The fourth series continues to follow the domestic adventures of Mark and Jeremy, two late-twenty something flat mates living in south London. As ever, we are party to Mark and Jeremy's innermost, and rather lurid, thoughts as the dysfunctional duo try in vain to find their place in modern culture, to grow up and maybe even find love and fulfilment. But then again, this is Mark and Jeremy we're talking about - and with friends such as the drug addled Super Hans and business Guru Alan Johnson - they're already onto a loser.
Although Mark, the professional brogue-wearer with a slightly disconcerting interest in World War Two, is the sensible one, he's got himself into a bit of a pickle. Never one to make a sensible decision, the end of the third series saw him accidently propose to Sophie. Much to his horror, Sophie accepted and Mark is now trying to squirm his way out of the marriage - with the horror of actually having to go through with the wedding rapidly approaching. Forever making a mess of situations, Mark even manages to spend a horrific weekend with Sophie's argumentative parents, tries to get his gym instructor sacked on jumped up charges of "pooing in the pool" and even gets involved in a spot of barn arson.
Jeremy is the loose cannon, a lazy time and life waster with dodgy friends who dreams of becoming a musician but can never get his act together (or up in the morning). Never one for working, Jeremy ends up performing some "handy" work for a male pop star he admires, does something pretty unspeakable to a dog and, worst of all, sleeps with Sophie's mother. With the impending wedding causing Jeremy to become worried that he'll loose his free board and lodgings, he's not too keen on the idea of Mark's wedding either. However, a possible escape route opens when his beautiful ex "visa wife" Nancy unexpectedly turns up he decides he's going to win her back - even if that involves getting a job.
No doubt filmed on a tight budget, and with an array of handheld Digital Video cameras, the picture quality isn't really that good. But given that the majority of the camerawork is via their tight angled and unique "Point Of View" filming it's hardly surprising - or probably that easy to do. However, once you move from the darker interior scenes to the increasing number of outside locations things continue to look a little washed out and suffering from too much contrast. Perhaps they're trying to match the POV material, but for such recent television material, it's all a little disappointing. Still, at least there's no print damage and it's nothing really worth getting too upset about - after all it's the comedy content we're more interested in.
As with the previous DVD outings, and due to the bandwidth limitations of terrestrial television broadcasts, there is very little to be expected from the sound department. Still, the 256Kbps two channel Dolby Digital soundtrack is more than sufficient for its needs and the all important dialogue department is kept crisp and clear at all times. It's nothing exciting, but something to be expected from a television series such as this.
The menu system is similar in design to the previous releases - with scored and animated menus at each level with various cut scenes playing in the background along with transition effects between menus. The episodes can also be played in one go or individually selected (although the episode and chapter selections can be a little confusing). Extras wise, four of the episodes come with Audio Commentaries, there's some Deleted Scenes whilst the disc is graced with a number of Featurettes of varying quality. Fortunately, each episode comes equipped with subtitles so you can listen to the audio commentary as well as enjoying the episode at the same time.
Although there's a separate menu containing the extras, the Deleted and Alternate Scenes plus the Commentaries are only available on their respective episode menus. Four of the episodes have the Commentaries (what was wrong with the other two?) and, as per the previous releases, the various script writers and producers are on hand to provide plenty of information about the various cast members and episodes - including the occasional reference to other episodes in the other series. The Deleted and Alternate Scenes are nothing special and only offer a minimal amount of input - the scenes only last for a minute.
Featurette wise there's a range on offer - with some better than others. First off there's the five minute Barn Burning featurette where, you guessed it, they set fire to a barn. With a bit of natter from David and Robert, it's hardly gripping stuff, but at least you get to see some behind-the-scenes filming - and a barn on fire - and some worried looking production crew. I think Robert Webb summed it up well by saying "It's just a barn on fire". Next up is the six minute A Peep Behind the Scenes featurette. Although rather short it, rather unsurprisingly, goes behind-the-scenes and looks at what's involved in the filming process. Along with some of the production crew, David and Robert are on hand to help explain what goes on - including the complete chaos a snow fall can cause to continuity.
Looking a like a bit of cheap and cheerful padding material, running for fifteen minutes the Best of Peep Show Series 1 - 4 has the cast and production crew discussing their top ten favourite moments from the series. With plenty of clips across the series (apart - rather unsurprisingly - the third series) it's a good way of having a reminder of the many laughs from the previous shows. Without giving it away, I'd also have to agree with the top of the pile choice too - it's definitely one of the best scenes in the whole of the series. The final featurette is the nineteen minute A Peep at Mark and Jeremy Featurette. Starting with the beginning of the first series, and narrated by series producer Phil Clarke, the featurette contains plenty of hilarious clips from all four series. Want to get someone into Peep Show, then sit them down and get them to watch this superb and informative featurette.
Whilst a big fan of the series I couldn't help noticing that the third series was a little on the poor side and it looked liked the writers had their minds on other projects - perhaps the BBC's Mitchell and Webb Experience caused their brains to be elsewhere. That and their film Magicians. Fortunately, series four sees the pair back on form with some hilarious antics that will have you cracking up with laughter. Not only do the guys come up with a great excuse to have a gym instructor fired, but the pair even manage to upset prospective girlfriends in such an awful way that I'm surprised the RSPCA weren't breaking down their front door. Still, it's your typical Mark and Jeremy botch up we've come to love and expect.
With comedy series such as Father Ted, Black Books, Spaced and Shameless under their belts, Channel 4 continues to be one of the best places in the UK to see new and appreciate existing comedy. Fortunately, this is not the end for the award winning Peep Show as a fifth series has already been commissioned by Channel 4. Whilst the television viewing figures weren't that brilliant, impressive DVD sales ensured that the series would continue to live on (even if the forth series does have a handy ending point). Also, given David Mitchell's and Robert Webb's continual successes with their BBC sketch shows - and not forgetting their wonderful Apple adverts - it's highly likely that there will be many more series to come.
Peep Show is cracking comedy. It's wacky, it's hilarious and, in the words of Jeremy, it's brilliant! Highly recommended.
- Episode Commentaries
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes
- Barn Burning featurette
- A Peep Behind the Scenes featurette
- The Best of Peep Show Series 1 - 4 featurette
- A Peep at Mark and Jeremy featurette