Peep Show: Series 1
15th November 2004
At the centre of Peep Show is Jeremy, a lazy man with big ideas about himself and an over inflated opinion of his future music career. He's been thrown out by his ex 'Big Suze' and has ended up living with his old friend, Mark, who has a completely different no-pain-no-gain view of the world.
Socially dysfunctional in their different ways, Mark and Jeremy have an unhealthy reliance on one another - a dependence that can ultimately lead to total frustration. And to further complicate their existence, Mark - in his unbelievably cack-handed way - is in pursuit of the love of his life, co-worker Sophie, while Jeremy lives in awe of his idiotic and manipulative mate Superhans and their beautiful but brittle neighbour Toni. Welcome to their weird and wonderful world.
Made on an extremely tight budget and filmed with a Digital Video camera, the picture quality has all the possibilities of being a total disaster. However, it is actually rather good with a good level of detail and colour depth with no real no problems with artifacting or outlining. Sure, during some of the darker indoor or brighter outdoor scenes there is the occasional problem with grain, but on the whole it is more than adequate for a television series made on a shoe string budget.
Due to the bandwidth limitations of a terrestrial television broadcast, and let's not forget those budget restraints, there is very little to expected from the sound department. Still, the 256Kbps two channel Dolby Digital soundtrack is more than sufficient for its needs and presents some crisp and clear dialogue throughout. Whilst there are a few benefits in feeding the audio through a surround system, you can save yourself a few pence on the old electric meter by dispensing with the surround system and, assuming you have them, using the in-built speakers in your television/projection system.
The menu system is scored and animated at each level with various cut scenes from the series playing in the background along with the rather catchy, but ultimately annoying, theme tune. Selecting another menu will produce another short cut scene from the series before displaying the menu options. Really, the menus could have been compacted a little more, but that's a little too harsh as the overall menu design is clever, well laid out and extremely funny. Extras wise, two of the episodes have Audio Commentaries whilst things get even better with six hilarious, and specially filmed, character centered shorts based on Jeremy and Mark. Laugh? I nearly choked at some of the best extras I've ever seen on a comedy series DVD.
First up is Mark, who's quite keen to add some sparkle to his CV and has devised the self-promotional video, A Voyage Around Mark Corrigan. Mark is desperately trying to put across to a potential new employer that he works hard, plays hard and sleeps when he's dead, but all the while only managing to show the complete opposite. Would you employ this bloke? Not after seeing that video. Next up are two parts of Scorpion Patrol: Real Life Behind Enemy Lines where Mark asks Jeremy and Sophie to read extracts from a book to entertain his Dad in hospital. Naturally, neither narrator is impressed with the gruesome detail whilst Mark uses the moment to chat up Sophie and attempt to convince his dad, rather unsuccessfully I might add, that she's really his girlfriend.
And if you thought the Mark was weird, just wait until you see what video delights Jeremy has to offer in his Big Brother Audition Tape, in which he tries to convince the producers that he is totally bonkers and the perfect candidate for the house. Things are helped along nicely by plenty of screaming at the camera, smashing up a watermelon with a sledgehammer and donning a pair of Speedo trunks and suggesting that he might be up for anything "gay". Then there's Last Will and Testament, which sees him making plans for his funeral arrangements, the choice of music and which guests he'd like to attend (including finding old friends on Friends Reunited to help increase the female presence). Finally, there's his Prodigy style Outrageous video which has him ranting and raving and generally passing numerous comments on George Bush and Tony Blair. At least it's rather topical then.
With Mark and Jeremy's mad videos out of the way you can get back to some semblance of sanity by listening to the Audio Commentaries which accompany the first and last episode of the series. However, quite why they couldn't stretch to the entire series is a bit of a mystery. Never the less, both commentaries are jovial affairs and offer some useful information on the scripts, the rather bizarre filming techniques, the sets, the characters and the various friends who appear in the background. Most audio commentaries only seem to appear in the centre channel, but in this case writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain appear in one channel whilst David Mitchell and Robert Webb appear in another. It's simple, but effective. Fortunately, each episode comes equipped with subtitles so you can listen to the audio commentary as well as watching the episode.
When the preview disc of Peep Show arrived through my letterbox unannounced I wondered just what the heck I was going to review. Peep Shop? I'd never heard of the thing! So, with much trepidation, I popped the disc into the player for a quick spin to give me an idea of what to expect. But after the best part of two hours of nearly splitting my sides with laughter, I rather disappointingly came to the end of the disc. More! I cried, and indeed there is, as the release of series one on DVD coincides with second series airing on Channel 4.
Filmed from a point-of-view perspective, it's a very novel, and ultimately hilarious way to create a comedy show. Quite why nobody has hit on this idea before is beyond me. But it is Mark's continual, and disastrous, pursuit of the love of his life that has you laughing the most. And just when you think he's finally cracked it, he goes and puts his foot in it, or does something so completely stupid you have wonder why he bothers. It's no wonder that Peep Show has won a Golden Rose award and, in my opinion, shamelessly lost out to The Office at the BAFTA's.
With comedy series such as Father Ted, Black Books and Spaced under their belts, Channel Four is quickly becoming a hot bed of comedy talent that even the BBC is having trouble keeping up with. When you consider that the BBC are having to resort to repeats of Yes, Prime Minister, The Good Life, Dad's Army and Fawlty Towers you quickly come to the conclusion that, with the exception of Coupling, their comedy department was pensioned off years ago. And no, I hadn't forgotten The Office but, sorry, I just didn't find it funny.
Peep Show has Classic written all over it, and not only am I impatiently waiting for the next episode to be screened on Channel Four, I'm now equally impatient in waiting for the second series to appear on DVD. It took a bit of coaxing to get the second series made, so I just hope that writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain stick with it and come up with a third series. It's wacky, it's hilarious, it's brilliant! Highly recommended.
- Audio Commentary on Two Episodes by the Writers and Principal Artists
- Mark's CV
- Scorpion Patrol : Real Life Behind Enemy Lines Part I
- Scorpion Patrol : Real Life Behind Enemy Lines Part 2
- Jeremy's Audition Tape
- Jeremy's Last Will and Testament
- Outrageous AKA Celsius 488 1/3