That Mitchell and Webb look

Not since David Brent’s infamous dance on The Office have I found myself shielding my eyes in horrified embarrassment while compulsively peering through the cracks in my fingers. Addicted to standard American sitcoms, Friends, Scrubs and the like, I never understood the appeal of Peep Show, until my best friend acquired the box set over the summer holidays and suggested – or rather, insisted – I watch it. Although I’d heard of the series, and of course the Mitchell and Webb brand, I’d never had much interest in the programme, but in my infinite boredom I decided to give it a shot. After all, it was that or do something productive. So I sat down with five seasons on DVD and started to watch. The rest, as they say, is history.

Having succumbed to peer pressure, I now found myself immersed in Peep Show’s addictive world. It follows two unlikely friends as they share a flat and struggle to cope with the basics of work, relationships and everything in between. In the middle of a dreary and monotonous summer, Peep Show felt like a breath of fresh, hilarious air.

Its innovative camera style places you in the middle of the scenes, giving you the point of view of each character at various times. You see the world through their eyes and, although this is practically nauseating at first, once you become accustomed to it it adds a new and exciting aspect to your viewing. I found myself identifying with the two main characters despite the fact I am neither an uptight, socially-stunted loan manager, nor an immature and deluded wannabe musician.

The inclusive camera style is most definitely why I felt so instantly connected. I was somehow able to relate to whatever ridiculous and embarrassing scenarios I was watching play out. Granted, I have never been asked to co-own a pub called ‘Free The Pedos’, but although many elements are obviously exaggerated, they are still believable as situations my friends and I might get ourselves into.

Often an entire episode will go by with not much at all happening, but that’s the beauty of it. The best bits are not the surprising plot twists but instead the moments in between, when we watch these two no-hopers struggle through their relatively banal lives, and see in them caricatured aspects of ourselves.

The internal monologues are in my opinion the most genius element. Witty, sarcastic and often tragically pessimistic, they add yet another original feature that sets Peep Show apart from your standard Friday night viewing. The writing is truly excellent and I’m pretty sure that similar, if less-eloquently phrased, thoughts have gone through my head in such situations. I felt suddenly reassured by these awkward characters. In my otherwise entirely wasted summer, Mark and Jeremy became like two tragic friends who I could empathise all too well with.

Although now given a more favourable 10pm timeslot on Channel 4, Peep Show is still something of a mystery to many. It’s one of those fads you hear a lot about but can rarely be bothered to investigate. With only six half-hour episodes a series it really is a case of blink and you’ll miss it. Never fear, however. Due to the wonder of the internet you need not be left out. Despite the fact that the latest series has just finished, all the episodes can be found on 4oD whenever you want to watch them.

I would explain the characters to you and the major plot points, for those who’ve not seen it, but there just isn’t much use. You can join this show at any time. If you find yourself so inclined, then revisit past series and enjoy discovering the backstory for yourself. Given that the camera work is now a little smoother and the writing a little more slick, you may even find it easier to start at season six and work your way back to its less sophisticated, though in my view more endearing, start.

Peep Show has attained a cult status amongst most of its fans, though the most recent series received only a modest share of the Friday night viewing figures (approximately 9 per cent). An American version of the show was piloted but sank without a trace. It could not replicate the success of The Office, which, although essentially British, had a universally relatable theme. To be honest I’m not at all surprised that an American Peep Show failed. Aside form the fact that this really couldn’t work without the perfect comic rapport of Mitchell and Webb, I like to think that the Americans just couldn’t handle this particular brand of humour, and I admit I find some smug satisfaction in this. Peep Show is all ours, a very British brand of cringe-inducing realism.

I realise that Peep Show won’t be to everyone’s taste and there are plenty out there who, with even the most open and willing mind, simply won’t get it. But, if you’ve yet to give it a try, then visit 4oD and check it out. You never know – it might just change your life, or at least assure you that it’s not all coffee and smiles in Central Perk.


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