sat 17/08/2019

Peep Show, Series 7, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Peep Show, Series 7, Channel 4

Peep Show, Series 7, Channel 4

Sitcom returns with fresh delights of Mark and Jeremy's base behaviour

Peep Show's Mark and Jeremy: Ghastly, but wonderfully funny

What a pair of teases Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain are. The co-writers (and co-creators, with Andrew O’Connor) of Peep Show write only one short series of this sitcom each year but such is its pull that fans don't forget and move on to other offerings. No, we wait with mounting glee for the programme to return to our screens and, let joy be unconfined, the seventh series started last night.

At first sight this limited but beautifully formed output appears to reflect rather neatly the personalities of Peep Show’s two main characters - the slacker Jeremy (Robert Webb) and the anally retentive Mark (David Mitchell). But no, it’s because Bain and Armstrong are both very busy writing, together or separately, on other projects - including Four Lions, The Thick of It, That Mitchell and Webb Look and In the Loop.

Last night’s opener started where Series 6 left off, and we found Mark and Jeremy at the hospital, where Mark’s wife, Sophie (the ever superb Olivia Colman), was into the eighth hour of her labour. Labour wards are a very rich source of comedy for writers and, as you might expect, Peep Show wrung every last laugh possible out of the situation, but in its own inimitable way - full of realistically strong language, gross thoughts and dark, dark humour. Jeremy, reading up on what happens in childbirth, asked “What’s an episiotomy?” and Mark explained graphically. “Oh my fucking God,” a haunted Jeremy replied. Let’s not get started on the cervical sweep awaiting Sophie...

Jeremy was there because he thought childbirth was “kind of like Alien but sexy” and also because hospitals are good places to meet vulnerable women. And so it proved, as he hit upon Zara (Camilla Beeput), whom he found reading a novel - “Egghead alert!” - as she waited outside the room where her boyfriend lay in a coma; no behaviour is too base for Jez where getting some action is concerned. Meanwhile, the pompous Mark, who wrongly imagines himself to be morally superior to his friend, was a simply useless birth partner to Sophie, and found any number of excuses to leave her to it. He’s not good at that supportive stuff and anyway she had told him to fuck off - so off he fucked to get a chicken bucket and play an arcade game...

And so the seven-part series was set up nicely, told in Peep Show’s distinctive style - with extreme close-ups, interior monologues, zippy editing and one corking line after another. With fatherhood for Mark to obsess about and a new love interest for Jeremy to get unhinged over, it's nicely set up to develop along farcical lines. It’s indicative of the quality of the writing and acting that a show peopled by mostly ghastly, selfish, repulsive even, characters can be made so wonderfully comic - because despite Mark and Jeremy's many and obvious failings, they are recognisably human.

Yet even with a baby’s birth to celebrate, Bain and Armstrong resisted any urge to go all soppy on us; you may, like me, have been crying or even howling by the final scene of last night’s episode, but it was with unbridled laughter.

Mark's not good at that supportive stuff and anyway Sophie had told him to fuck off - so off he fucked to get a chicken bucket and play an arcade game...

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