It’s a couple of weeks since series 8 of ‘Peep Show’ finished, but before I wrote this I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t offering a knee-jerk reaction to what I thought was another rather weak series. People who’ve read this blog before may remember that I wasn’t keen on series seven either, particularly when compared to the brilliance of series 4-6. But having had time to think, I’m certain that Series 8 was the weakest yet, hinting that the show is indeed in slow decline and in need to a shot in the arm if it’s to regain its old freshness.
One of the main problems is that the two main characters, Mark and Jeremy, are getting older. They have been in their thirties for some time, though largely act like they remain in their twenties. This might have washed for a couple of series, but, as in other long-running and successful comedy series, I think now is the time to let them grow up a bit and let their relationships mature – especially Mark. Doing this might free the characters from the strait-jacket of twenty-something lunacy and disorder the writers seem to be keeping them in. Why doesn’t Mark seem to spend any time with his child? And why can’t he hold down a job?
A strength in previous series was often the more minor characters – they were convincing, and we were allowed to delve into their personalities. We got to see how Jeff could be both a man’s man and a nasty piece of work; we got to see Johnson as an inspiring leader and womaniser. Sophie was a love interest with bags of character, and brought with her an interesting family who lit up the few episides they appeared in.
More lately the supporting characters have been more one-dimensional – Dobbie seems not to have developed since the very first time that we saw her; her lines are quite predictable, and in this series she said very little that was either amusing or interesting. Other minor characters are given bizarre single appearances that feel like they were written in only to give them time on the screen – true of both Jeff and Johnson at the start of this series. Surely not true, but in both cases there were potentially interesting and funny stories that weren’t followed up. Maybe not looking back too much is an attempt to gain new fans who haven’t seen the series before, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
That’s not to say there weren’t some great scenes that captured the real essence of what made this series great – for example, when Jeremy says that he loves Dobbie but then finds himself stuck on the train with Mark; or when Mark enrols on the MBA course and is ‘naughty’ enough to speak whilst the trainer is talking. But the series ended in a way that does not befit it – Mark and Jeremy running through a field, having just pushed each other into an electric fence several times.
Slapstick was never why I watched this programme; sad to say this, but it’s unlikely I’ll be keeping an eye out for series nine.