Sunday, December 02, 2007

Peepshow - An Undiscovered National Treasure

Why don't more people watch Peepshow?

I ask this as when I mention the show to most people, they've never seen it. Madness. I'll admit that it doesn't always get the best time slot - late at night on Channel 4 - but thet never affected the popularity of Father Ted, Black Books, Spaced, Shameless or the IT Crowd. So why?

Is it funny, I hear you ask? Yes, it bloody well is. Hilariously so.

The series (there have been four of them now with a fifth on the way) follows the lives of two mismatched flatmates: irritating, irresponsible, immature slacker musician Jez (Robert Webb) and uptight, history-loving, socially inept, shy accounts manager Mark (David Mitchell). They share a flat in Croydon - Mark owns it and Jez utterly fails to pay his rent to live there - and have a small coterie of friends including drug-guzzling weirdo Super Hans (Matt King), kooky American Nancy (Rachel Blanchard), ultra-posh Big Suze (Sophie Winkleman) and Alpha-male Alan Johnson (Paterson Joseph). The various plots weave in and out of the central storyline which is Mark's on-off-on-off relationship with co-worker Sophie (Olivia Colman). Sound familiar? Yes, it does sound like Men behaving badly but this is no pale imitation ... that would be like saying that Only Fools and Horses was a rip-off of Steptoe and Son, or that Coupling was a Friends clone. Although they shared some superficial similarities, all four of those series were very different. And Peep Show is just as unique, packed with full-on 21st century zeitgeist and boasting a great gimmick ... the Peepshow title refers to the fact that we are frequently treated to a view of the action through either Mark's or Jez's eyes - we even get to hear their innermost thoughts.

It's a great mix of highbrow soliloquy and scatological slapstick. Highlights of the show so far include Mark having diarrhoea during a house party when the bathroom door is missing, Jez eating an accidentally barbecued dog in front of its owner, Mark's worry about whether he's in fact gay (culminating in him trying unsuccessfully to watch gay porn), and Jez feigning a terminal illness to get hand-relief from a neighbour. Yes, it's that rude. And yes, it's outrageously funny. The lead actors' inner monologues provide the best laughs however.

(While walking by a canal and about to be ditched by a girlfriend): "This is bad, very bad. The canal - perfect venue for the emotional bumpoff cos if I start screaming there's no one to hear. On the plus side, she's obviously confident I'm not a potential murderer."

(While watching a much-fancied woman having sex with another man at a party): "It's okay, it's like watching a porno. Except I can't see anything, I haven't got a hard on and I want to cry."

(While playing chess on a canal boat during Mark's stag night): Jez - "Let's go and get you some sweet punani action". Mark - "I don't want sweet punani action. I want to take your bishop and grind you down."

I'm pleased that Channel 4 decided to recommission the series. It may only get a million or so viewers but the DVD sales are very good (probably because people hear about it word-of-mouth from enthusiasts like me). And the fact that Ricky Gervais - currently king of UK comedy land - rates it as one of the funniest programmes ever can't have done it any harm.

Peepshow was nominated for two British Comedy Awards in 2006 and won a BAFTA in 2007 for 'Best comedy programme or series'. It's also being developed for American TV in the way that The Office was. All credit then to the unsung heroes of Peepshow - writers and creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain.

So why don't more people watch it? I have no idea. I implore you to do so. Or beg, borrow, rent, buy or steal the DVDs. Peepshow deserves more viewers and to be rightly considered one of the best comedy series we've produced in years.

You are missing out, believe me.

No comments: