Brit Fix: Introducing David Mitchell, Robert Webb, And Peep Show
We’re dipping your other foot in the water this week, and while we’re not exactly jumping into the deep end – this is not watching Keeping Up Appearances with your granny (What’s up Granny? How is heaven? Can you smoke Kents non-stop up there? I bet you can.) or the geek in you spending too much time quoting Life of Brian, but I mean the way I see it, if BBC America has aired it, we aren’t exactly dealing in obscure titles.
That all being said, Peep Show (starring comedic duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb, also know for their show That Mitchell Webb Look) is definitely a show worth watching – especially if you’re one of those snots who likes to bellyache about how you only like ‘the original Office‘, harboring a soft spot for emotional cruelty.
The series was penned by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, and while it’s nowhere near as cringe-inducing as anything Ricky Gervais has ever done, it manages to capture the extreme levels of social awkwardness, self-obsession, and general awfulness that American TV shows feel the need to explain away by assuring their audiences that at their core their hero is a great guy (I AM LOOKING AT YOU BARNEY STINSON.) The closest we’ve ever gotten in the states was George Costanza, and in Peep Show, David Mitchell is a British Costanza if ever there was one. He’s a bank loan manager, with a crush on a chick at work, who over thinks everything he does, often to hilarious consequences. Because it wouldn’t be that fun to watch George and Kramer live together, Robert Webb plays Mark’s college friend and now rent-shirking roommate with delusions of rock n’ roll grandeur, Jeremy.
I’m particularly fond of the two for two reasons. The first, being the nature of the friendship between Mark and Jeremy. Sure, on the one level it’s a pretty traditional (for television) Odd-Couple school of sitcom writing, but on the other there is something tremendously realistic about the nature of their friendship. Sure, Mark is tidy and neurotic and perpetually in a suit and Jeremy is mostly high, a bit of an idiot and convinced his genius is matched only by the Chemical Brothers – but they’ve known each other for long enough that even their differences read as traits they’re so comfortable with that they’ve become similarities rather than dividing lines.
Early on in series one, Jeremy invites Mark out for a drink to burn away the memory of a terrible phone message he left for his heart’s dream Sophie, and the camera cuts to the two men, one on the toilet and one in the tub – both clothed, mind – comfortably swilling brown, occasionally watered down by using the taps. It’s a touching and specific detail that really fills in the relationship in a way that makes it completely accessible. I always take note of these relationships, because my fresh year of college when I was wearing primarily Ani DiFranco tee-shirts and a bad expression, my roommate, who wore a snakeskin cowboy hat and bellowed howdy at me and may or may not be the editor in chief of this website, became my best friend – and while we are unspeakably different as people, there’s a commonality we share simply in having known each other a long, long time – so what I’m saying is Peep Show replicas that.
Except for that we have never fucked the same person (to my knowledge) nor have we have ever eaten a dog or gotten into hijinks on a houseboat. (YET.)
That leads me into the second thing I love about Peep Show – and it’s the show’s defining factor. As the name would indicate, the show is shot through the perspective of each man, and the people they occasionally interact with. This fish-eyed, Being John Malkovich-esque tact the show takes only serves to heighten your sense of collusion with the characters, their depraved and obsessive thought processes, and their place in the world. The show goes to extremes, it holds nothing sacred, and it’s obscene to the point that I feel if it were ever attempted in the States I might have to throw up. The show promises you stylistically that it won’t back down, and it follows through, series after series.That’s right, this was no one trick pony – it sustained itself with stellar writing and amazing work by Mitchell and Webb for seven years.