Peep Show (British TV series)
Peep Show is a British television sitcom starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. It was written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, with additional material by Mitchell and Webb, among others. It was broadcast on Channel 4 from 2003 until 2015. In 2010, it became the longest-running comedy in Channel 4 history in terms of years on air.
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||9|
|No. of episodes||54 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||23–27 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Objective Productions|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Original release||19 September 2003 –|
16 December 2015
Peep Show follows the lives of Mark Corrigan (Mitchell) and Jeremy "Jez" Usborne (Webb), two very different, dysfunctional friends who share a flat in Croydon, London. Mark is a socially awkward and despondent loan manager with a cynical outlook on life, while Jeremy is an irresponsible, juvenile slacker and talentless, unemployed musician who lives in Mark's spare room. Mark and Jeremy's friendship began as fellow students at the fictional Dartmouth University, where they referred to themselves as the "El Dude Brothers". Stylistically, the show utilizes point of view shots—giving the programme its title—with the thoughts of main characters Mark and Jeremy audible as voice-overs.
Though it never achieved high viewing figures during its original run, the show received consistent critical acclaim and has since become a cult favourite. In April 2019, four years after its final episode, Peep Show was named the 13th greatest British sitcom in a poll by Radio Times. The following month, it was announced that an American version of the show was in the works, with the two lead characters being female.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||19 September 2003||24 October 2003|
|2||6||12 November 2004||17 December 2004|
|3||6||11 November 2005||16 December 2005|
|4||6||13 April 2007||18 May 2007|
|5||6||2 May 2008||6 June 2008|
|6||6||18 September 2009||23 October 2009|
|7||6||26 November 2010||29 December 2010|
|8||6||25 November 2012||24 December 2012|
|9||6||11 November 2015||16 December 2015|
In the first series, Mark and Jez start out with similar aims of bedding their next-door neighbour Toni (Elizabeth Marmur). Jez does this, while she is separating from her husband, Tony. Mark is obsessed with his colleague Sophie (Olivia Colman), who is more interested in their manly colleague Jeff. Mark has a one-night stand with a teenage goth girl. Mark and Jez endure awkward situations: Mark admires his boss, Alan Johnson, and struggles to work out whether or not he is sexually attracted to him. Jez remembers engaging in fellatio with Super Hans (Matt King) during a drug binge. Sophie beats Mark to a promotion, so Mark and Jez desperately team up to prank call Sophie. They also launch a pepper spray attack on Super Hans, who has begun a fling with Toni. Mark sees a therapist, and nearly succeeds in having sex with Sophie, but this chance is ruined by Jez's apparent drug overdose. Shortly afterwards, Jez claims to Toni that he has a terminal illness in order to receive sexual action from her.
In series 2, Tony moves back in with Toni. Super Hans develops a crack cocaine addiction. Jez meets, falls in love with and starts an open relationship with Nancy (Rachel Blanchard), an attractive and happy-go-lucky American. They briefly enjoy a wild sex life, but Nancy then decides to become celibate. Jez briefly appears to be having some success with his music career with Super Hans. Mark's life is falling apart, as Sophie plans to move in with Jeff. Mark forges a brief friendship with a colleague, Daryl, which he ends after he discovers that Daryl is a neo-Nazi. Mark falls for a shy, attractive student in a shoe shop and makes an ill-judged visit to his old university, Dartmouth, where she studies. Mark finds out from Jez that Jeff has been cheating on Sophie, and Mark informs Sophie of that, after which Sophie ends the relationship. Nancy asks Jez to marry her, for visa reasons, and Jez accepts gleefully; Mark gets Super Hans to lie to Jez and say that she slept with him, but after they see his reaction they can't go through with it. Jez and Nancy do get married despite Mark's efforts, but after they decide to start having sex again Jez admits to Nancy, who is now his wife (for visa documentation), that he hooked up with Toni. Nancy leaves him.
Series 3 begins with Jez in a relationship with Michelle, of whom he is not fond of but with whom he stays as they plan a threesome with another woman. Big Suze (Sophie Winkleman) re-enters Jez's life, and has a new boyfriend, Stu. Mark and Sophie have finally become a couple, but Mark is mugged and is separated from Sophie once again when their employer relocates her to Bristol. Merry, Jez and Mark's friend from university, visits and Mark arranges for her to be sectioned. Jez and Super Hans attempt to run a pub. Jez holds a magic mushroom party in the flat. Jez has a fling with Mark's sister, while Mark falls in love with Suze. Jez serves on a jury and has a date with the female defendant. In the last episode, Mark plans to propose to Sophie but changes his mind upon realising that they have nothing in common. Nonetheless he agrees to marry her to avoid "embarrassment" after she accidentally finds his engagement ring and accepts a proposal which he had not actually made. Jez's efforts to get back together with Suze are hindered somewhat by Hans's attempts to go cold turkey.
During series 4, recently engaged Mark and Sophie visit Sophie's parents, and Jez has sex with Sophie's mother. Big Suze breaks up with Jez once again after Johnson offers to pay him in order to have sex with her and he agrees. Despite being disgusted by the offer, she subsequently starts a relationship with Johnson claiming that he is an "alpha male". Mark's attempt, at Johnson's request, to head a group of staff to formulate a merger between two departments is a failure, which leads to Mark being humiliated at JLB's conference. In an attempt to get away from Sophie, Mark joins a gym and discovers that Nancy is working there, after which Jez makes a failed attempt to reconcile. Sophie leaves on a business trip to Frankfurt, leaving Mark to consider a fling with a woman whom he recently met at his school reunion. Jez finds some well-paid work as a handyman for "The Orgazoid", one of his musical heroes, but discovers that his new employer expects him to give him "a hand". Mark and Jeremy spend a weekend on a narrowboat in Shropshire for Mark's stag do, at which Mark and Jez meet two sisters in a pub. After meeting the businessman father of the girls, Mark attempts to secure a job with him in Bangalore as a means of escaping his impending wedding. The plan backfires when Jez accidentally kills the pet dog of one of the girls and the family find out when a series of attempts to cover it up lead to him eating it. As the wedding approaches, Jez is having difficulty juggling a hungover Super Hans, the wedding, Nancy, and his desperate need to urinate. After several attempts to avoid marrying, including proposing marriage to a member of staff in a local cafe, stepping out in front of a car, and hiding in the church, Mark, with visible reluctance, marries Sophie. However, realising he was trying to get out of marrying her by hiding, she runs out on him after the ceremony, planning to seek an annulment because Mark is "horrible".
Much of series 5 revolves around Mark's search for "the one". His first date since his wedding is a double date which goes wrong due to going to a boring play, his date being uninterested in him and then returning to the house to find a burglar. He asks out the IT girl, Dobby (Isy Suttie), although the date ends badly when they find a vomiting Sophie in the toilets, who reveals to Dobby that she is married to him. Dobby remains interested, even when Mark rejects her offer to be his date at his upcoming birthday party to take a young Australian woman whom he had recently met whilst speed dating. Jez runs out of money and steals from Johnson's credit card and is temporarily evicted by Mark. Jez asks Big Suze if he can stay with her and Johnson, but is rejected. He tries to obtain money from his mother after his great aunt dies, which reveals their strained relationship. Mark, however, thrives in her company and is given the job of writing her boyfriend's military biography. Angry, Jeremy ruins Mark's ambitions by revealing how Mark was raped by the veteran's daughter, after she had sex with him while he was asleep. Jeremy and Hans get a manager, Cally, for their band and go to a music festival. Jez and Mark both have sex with Cally, but she quickly rejects both of them. Mark fails to ask Dobby out and she finally moves on. Jez and Hans join a cult. Mark is promoted to Senior Credit Manager by Johnson but does not fire Sophie as ordered, after she reveals that she is pregnant with what may be his child. In the closing moments of the series, Jez tells Mark that he recently had sex with Sophie and that her baby might be his.
Series 6 begins with JLB Credit closing down. Sophie tells Mark and Jez that Jeff is also a possible father of her baby. The mystery is solved when Sophie reveals that Mark is the baby's father. Jez meets Elena, a beautiful young Russian woman and occasional marijuana dealer who lives in their building. Jeremy quickly falls in love with her, but things deteriorate when it is revealed that Elena has a long-term partner, Gail, who is returning to London. Mark looks for work, starting a company with a stressed Johnson, almost landing his dream job as a guide for historic walks, then becoming a waiter in Gail's Mexican restaurant—all the while trying to get anywhere with Dobby. To resolve their woman troubles, Jeremy and Mark host a party, which ends in Jeremy trying to rekindle his love for Elena, Mark vomiting on a snake in a bin, and Gail and Elena deciding to enter into a civil partnership. Mark pledges to take driving lessons in order to drive Sophie to the hospital when the baby arrives, but lies to her when he fails his test. Jeremy is upset over losing Elena, especially after she reveals that she is moving to Quebec with Gail. Sophie goes into labour early, and with Mark forced to reveal he cannot drive, a drunk Jeremy attempts to drive Sophie to the hospital and nearly runs Gail over. Jeremy admits that he and Elena were having an affair, then Sophie drives herself to the hospital with the two boys in the back seat.
Series 7 introduces Zahra and her boyfriend Ben, whom Jez meets while Sophie is giving birth. Jez is instantly attracted to Zahra and is selfishly pleased when he discovers that Ben is in a coma, potentially making Zahra single. However, Ben recovers fully, and, as thanks for being so friendly to Zahra, offers Jez a job with his record company, which Jez accepts as he hopes it will allow him to get closer to Zahra. The job does not go well, and his attempts to sign up his and Super Hans's band fails badly and ends up with him being fired from the band. Mark finally beats off competition from Gerard to become Dobby's boyfriend, although he continues to behave awkwardly in her company. Gail sacks Mark from his job at the restaurant. Jez pretends to be an intellectual in order to impress Zahra, which enables him to have sex with her. When Mark comes to meet him the next morning the two find themselves locked in Zahra's flat, causing Ben to discover them and Mark to miss his son's christening. Jez, Hans, Dobby, Mark, Mark's sister and parents all have Christmas dinner at Jez and Mark's. After Zahra tells Jez that she has split from Ben, Jez accepts her offer to move in with her. Mark needs to salvage his relationship with Dobby, and asks her to move in with him, to which she agrees. Zahra rejects Jez after she learns he has been flirting with Super Hans's girlfriend, dumping him.
Series 8 begins with Mark waiting for Dobby to move in, while Dobby waits for Jez to move out. Mark suspects that Dobby will never move in, and that Gerard is trying to steal her from him; however, Gerard dies of flu. Jez and Super Hans amicably end their band, and this causes Jez to contemplate his life so far: he eventually agrees to undertake therapy sessions, which are paid for by Mark. Impressed by the therapy, Jez decides to become a life coach, but he fails a course of questionable value. Mark then gives Jez a fake life coach certificate and he begins "coaching" anyone who will let him, causing emotional and personal harm. Mark writes a book, which is published by an incompetent vanity publisher. Mark, Dobby, Jez and Hans go paintballing. Mark gets a job at the bathroom supplies company where Hans works, but is soon sacked. He also starts an evening course to gain an MBA. Jez falls in love with Dobby and declares his feelings, as does Mark. While Mark and Jez fight, Dobby leaves the scene and heads to New York, where she has a new job.
Series 9 opens with Mark and Jez meeting for the first time since their fight over Dobby, with Mark still bearing a grudge over the role Jez played in his break-up with her. Jez is living in Super Hans's bathroom, while Mark has a new flatmate. After reconciling, Jez moves back in with Mark and they go back to their old ways. Jez begins a relationship with a younger man, Joe, and also has sex with Joe's girlfriend Megan. Mark seeks out April (Catherine Shepherd—previously seen only in a single episode in series 2), whom he always thought to be his perfect woman, despite her now being married. Dobby has moved to New York and has a new boyfriend. He beats up Mark when he discovers Mark had been tracking Dobby's movements. Hans marries Molly in Norfolk. Sophie turns up at the flat depressed and appears to have a drink problem. She is in a relationship with a man whom she thinks is having an affair. She offers Mark a chance to give their relationship another go, which he initially accepts, but Mark decides to try and break up April's marriage and start a new life with her. In the final episode, all the duo's past lies and selfish decisions catch up with them. Mark loses his job at a bank because of a loan he gave Jez (ironically, to exploit him) previously without asking for correct identification paperwork, and he is replaced by his rival Jeff. Joe leaves Jez after his lies about him being popular and young are caught out, and he claims he is tired of partying all the time. Super Hans's wife is upset because he is unwilling to stop his old disreputable lifestyle, and after kidnapping and threatening April's husband, she finally leaves him. Super Hans ends up leaving for Macedonia to open a moped hire business and leaves Mark and Jez right back where they always end up due to their bad choices, with Mark losing his newest relationship and job, while Jez remains a loser who is stuck in a rut with no prospects. It ends with the two watching TV together, asking and answering idiotic questions, with Jez thinking to himself how they both "love each other really" and Mark reminding himself that he "simply must get rid of him".
Main and recurring cast
- David Mitchell as Mark Corrigan, a loan manager at the fictional company, JLB Credit. Responsible and bright, but also socially and sexually awkward, Mark is the owner of the flat in Croydon, which he shares with his friend from university, Jeremy.
- Robert Webb as Jeremy "Jez" Usborne, an unemployed aspiring musician and a "work-shy freeloader" who lives in the spare room of Mark's flat. He is cowardly, juvenile, and arrogant, also considering himself to be immensely talented and attractive. However, Jeremy is more socially skilled and confident than Mark.
- Matt King as Super Hans, Jeremy's bandmate and friend, and an untrustworthy fantasist who regularly uses recreational drugs. It is revealed in the second episode of the ninth series, that his real name is Simon.
- Olivia Colman as Sophie Chapman, a co-worker at JLB, who becomes scruffy and unstable, and serves as a love interest for Mark (and occasionally Jeremy) throughout much of the series. She and Mark eventually marry but divorce shortly afterwards, and she later gives birth to his child.
- Paterson Joseph as Alan Johnson, a senior loan manager at JLB and Mark's boss for much of the series. He is dapper, highly confident and maintains a particularly reckless approach to business and life. Mark is in awe of him.
- Neil Fitzmaurice as Jeff Heaney, a colleague and nemesis of Mark's at JLB Credit. The two frequently clash over the affections of Sophie, with Jeff's manly, intimidating behaviour serving as a foil to Mark's mild-mannered persona.
- Isy Suttie as Dobby, an I.T. worker at JLB Credit and a self-confessed misfit, much like Mark, who quickly develops strong feelings for her. Despite an at-times uneasy relationship, by the end of the seventh series, Mark invites her to move in with him. Series 8 ends with Dobby leaving to go to New York.
- Jim Howick as Gerrard Matthew, Mark's sickly coworker and sometimes-friend at JLB credit, and later, his rival for Dobby's affections.
- Sophie Winkleman as Big Suze, Jeremy's ex-girlfriend and frequent romantic interest. She is attractive but naive, and described by Mark as a "mental posho".
- Eliza L. Bennett as Sarah Corrigan, Mark's sister and a solicitor who has assisted Mark in his divorce settlement. Throughout the series, she also engages in recurring romantic escapades with Jeremy, often contrary to his intentions.
Writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain met actors/writers Mitchell and Webb during a failed attempt to complete a team-written sitcom for the BBC. They had an old, unproduced script that they wanted to revive called All Day Breakfast and brought in Mitchell and Webb to help out. The show did not work out but the four developed as a partnership, and one idea eventually evolved into Peep Show for Channel 4. Peep Show was originally conceived as a sitcom in the style of Beavis and Butt-head revolving around two characters watching and discussing television. However, the idea was dropped due to the large expense that airing clips from other shows would bring as well as Mitchell and Webb's fear that, because their characters would only be watching television, "[they] wouldn't be in the show".
Instead Armstrong and Bain opted to produce a more story-based sitcom with an unconventional filming style. The events of the two main characters' lives are seen almost exclusively from their own points of view with a voice-over providing their internal thoughts. Scenes in the show are sometimes filmed using cameras strapped to the actors' heads, or attached to a hat, to give the viewer a point of view identical to that of the protagonists. The quality of footage captured with this method is sometimes poor and the technique was used less and less in later series. When head-mounted cameras are not used, scenes are filmed with the camera being held over the actor's shoulder, or directly in front of their face; each scene is therefore shot multiple times from different angles. Armstrong and Bain's choice of the style was influenced by the 2000 Channel 4 documentary Being Caprice about the model Caprice Bourret which featured a similar technique that had in turn been copied from the 1999 film Being John Malkovich. Bain noted: "So it's a third-hand steal, really. We thought it would be great for comedy, hearing someone else's thoughts. The voices give you a whole other dimension in terms of jokes." The idea for using voice-overs came from a scene in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall in which the true feelings of the characters are conveyed by subtitles. The POV technique separates Peep Show from other sitcoms and Mitchell claims that without it Peep Show would be similar to shows like Spaced and Men Behaving Badly.
Two pilots were filmed for the show which allowed Armstrong and Bain to firmly develop and finalise the style of the show. Armstrong said: "on the run of doing those two pilots we really created the show in the way that you couldn't if you hadn't tried it out." In the original pilot Olivia Colman's character Sophie Chapman had a voice-over as well as Mitchell and Webb's characters Mark and Jeremy. The POV technique was also restricted solely to the character thinking at the time; it was later expanded so that the view could come from a third party. Bain and Armstrong are the show's principal writers and Mitchell and Webb provide additional material. Many story lines come from experiences in the writers' lives, particularly Bain's. For example, the series 5 episode "Burgling" sees Mark apprehend a burglar by sitting on him, something Bain once did in a video shop before he was told to get off as he was scaring the customers. The writing for each series takes place seven to eight months before filming begins; once each episode is mapped out scene by scene they must be approved by the producer Andrew O'Connor and Channel 4. Rehearsals take two weeks and filming lasts for six to seven weeks.
For the first two series the scenes set in Mark and Jeremy's flat were filmed in a real property in Croydon, where the show takes place. The flat's owners did not allow it to be used for series 3 and so a replica was constructed in a carpet warehouse in Neasden. Further filming took place at West London Film Studios.
The theme tune for the first series was an original composition by Daniel Pemberton and is featured on his TVPOPMUZIK album, and can be heard on his Myspace page. From the second series onwards the theme music is the song "Flagpole Sitta" by the American band Harvey Danger which had previously been briefly heard in the series one episode "On the Pull" (although the original first series composition was still heard briefly during scene changes). A working title for the programme was POV, as noted by David Mitchell on the DVD commentary for the first episode of the first series.
Spike TV commissioned its own version in 2008, originally to be written and directed by Robert Weide, who is the executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It was to be written by Armstrong and Bain, but it never went to series.
A book entitled Peep Show: The Scripts and More, which featured the scripts of every episode from the first five series as well as an introduction from Mitchell and Webb, was released in 2008. To celebrate the show, Channel 4 aired a Peep Show Night on Christmas Eve in 2010, which included the documentary Peep Show and Tell and the fan selected episodes "Wedding" and "Shrooming".
The series was met with critical acclaim, and is considered to be a cult television show. Early previews called it "promising" and noted it had "the sniff of a cult favourite"; Jane Simon of the Mirror claimed that Peep Show in years to come will "be seen as the pinnacle of comedy it obviously is." Peep Show won the titles "The Best Returning British TV Sitcom 2007" and "Comedy of the Year 2008" in The Comedy.co.uk Awards.
Ricky Gervais has been cited as saying "the last thing I got genuinely excited about on British TV was Peep Show, which I thought was the best sitcom since Father Ted". While presenting an award at the 2005 British Comedy Awards, Gervais called it "the best show on television today" and said it was a "debacle" that it did not win an award.
In 2019, Peep Show was named the 13th greatest British sitcom of all time in a poll by Radio Times. In the same year, The Guardian ranked it 9th on its list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century.
Despite the critical acclaim, Peep Show never garnered consistently high viewing figures. At the beginning of 2006 there were rumours that the show would not be commissioned for a fourth series due to insufficient ratings of just over a million viewers. However, due to the large DVD revenues of the previous series, a fourth series was commissioned. The premiere of the fourth series showed no improvement on the ratings of the previous one, continuing to attract its core audience of 1.3 million (8% of viewers). Despite the low viewing figures, the fifth series of the show was commissioned prior to the broadcast of series 4. Channel 4's decision to commission the show for a fifth series was said to be for a variety of reasons, including again the high DVD sales of the previous series (400,000 to date), the continued high quality of the show itself, and the rising profile of Mitchell and Webb due to the success of their BBC sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look, their advertisements for Apple, and their feature film Magicians. The fifth series showed no improvement with 1.1 million viewers. Producer Andrew O'Connor cited the POV filming style as the reason for the low ratings: "It made it feel original and fresh and got it commissioned for a second series, but it stopped it from being a breakout hit and stopped it finding a bigger audience." Bain and Armstrong agreed that the POV style stopped it from becoming mainstream.
The first episode of series 6 – the first to be shown in its new earlier time slot of 10pm – attracted Peep Show's highest ratings to date, with 1.8 million viewers (9.2% audience share), with a further 208,000 (1.8%) watching it on Channel 4 +1.
Awards and honours
Peep Show won several awards:
- In 2004, it won the Rose d'Or for "Best European Sitcom"
- In 2006 and 2007 Peep Show was honoured with the British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy, and in 2007 Mitchell also won "Best TV Comedy Actor".
- In 2007, 2009 and 2010, Peep Show was voted "Best Returning British TV Sitcom" in the Comedy.co.uk Awards. In 2008 it was voted "Comedy of the Year".
- Mitchell and Webb both won the "Comedy Performance" award in the 2007 Royal Television Society awards.
- The fourth series won the 2008 BAFTA for "Best Situation Comedy"
- In 2009, Bain and Armstrong won the Royal Television Society award for "Writer – Comedy"
- Mitchell won the 2009 BAFTA Television Award for "Best Comedy Performance"
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