Also by The Slacker: mystery novel ‘New Holland’: ‘well thought-out and fast-paced…an atmospheric setting.‘
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So the best ever episode of ‘Peep Show’ is, according to Channel 4 viewers, the one where Mark (played by David Mitchell) gets married.
Obviously it’s difficult to choose one episode from such an excellent series, though I think one thing is for certain – if they did the vote again today, none of the episodes from series seven would have made the top 10. But more of that later.
So, which other episodes stand out? Some of the other funniest ones seem to have been those that have strong performances from minor characters, for example the one where we first meet Alan Johnson (Paterson Joseph). Having met him at a business conference, Mark begins to think he might be in love with him and watches a gay porn film to check – the verdict being he’s 85% sure he’s straight. Confusingly, he also seems to see Johnson as a father figure.
Sexually adventurous committed Christian Nancy (Rachel Blanchard) is another strong minor character, and we first meet her in the episode where Mark forces Jez to go to new age dance class ‘Rainbow Rhythms’ – after Mark breaks into love interest Sophie’s (Olivia Colman) email and discovers she considers him to be too serious. Jez’s visa marriage to Nancy, the ‘happiest administrative procedure of their lives’, is an episode tinged with sad humour as Nancy leaves the wedding early to go for a job interview. Jez’s disappointment and determination to make the best of things epitomises the romantic aspect to his character that has stayed with him throughout all seven series.
The weekend at Sophie’s parents’ house (series 4) is another of my favourites, and again it is the detail that makes it so hilarious. Mark’s failure to impress his future father –in-law when they go shooting, his snap decision to definitely marry Sophie when he sees the house she’s inherited, his reaction when he discovers Jez has slept with Sophie’s mother – all show what a fine comedy actor David Mitchell is. The weird birthday ritual, involving a pointy hat and ‘Happy Birthday’ by Altered Images, is another aspect of the episode that sticks in my mind.
One more to mention is the stag-do episode on the barge, which is different to the episodes above as it does largely focus on the two central characters. A lot of people didn’t like this episode as Jez runs over a love interest’s dog, burns it to destroy the evidence, only to be caught by her entire family and have to eat it to pretend it’s barbeque food. The funniest moment is not this per se, but Mark thinking he can still get a job managing the call centre the girl’s father is setting up. Or maybe it’s the fact that he tries to entertain the girls by talking about the Euro. Or that he dreams about being forced to wear Hitler’s boots.
Laurie Tuffrey got a lot of criticism when he wrote series seven off after just one episode. However, he proved to be correct – and indeed that first episode was perhaps the best. The focus in this series seemed to shift from Mark and Jez’s interactions with the world around them to their interactions with each other, making it feel at times like some of the less funny parts of ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’. There were none of the sparkling support performances from the likes of megalomaniac Johnson, superior and manipulative crack head Super Hans (Matt King), incurable romantic Elena (Vera Filatova), domineering yet insecure Toni (Elizabeth Marmur) – indeed, the former two seemed to have simply been shoe-horned into series seven just for the sake of having them there. The only character with anything funny to say apart from Mark and Jez was Dobby (Isy Suttie).
The way that so many characters were paraded through this series without much meaningful or funny to say made it feel a bit like a curtain call, although apparently there are to be another two series. Unless the writers manage to rediscover what it was that made the show stand out so vividly in the earlier series, the danger of this is we’ll be left stuffed yet unsatisfied with the show rather than wanting more.
Saul Pope is the author of ‘New Holland’, a mystery novel set in Russia and published by Espresso Books. He also writes for the football magazine ‘When Saturday Comes’.
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