Peep Show (TV series)
|Created by||Andrew O'Connor
|Written by||Jesse Armstrong
Olivia Colman (series 1–7, 9)
Isy Suttie (series 5–9)
|Opening theme||"Pip Pop Plop" by Daniel Pemberton (series 1)
"Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||9|
|No. of episodes||54 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Andrew O'Connor
|Camera setup||Single camera (sometimes head-mounted)|
|Running time||24 mins|
|Production company(s)||Objective Productions|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Picture format||PAL (576i) (series 1–5)
HDTV (1080i) (series 6–9)
|Original release||19 September 2003– 16 December 2015|
Peep Show is a British sitcom starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. The television programme is written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, with additional material by Mitchell and Webb, amongst others. It has been broadcast on Channel 4 since 2003. In 2010 it became the longest-running comedy in Channel 4 history.
Peep Show follows the lives of Mark Corrigan (Mitchell) and Jeremy "Jez" Usbourne (Webb), two dysfunctional friends who share a flat in Croydon, South London. Mark is a socially awkward and despondent loan manager with a cynical outlook on life, while Jeremy is a juvenile slacker and unemployed would-be musician who lives in Mark's spare room. Stylistically, the show utilitizes point of view shots, with the thoughts of main characters Mark and Jeremy audible as voice-overs.
Series 1 In the first series, Mark and Jeremy start out with similar aims of bedding their next-door neighbour Toni (Elizabeth Marmur), though Mark is also dangerously obsessed with his workmate Sophie (Olivia Colman), who is more interested in the manly Jeff. Both endure awkward situations; Mark suffers a sexual admiration for his boss, Alan Johnson, while Jeremy remembers having oral sex with Super Hans (Matt King) during a drug binge. The two desperately team up to prank call Sophie and launch a pepper spray attack on Super Hans, who has begun a relationship with Toni. By the end of the series, Mark nearly succeeds in having sex with Sophie, but this chance is ruined by Jeremy's apparent overdose, while the latter claims that he has a terminal illness in order to receive sexual favours from Toni.
Series 2 In series 2, Jeremy meets and falls in love with Nancy (Rachel Blanchard), a happy-go-lucky American, and has some success with his music career with Super Hans. Meanwhile, Mark's life is falling apart. Sophie plans to move in with Jeff. Mark accidentally forges a short friendship with a neo-Nazi and falls for a similarly socially inadequate student during an ill-judged return to his old university before losing her. However, the tables turn once more at the end of the series when Jeremy admits to Nancy — now his wife (for visa documentation) — that he accidentally had an affair with Toni, leaving his marriage a husk, while Sophie dumps Jeff after Mark finds out that he has been womanising and subsequently tells Sophie. Super Hans also develops a crack cocaine addiction.
Series 3 Series 3 sees Big Suze (Sophie Winkleman) re-enter Jeremy's life. Meanwhile, Mark and Sophie have finally become a couple, yet Mark is left alone once again when she is relocated to Bristol. Jeremy seduces Mark's sister, while Mark fall in love with Big Suze. Later, Jeremy and Super Hans attempt to run a pub. In the last episode, Mark plans to propose to Sophie but changes his mind upon realising that they have nothing in common. Nonetheless he ends up agreeing to marry her to avoid "embarrassment" after she accidentally finds his engagement ring and accepts a proposal which he has not actually made. Meanwhile, Jeremy's efforts to get back together with Suze are hindered somewhat by Super Hans' attempts to go cold turkey.
Series 4 During series 4, Mark and Sophie visit Sophie's parents after their engagement, and Jeremy has sex with Sophie's mother. Big Suze breaks up with Jeremy once again after he tries to prostitute her to Johnson and subsequently starts a relationship with him instead. In an attempt to get away from Sophie, Mark joins a gym and discovers that Nancy is working there, after which Jeremy tries to win her back. Sophie leaves on a foreign business trip, leaving Mark to consider a fling with a woman from his school reunion. Jeremy finds some highly paid work as a handyman for 'The Orgazoid', one of his musical heroes but discovers that his employer expects Jeremy to give him "a hand". Mark and Jeremy spend a weekend on a canal boat for Mark's stag do, where Mark meets a businessman with contacts in India and attempts to secure a job there as a means of escaping his impending wedding: however, the plan falls apart when Jeremy accidentally kills the businessman's daughter's beloved dog and attempts to disguise his crime by eating the remnants of the dog. In the final episode, as the wedding approaches, Jeremy is having difficulty juggling a hungover Super Hans, the wedding, Nancy and his desperate need to urinate. After several attempts to get out of marriage, including jumping out in front of a car, proposing marriage to a cafe employee and hiding in the church, Mark with visible reluctance ends up marrying Sophie. However, realizing he was trying to get out of marrying her by hiding, she runs out on him after the ceremony, planning to seek a divorce or annulment because Mark is "horrible".
Series 5 Much of series 5 revolves around Mark's search for "the one". He asks out the new IT girl, Dobby (Isy Suttie), although the date ends badly when they find a desperate Sophie in the toilets. Dobby remains interested, even when Mark is forced to reject her offer to be his date at his upcoming birthday party as Mark has to take an Australian he met while speed-dating. Meanwhile, Jeremy runs out of money and goes on a mini crime spree stealing from Johnson's credit card and is temporarily evicted by Mark. He asks Big Suze if he can stay with her and Johnson, but is turned down. He tries to obtain money from his mother after his great-aunt dies, and his estranged relationship with his mother is revealed, while Mark thrives in her company and is given the job of writing her boyfriend's military biography. Jealous, 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. In the final episode, Mark fails to ask Dobby out and she finally moves on. He is promoted to Senior Credit Manager by Johnson but is unable to fire Sophie as ordered, after she reveals that she is pregnant with what may be his child. In the series' closing moments, it is revealed that Jeremy too has recently slept with Sophie and that her baby might be his.
Series 6 Series 6 begins with JLB Credit closing down and the mystery of who the father is being solved, Sophie revealing that Mark is the baby's father. Meanwhile, Jeremy meets Elena, a beautiful 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 recession-frazzled Johnson, almost landing his dream job as a guide for historic walks, and finally becoming a waiter in Gail's Mexican-themed restaurant, all the while trying (and failing) to get anywhere with Dobby. To resolve their woman troubles, Jeremy and Mark host a party, which ends in Jeremy rekindling his love for Elena, Mark vomiting on a snake in a bucket, and Gail and Elena deciding to enter into a civil partnership. In the final episode, 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 spirals into depression 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 down Gail. Jeremy then admits that he and Elena were having an affair, and the series ends with Sophie driving herself to the hospital with the two boys in the back seat.
Series 7 Series 7 introduces Zahra and Ben, whom Jeremy meets while Sophie is giving birth. Jeremy is instantly attracted to Zahra and is selfishly pleased when he discovers that Ben, her boyfriend, is in intensive care, potentially making Zahra single. However, Ben recovers fully, and, as thanks for being so friendly to Zahra, offers Jeremy a job with his record company, which Jeremy accepts as he hopes it will allow him to get closer to Zahra. The job itself 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. Meanwhile, Mark beats off competition from Gerrard to finally become Dobby's boyfriend, although he continues to behave awkwardly in her company. Jeremy sleeps with Zahra, and 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. At the end of the series, after discovering that Ben and Zahra have split, Jeremy resolves to leave the flat and move in with Zahra, while Mark needs to salvage his relationship with Dobby, and determines to ask her to move in with him. Dobby agrees to move in with Mark, but Zahra rejects Jez after she learns he has been flirting with Super Hans's girlfriend, leaving him on his own at the end of the series.
Series 8 Series 8 opens with Mark waiting for Dobby to move in, while Dobby waits for Jeremy to move out. Mark suspects that Dobby will never actually move in, and that Gerard is trying to steal her from him; however, Gerard dies after contracting a flu virus. Jeremy and Super Hans amicably end their band, and this causes Jeremy to contemplate his life so far—Jeremy eventually agrees to undertake therapy sessions that are paid for by Mark. Impressed by the therapy, Jeremy decides to become a life coach, but he fails a course of questionable value. Mark then gives Jeremy a fake life coach certificate and he begins "coaching" anyone who will let him, causing emotional and personal harm. Jeremy also begins to fall in love with Dobby and considers declaring his feelings, but Mark declares his love for her first. While Mark and Jeremy fight, Dobby leaves the scene and is presumably on her way to New York.
Series 9 Series 9 opens with Mark and Jez meeting for the first time in six months, with Mark still bearing a grudge over the role Jez played in his break-up with Dobby. Jez is living in Super Hans' bathroom while Mark has a new flatmate.
Main and recurring cast
- David Mitchell as Mark Corrigan, a loan manager at the fictional JLB Credit. Mature but also socially awkward, neurotic, and despondent, Mark is the owner of the flat on the outskirts of Croydon, South London that he shares with university friend 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 Croydon flat. He is cowardly, juvenile, and quite arrogant, also considering himself to be immensely talented and attractive. Jeremy also experiences more social success than Mark.
- Matt King as Super Hans, Jeremy's band-mate and friend, and an untrustworthy fantasist who regularly uses recreational drugs.
- Olivia Colman as Sophie Chapman, a relatively scruffy and unstable co-worker at JLB, and a love interest for both Mark and Jeff throughout much of the series. She and Mark eventually marry but divorce shortly after, 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, confident and maintains a particularly reckless approach to business and life.
- Neil Fitzmaurice as Jeff Heaney, a work colleague and arch-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 more mild-mannered persona.
- Isy Suttie as Dobby, an IT worker at JLB 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 series 7 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 co-worker 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 aided 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 voiceover 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 has been used less and less in recent 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 voiceovers 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 storylines 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.
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. Since the second series the theme music has been 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 is 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."
The Guardian newspaper described it as "the best comedy of the decade". 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. The Times praised the show's "scorching writing" and named it the 15th best TV show of the 2000s.
Despite the critical acclaim, Peep Show has 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, 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 has won several awards:
- In 2004, it won the Rose d'Or for "Best European Sitcom"
- At the end of 2006, following the third series, Peep Show was honoured with the British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy
- 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".
- It won the same award in 2007 and Mitchell also won "Best TV Comedy Actor" in the same ceremony
- 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"
- Hudson, Laura. "10 British Shows You Need to Stream on Netflix This Thanksgiving". Wired.
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- "Peep Show - Episode 9.1. Episode One - British Comedy Guide". www.comedy.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
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- Ross, Deborah (18 November 2006). "Peep Show's David Mitchell and Robert Webb". The Independent (London). Retrieved 4 April 2007.
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- Mitchell, David; Webb, Robert; Bain, Sam; Armstrong, Jesse; Shapeero, Tristram (2005). Behind the Scenes Documentary (DVD). Objective Productions, 4DVD.
- "British Sitcom Guide — Peep Show". British Sitcom Guide. 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
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- "Peep Show Night and Whistle And I'll Come To You: Friday's TV picks". Metro. 11 January 2011.
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