Peep Show, the best sitcom in the history of best sitcoms, returns for its ninth and final series this week. No situation comedy has as accurately, or with such frightening honesty, shown the full horror of being a human in twenty-first century Britain. No show has burrowed itself so deep inside me before. Never has a sitcom poked me with its boney finger and muttered, ‘That’s you, that is.’
Written and created by Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (and seen originally as a live action version of Beavis And Butt-Head), it would focus on our – for want of a better word – ‘heroes’, Mark and Jeremy, commenting at what’s on television. However, ‘Who are Mark and Jeremy?’ became the more pressing question. ‘They are terrible, terrible men’ is the answer.
In some ways Peep Show can be seen as a Men Behaving Badly for the new millennium, but with more pain, more reality, more humour, less sexism and less Martin Clunes in every way you could imagine.
Our excruciating pleasure comes from seeing the deceptions we all practice on a daily basis made sickeningly transparent. Peep Show allows us privileged access into the truly horrible minds of Mark and Jeremy, tearing down the veil between their actions and spoken words and their selfish, cowardly inner lives. We see everything they see from head-cams and sometimes the camera is a little too close.
The supporting characters are also a joy: ‘Black businessman’ Alan Johnson (Mark’s boss and man-crush), Toni (next door’s ‘fuckjar’ and Jez’s lust interest in the early episodes), and everybody’s favourite, Super Hans (the drug dealer/drug consumer and nearly the show’s third character). Like the greatest sitcoms, the laughs come not just from great zingers but also from knowing all three dimensions of the characters.
Since 2003 I have been in love with Peep Show. I am not blind; the show has its faults. It can be topical and so ages poorly. The relentless despair – no matter how beautifully funny it is – can grind you down and this puts some wrong people off. However, it is and always will be, my show, made especially for the self-loathed everywhere.
Here I’ve selected five of my favourite Peep Show moments…
(Series 1, episode 4)
(Series 1, episode 2)
Jez: People like lager and nuts.
Super Hans: People liked Coldplay and voting for the Nazis. You can’t trust people, Jeremy.
(Series 3, episode 2)
The name has become synonymous with spiritual dance classes forever.
(Series 2, episode 1)
(Series 1, episode 2)
The new series of Peep Show starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday 11th November at 10pm. Seasons 1-8 are also available on 4OD.