Peepshow Series 4
Considering that five years ago, it felt like I was the only one who’d ever heard of Mitchell and Webb, they’ve done pretty well for themselves. Four years on from their first big success in Peepshow, and they’re seen everywhere from Apple ads to tedious comedy quiz panels and appalling Channel 4 sketch shows. Robert Webb has had some decent roles in BBC 3’s Smoking Room, and Mitchell has had great success in smaller supporting roles.
Their strongest work remains when their playing off each other, but they continue to stretch their material to breaking point. I’m a little worried about reports on their first feature-length film, due out at the end of April. Called ‘Magicians’ it’s allegedly like The Prestige with a Blackpool-pier budget, only not very good. I sincerely hope I find at least half of it funny!
The reason I want them to keep doing well is that they’ve made themselves a tough act to follow. Their characters in Peepshow are, frankly, wonderful. The first season was a sublime mix of dark comedy and awkward social interactions, tied up in intricate plots that rewarded re-watching. They achieved another series, which had a weak opening but quickly got stronger. The third season seemed strangely flat, as though their panel show appearances with Jimmy Carr were slowly draining their creativity – all while they had a radio, TV show and movie to squeeze in. I still don’t have the DVD of series 3 yet – definitely a bad sign!
Despite series 3 almost being the end, Mitchell and Webb survived to get another series that began in April 2007. At the end of series three, Mark had accidentally proposed to the woman he’d been essentially stalking for series one and two. She was his girlfriend by the third one, when at the very end of it he realised he didn’t actually love her. Unfortunately, she found the ring he’d brought on their proposal weekend in the Quantocs. Mark ended up proposing marriage out of embarrassment, and asked his wonderfully untalented-overly-aspirational-twat of a housemate Jeremy never to speak of his crippling doubts ever again.
Innocent fun in the country – Mark and Jeremy try some arson
(Image c/o Channel4.com)
So, for series 4, we get Mark, Sophie and, Jeremy, going to visit Sophie’s family for her birthday. They’re middle-class country folk, and it soon gets much too close to Straw Dogs for Mark’s taste. First, he’s left alone with the father in-law at the pub. He’s an unhappily married farmer who owns big guns, and appears determined not to let his daughter marry anyone with crippling doubts. Doing this seems to run in the family, as Jeremy gets seduced by Sophie’s sexually frustrated mum while everyone’s out. Let’s just say there was home made jam involved.
In fairness, Jeremy was trapped with Sophie’s slightly-strange little brother for most of the weekend. The first sign of strangeness is that he actually knows of Jeremy’s DJ efforts (presumably through a myspace website) and he thinks it’s brilliant. Jeremy is unimpressed by being the ‘crazy person’s chew toy’ even if it means he gets a free car from the MILF that he’s actually ‘F-ing’.
The events of this awful weekend start to snowball. Sophie’s dad soon figures out that Mark doesn’t love Sophie, and also that someone’s having an affair with his wife. Fortunately, he’s wrong about who it is. He makes Mark and Jeremy party to some barn-burning to get revenge on the guy he thinks is boinking his wife.
In what must be a patented British sitcom style, nearly all of this nastiness gets inevitably dragged kicking and screaming into the daylight. But, being Mark and Jeremy, the hapless pair manage to just about weasel themselves out of danger, and skid off to temporary freedom in Jeremy’s newly acquired VW Golf.
The episode brilliantly balances the line between Homeric tragedy and a classic Awkward British Situation. Only in Peepshow’s twisted universe can screwed-up family scandals be this much fun.