, Peep Show – created by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain – was celebrated nationwide for establishing its idiosyncrasies to the point where they became undetectable without a conscious effort from the audience.
The first person camera shots, for example, did not only become a mainstay of the show’s make-up, but blended effortlessly with the internal monologues from Mark and Jeremy that provided the show with its most emotionally rewarding feature.
Our minds privately mutter words that our mouths would never speak aloud, and Peep Show understood this phenomenon wonderfully. Operating playfully with the two styles of dialogue delivery (internal and external), it not only caught us off guard constantly but enhanced each joke indefinitely.
But despite the two main characters having such freedom to internally filter their thoughts, the chaotic situations they often descended in to were always avoidable – their unfortunate inability to anticipate impending disorder was entirely representative of their selfishness as people.
Because above many things, television shows with characters who are as vindictive, selfish and miserable as Mark and Jeremy must use their negative traits to their comedic advantage. Peep Show often punished the pair for their own failings (check out Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia if you want to see Americans succeed at it too).
The decent people they encountered were often drawn into their destructive whirlwind – Alice, Dobby, Gerrard, Sophie, Angus, Nancy, Big Suze, the list goes on – and promptly left once they grew tired. Armstrong and Bain were never afraid of the people they had created simply because they were always willing to embarrass them.
Super Hans, or “Simon” as we now know, was often following in the footsteps of their ramshackle happenings and enabled much of Jeremy’s slacker behaviour. His punishment for such actions was watching Molly, his wife of barely a month, storming away from him out of Mark and Jeremy’s flat after discovering he had threatened a human hostage.
The hostage situation arguably suggested that calling time at this current moment was the correct choice. The antics of the pair only increased in ridiculousness to the point where the show lost its edge as it reached its climax.
But at its very best, during its infant stage, Peep Show was often the closest that fictional television ever came to capturing life as a mortal being in Blairite Britain: the underwhelming chaos of visiting bowling alleys while intoxicated and ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ appearing on every office party playlist.
Mark and Jeremy have slowly rubbed off on each other during the show’s twelve years but have arrived at an appropriately cynical conclusion that hangs like smog over the final shot of the pair sinking into their furniture: “What’s the point?”
By Rob Wilson