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Played By: David MitchellMark is the sensible one: a professional brogue wearer with a slightly worrying interest in World War Two. He is playing at being very serious and grown up and is a painfully conventional young man with a seething mass of self-loathing, ego and self-consciousness just below the surface. Mark believes nothing is achieved without work, blood, sweat and tears. In fact he masochistically relishes this belief.
"I suppose doing things you hate is just the price you pay to avoid loneliness."
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Several major Yank the Dog's Chain moments are caused by his impulsiveness, as well as a lot of awkward moments.
- Ambiguously Bi: At one point he is confused by Johnson, but otherwise is completely heterosexual
- Born in the Wrong Century
- British Stuffiness
- Butt Monkey: Mark is a prime example. Jeremy, though he has better luck in life, has his moments as well.
- The Chew Toy: The first ever episode shows him being bullied by a smallish gang of pre-pubescent boys. At the end of the episode, he chases them with an iron pipe on impulse.
- Closet Geek: Mark has shades of this. In series 1, Jeremy finds a fantasy model painting magazine hidden in his cupboard (which, of course, he mistakes for porn). When he meets Dobby, he's revealed to play a Wo W-like game called Fantasy Warquest. Finally, when entering a geek shop with Gerard, he monologues about not feeling as awkward "since he bought his first twenty sided die".
- Deadpan Snarker: Mostly in his head, but sometimes in person.
- Dirty Coward: Too many times to count, but most of all the way he ends up hiding on his wedding day because he hasn't got the guts to break it off.
- Gold Digger: Mark decides NOT to call off his engagement to Sophie so he can get to live in her grandmother's cottage.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jeremy.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: His father is a bigoted, bullying control freak who was instilling the fear of God in Mark when he wasn’t neglecting him. His time at school was.... not fun either.
- Hidden Depths: When his love of history gets the chance to shine, you get the feeling he really should have pursued that instead of working for a finance company. It's shown a few times over the series that he regrets taking business management over ancient history at university.
- ...but perhaps he's really just Feigning Intelligence, as he seems to get caught out whenever he meets a real history buff, like Professor MacLeish and Jeremy's mother's new boyfriend ("Marr? Don't you find him a little light? I mean, he's good for an overview...")
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
- Manipulative Bastard: He certainly has his moments.
- Neat Freak: At least compared to Jeremy.
- No Social Skills: One of his defining character traits.
- Not So Different: Will take any opportunity to stab Jeremy in the back if it benefits him and despite often taking the moral high ground isn't any more moral than Jez is.
- Odd Friendship: He and Super Hans seem to get along quite well. The two have absolutely nothing in common, but Hans appears to be less aware of Mark's social awkwardness than others, and Mark is surprisingly tolerant of Hans' eccentric behavior.
- Papa Wolf: Claims he'd even stab Jeremy to protect his baby.
- Pet the Dog: As with Jez he often fakes this, but there are a few genuine instances of this trope. Notable examples include 'dumping' Suze after developing a crush on her (for the sake of Jez) and paying the bills on Johnson's stolen credit card (again for the sake of Jez.)
- Stalking Is Love: Is very good at temporarily deluding himself into thinking so.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Though he comes off a bit better than Jez does most of the time.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Has this kind of complex regarding Johnson and Jeremy's stepfather, among others. Probably owing to the Hilariously Abusive Childhood above.
- White Collar Worker
Jeremy ‘Jez’ Usborne
Played By: Robert WebbJeremy is a big kid. A lazy man with big ideas about himself and his future music career. Touchy and self-aggrandising, Jeremy is never far from doing something he will regret. He is clearly the loose cannon of the partnership: a lazy waster with dodgy friends, who dreams of becoming a musician, but can never get his act together, or often even get up in the morning! Although vain, idle and delusional, Jez is basically a nice bloke.
"God, this is such a mess. It's fantastic."
- Anything That Moves: Jeremy once told Mark that he was aroused by chairs.
- Bi the Way: While his exact sexual preferences are left ambiguous for most of the series, there are several hints to suggest he's bisexual. While most of his relationships are with women, he tells a woman that he's slept with more than men than her despite the fact that he "basically only sleep(s) with women", in one episode competes with Super Hans to get sexual favors from a young band member they take on, and at one point shows some admiration to a muscular monk dating Big Suze. It becomes less ambiguous in season 9 when he enters into a relationship with a man that lasts for most of the season.
- But Not Too Bi: For most of the series, there are indications that Jeremy may be bisexual - his general relaxed attitude towards his sexuality and admission that he's slept with men before, but apart from a couple of sexually confused moments (sometimes fueled by drugs), he pretty much exclusively shows interest in and forms relationships with women throughout the series. This is averted at the beginning of season 9 when he begins an ongoing sexual relationship with a man and his girlfriend.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Jez sent dog shit in the post, peppersprayed, tried to punch and possibly subconsciously tried to murder the men - and in one case a woman - who he considered rivals for whatever woman - Toni, Nancy, Big Suze, Elena etc - he was currently infatuated with. In one episode he got so clingy he was threatened by his girlfriend showing kindness to a homeless man.
- Casanova Wannabe: He is fairly unsuccessful with women, though not for lack of trying.
- Comedic Sociopath: Oh so very much.
- Deadpan Snarker: At times.
- Dirty Coward: to a lesser degree than Mark, though.
- The Ditz: He's clueless about even the commonest things.Jez: Potatoes aren't veg, are they? I mean they kind of are... but not really. I mean tomatoes are fruit but potatoes are like... bread?
- Dreadful Musician
- Even Evil Has Standards: Refuses to have sex with Sara on Christmas, given his love of the holiday.
- Foil: To Mark. He's an idiotic party-animal slacker. Mark's an up-tight history nerd/buff who has trouble letting loose.
- Giftedly Bad
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Mark.Jez: I'm his one.
- Hypocritical Humour: We're talking World Amateur Champion level here.
- It's All About Me: "Can't I have everything I want, all the time? I mean, isn't that what Democracy is all about?".
- Karma Houdini: From time to time. He does tend to get away with some pretty awful shit.
- Kavorka Man: He's not a bad-looking guy, but he does score a lot considering the type of person he is. Perhaps it's because he targets dim or mentally vulnerable women.
- Man Child: Even more so in the episode his mother comes to visit.
- Men Are Uncultured
- Men Can't Keep House
- Never My Fault: He could market books and lectures on shifting blame and not taking responsibility for actions.
- Pet the Dog: Fakes this a lot but does have some genuine moments of kindness.
- Serial Romeo: He tends to fall in love (or, well, lust, which, in his words, "is basically the same thing when you get rid of all the Valentine cards and bullshit") ridiculously fast and ridiculously often. Of course, he's also game for dumping a woman immediately after having sex with her.
- The Slacker: Jeremy is intentionally a slacker, and rather proud of it, seeing it as being a cool, pop culture lifestyle choice. He does have moments of clarity on occasion.
- Small Name, Big Ego
- Too Dumb to Fool: Jez could be said to be Too Lazy To Fool, since his time spent as a brainwashed cult member lasted days.
- Too Dumb to Live: "They wouldn't put a bad idea in a film, they'd get sued."
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist
- Wide-Eyed IdealistMark: At some point he's going to find out what goes in sausages.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: He often tricks himself into thinking he’s in some kind of movie.Jez (on getting paid by Johnson for sex with Big Suze): Is this a terrible idea? No, it can't be, it's in a film. They couldn't put a terrible idea in a film, they'd get sued.
Played By: Olivia ColmanMark's ray of sunshine, object of desire and friend at work. Sophie is too bright and interesting for her job and most of her colleagues. In Mark she recognises someone who is on her wavelength. Trouble is he's such a bag of neuroses he manages to self-destruct as soon as things start going well.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: She goes for Jeff at first, even lampshading it with, 'I always go for arseholes'.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: While viewer opinion varies as to who was more at fault in her relationship with Mark, we definitely see a less pleasant side of her from season 5 onwards.
- Broken Pedestal: Mark's rose-tinted view of her doesn't long survive their actually getting together.
- Inelegant Blubbering: During that wedding. This is a speciality of Oliva Colman. Not many do it better.
- Manipulative Bitch: Not all the time but definitely when she manipulates Mark into getting her pregnant.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: In Series 5.
- Put on a Bus: Sophie does not appear in Series 8. This is explained in episode 1 when Jeff turns up in Sophie's place at the flat to collect her and Mark's baby, then informs Mark that him and Sophie have got back together and moved into 'Nana's cottage' near Sophie's parents house in the countryside.
- Satellite Love Interest: How she started off, likely because we only ever saw her through Mark's limited viewpoint.
- The Bus Came Back: She returns in season 9 to ask Mark to move in with her.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Started off as a fairly pleasant and bland love interest and straight woman to Mark until after a couple of series Olivia Colman made the writers realise that she wasn't really such a nice girl when you look at how she treats him. This led to her character being developed in other directions in series 3 and 4 and she really turns into a bitch after their ill-fated wedding.. Although after the humiliation Mark subjected her to her behaviour is unsurprising.
Played By: Neil FitzmauriceIn his bristling normality and easy handling of everyday situations Jeff is the complete opposite of self-conscious, self-defeating Mark. Jeff Heaney is therefore an enemy in Mark's eyes. It's probably a justified hatred as Jeff often bullies Mark.
- The Bully: If nothing else, Jeff is a bully. He takes every opportunity to tease, belittle and sneer at Mark.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Hidden Depths: In Series 6, he helps Sophie with her pregnancy and was very upset about the break up originally. Of course, even when helping Sophie he takes shots at Mark and is relieved to find out he isn't the child's father.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk
- Jerk Jock: We only see him being good at a sport once (bowling), but it's very easy to imagine him being one of the football-playing, tougher lads at school who picked on nerds like Mark (although they didn't go to school together)
- Kick the Dog: He goes from an office bully into a full-fledged sadistic bastard when he gives Mark a nasty little speech about how he doesn't see him as a threat to his relationship. 'You could have your cock in her. You still wouldn't have the balls to fuck.' Overlaps with Jerkass Has a Point considering that this sums up Mark's entire problem in two succinct if vulgar sentences.
- Oop North: A Scouser.
- Romantic False Lead
- Smug Smiler
- Smug Snake: Whenever he's going out with Sophie.
- Your Cheating Heart
Played By: Paterson JosephMark's smooth and cool boss and 'business guru' at JLB Credit. Johnson is a no-bullshit work-monger with a brutal view of the world based on maximizing profit and minimizing your opponents. Mark looks up to Johnson with a pathetic degree of regard.
"In business, Jeremy, you learn that every man has his price, and I judge yours to be... £530."
- The Alcoholic: Recovered, then relapsed in the Series 7 finale.
- Bad Boss: He's perfectly willing to throw his employees under the bus if he thinks it'll elevate him even slightly.
- Badass Moustache: In one episode Mark even tries to grow one to emulate him.
- Broken Pedestal: Mark's view switches from idolization to disdain in a few seasons. He never completely sheds his sense of admiration, though.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite going semi-insane after his fall from power, he still manages to nail a contract for the management-consultant business him and Mark set up and by the end of Series 7 has enough money to buy another house.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Especially in later seasons.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Well, Mark wants him.
- Jerk Jock: To a certain extent. He's certainly a top dog and can be thoughtlessly aggressive.
- Large Ham: Johnson is expressive and very charismatic.
- Pet the Dog: Mentoring and community work, according to Big Suze. Also, sticking up for Mark when Sophie begins her post-break-up-post-wedding-humiliation campaign of bullying and vilification.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Debateable. He’s competent and doesn’t suffer fools, but he’s also highly aggressive, willing to throw innocent employees to the wolves to save himself, and Mark not inaccurately describes him as part of a group of, ‘literally the worst men in the world’.
- Sanity Slippage: After JLB goes under, he hops off the edge of reason.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: Has this effect on Mark at least.
- The Teetotaler: Johnson is a teetotal former alcoholic before he snaps at the end of series 7 during Big Suze's New Year's Eve party.
- Villainous Breakdown: The recession is...not good for his sanity. Neither is throwing a house party on the same night as him.
Played By: Jim HowickMark’s rival for Dobby’s affection. He’s a nice, nerdy fellow with ongoing health problems.
- Ascended Extra
- Character Death: Dies of flu in the first episode of Season 8.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Initially at least, but he doesn't hesitate to stab Mark in the back or abuse any power he can get once Dobby's there to play for.
- Ignore the Disability: "Tube up his nose. Tube up his nose. He's a man with a tube up his nose."
- Ill Boy
- Not So Different: A mild-mannered nerd with a repressed nasty streak? Sound familiar, Mark?
- Out-Gambitted: "Never go to war with Stalin, Gerrard. Uncle Joe don't play by Your rules".
Played By: Isy SuttieA nerdy co-worker who just might be the one girl that likes Mark for the neurotic mess that he is.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Genre Savvy: After a couple of seasons she knows how Mark's life works better than Mark does.
- Hair Decorations: Wears cute barrettes at the temples most of the time.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Possibly a poster girl for this.
- Lad-ette: Can definitely be a bit "foward" at times (see: store cupboard scene). And in her first scene we see her reading Viz.
- Shout-Out: To a certain house elf?
Played By: Elizabeth MarmurThe unhinged next-door neighbour who serves as an unhealthy object of lust during the first and second season. She’s disappeared after getting remarried to her husband.
- Berserk Button: Really likes her music. Do not criticise Peter Gabriel in front of her. Or try and take her Bhundu Boys album.
- Bitch Alert
- Broken Bird
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: She's last seen in Series 2, having seduced Jez into an affair largely out of jealousy and insecurity.
- Freudian Excuse: She has some serious daddy issues owing to her father dying when she was 3.
- Overly Long Name
- The Vamp
Played By: Vera FilatovaA bisexual, marijuana-dealing Russian émigré who lives in the same block of flats as Mark and Jeremy.
- Bi the Way
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
- Brainless Beauty
- Foreign People Are Sexy
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Jeremy thinks this initially, but quickly grows jealous and angry. Elena hurts both Jeremy and her girlfriend, completely subverting this trope.
- It's All About Me: "You love me and Gail loves me. Shit, everyone loves me!"
- Sensual Slavs
- The Unfair Sex: Averted. Elena is depicted as being just as selfish and shallow as Jez. Maybe even moreso.
- Your Cheating Heart: She just loooooves to cheat.
Played By: Emily BruniElena's girlfriend and Jeremys love rival in Series 6. Completely devoted to Elena who does not show the same level of devotion back though she always choses her over Jez. She appears again in series 8 when she campaigns to be chairman of the freehold committee in Apollo House.
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: Averted. She's completely faithful to Elena, although Elena isn't faithful to her.
- Brainy Brunette: A member of MENSA who runs her own business.
- Ice Queen: Borders on this at times.
- Informed Ability: Her intelligence. Possibly intentional, as Jeremy makes fun of her inability to spot that he's having an affair with her girlfriend.
- Sorry, I'm Gay: When she thinks Mark's hitting on her "I'm in a relationship. And it's a same-sex relationship. And I don't find you attractive. Even speaking objectively" Ouch!
Friends & Family
Played By: Eliza L BennettMark's sister who has an on and off again relationship with Jez.
Played By: Matt KingA friend of Jeremy’s and a musician. He’s a slightly more successful (and psychotic) version of Jeremy, and influences him in a variety of negative ways.
"People like Coldplay and voting for the Nazis. You can't trust people, Jeremy."''
- Berserk Button: Does not like being trapped in a room at all, "ever since Dad locked me in the airing cupboard to monitor the homebrew".
- Bi the Way: The number of guys Super Hans has engaged in sex with over the series is relatively large. However the show never explicitly states he is gay or bi.
- Couldn't Find a Pen: In "Man Jam," he tells Jez that he "only sign[s] in blood."
- Disappeared Dad: To his twins; the fact that he takes a while to remember their ages implies he hasn't seen them in a while, though the fact that Mark says he's never heard Hans mention his children and Hans can't even produce a picture of them pretty much confirms that he doesn't have much of a role in their lives at all. They make an appearance at his wedding in season 9 however.
- Dreadful Musician: He's more capable than Jez though.
- Going Cold Turkey: Has tried and failed several times.
- Guyliner: His default look.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: His Dad would lock him in the airing cupboard to 'monitor the homebrew'.
- Immune to Drugs: Super Hans clearly thinks he is, although in many episodes he's reduced to an utter wreck by his excessive habits. However, someone who can survive taking four grams of cocaine in one go "to relax him" must be carrying at least a pint or two of tiger blood.
- Insane Troll Logic: His ideas for the pub in "Sectioning" are ridiculous.Jeremy: I'm definitely not co-managing a pub called "Free the Paedos."
- Junkie Prophet: Sometimes likes to pass himself off as one, even though his 'wisdom' is a mix of nonsensical ramblings, parroted phrases from film and television and the suggestion to do more drugs.
- Manipulative Bastard: He’s not overly skilled at manipulation, but it doesn’t take much to trick Jeremy.
- Mysterious Past: In the Series 6 finale, Super Hans mentions that he has seven-year-old twins, with whom he has little contact. He doesn't give their names or genders, but they seem to live in a German-speaking country. No one in the show has referred to them since.
- Odd Friendship: He and Mark seem to get along quite well. The two have absolutely nothing in common, but Hans appears to be less aware of Mark's social awkwardness than others, and Mark is surprisingly tolerant of Hans' eccentric behavior.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: He even introduces himself as 'Hans. Super Hans'.
- Season 9 reveals his first name is Simon.
- Small Name, Big Ego
- Stoners Are Funny
- Toxic Friend Influence: To Jeremy. If Hans does something, Jeremy will usually try to do the same thing with less success.
- Wild Card: Can function as the episode's antagonist, single-scene comic relief, an unreliable backup party member for Jez and/or Mark, or just a drug-addled dead weight depending on the situation.
Played By: Rachel BlanchardA kooky, ‘liberated’ small-town American girl who Jeremy falls in love with. She later marries him for visa reasons, and is in general something of a hypocritical free-spirit.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Depending on how you view her.
- Brainless Beauty: She's beautiful, and she is intelligent in some ways but certainly not in others.
- Citizenship Marriage: With Jeremy.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: She adheres to a bizarre, hippie-esque religion that seems to be some mix of Christianity and every single cult in the 60s.
- Granola Girl: Very much so, but also (by her word anyway) a devout Christian.
- Hypocrite: Acts like a devout Christian...and is also too kinky for Jeremy. It's probably in keeping with her own, self-styled religion.
- Ms. Fanservice: In a DVD commentary, Mitchell & Webb and Armstrong & Bain comment about the novelty of a sexy Hollywood actress coming over to do a low-budget British sitcom in "shitty Croydon".
- The Pollyanna: To an extent that gets rather creepy, given that she chirps about family crises and year-long spells of drug addiction as brightly as anything else.
Played By: Sophie WinklemanPosh, a little stupid, very attractive and very sweet, Big Suze is Jeremy’s ex-girlfriend. He’s still in love with her, and has an excellent plan to ‘get her high and put my hand up her jumper’.
- Beware the Nice Ones: She rather cheerfully suggests tying a burglar up in the bath, then burning him with cigarettes to extract information.
- Brainless Beauty: Averted. She's actually more intelligent than she appears to be, due to her cheerful attitude.
- Hello, Nurse!: Just about everyone's reaction to her, with good reason.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: She's never been referred to as anything other than Big Suze. We don't even know if 'Suze' is short for Susan or Suzanne.
- Ship Tease: With Mark in the Series 3 episode 'Sistering'; after they spend time alone together Mark develops a crush on her but she is Oblivious to Love, though the end of the episode, where Mark 'dumps' her for the sake of Jez hints she might have had a soft spot for Mark after all.
- Spoiled Sweet: Incredibly rich and a lovely human being.
- Statuesque Stunner: Hence the name.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Treats Mark and Jeremy like shit in Series 7, although, to be fair, they generally deserve it.
Played By: Paul ClaytonSophie's quietly bitter, self-loathing father.
- The Alcoholic: Ian has started to self-medicate with alcohol.
- Ax-Crazy: Burns down his neighbour's barn when he suspects him of sleeping with his wife.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: See Ax-Crazy.
- Deadpan Snarker: He has a very dry, self-deprecating wit that comes from a combination of being the Only Sane Man and a Grumpy Old Man.Jeremy: So, I like your barn, Ian.Ian: It's full of crap no one has any use for. Maybe that's why I feel so at home here. Ha.
- Even Evil Has Standards: As he himself admits, he may be a homophobe...but he's no badger baiter.
- Grumpy Old Man: Being in a loveless marriage will do that to a man.
- Happy Marriage Charade: With Penny. They put on a facade, but both of them are deeply miserable.
- Only Sane Man: He's very aware of the fact that he's in a loveless marriage and everyone around him acts in their own selfish interests.
- Papa Wolf: He doesn't care about anything but Sophie's happiness.
Played By: Cheryl CampbellSophie's friendly yet adulterous mother.
- Christmas Cake: As Jeremy finds out.Mark: She's not out of Hollyoaks, Jeremy, she probably had a ration book!
- Happy Marriage Charade: With Ian. They're in a loveless marriage rife with infidelity and sexual dysfunction.
- Mrs. Robinson: She seduces the much younger Jeremy with little to no effort.
- Your Cheating Heart: She cheats on her husband with some frequency.
Played By: Camilla BeeputAn intellectual woman whom Jeremy meets in a hospital waiting room while her boyfriend Ben is in a coma. Ben regains consciousness and later employs Jeremy, in a role which Jeremy uses as a means to try and get close to, and eventually seduce Zahra, even though she affects an interest in many refined subjects that are beyond him, such as foreign films and classic literature like Frankenstein, which he pretends to know about and be interested in in order to impress her.
- Feigning Intelligence: At first, she seems quite clever. With each passing episode, it becomes clearer that she bases intelligence on 'refined' subjects and is merely better at faking it than Jeremy.
- Hipster: Most certainly, due to her big fashionable glasses, and feigned interest in obscure, artsy subjects.
- Meganekko: When she dons her specs.
- Men Are Uncultured: Averted. She's just as uncultured as everyone else, she's merely better at hiding it.
- Your Cheating Heart: She cheats on her boyfriend Ben with Jeremy, although considering what a shithead Ben is, it's hard to be too finger-pointy at her.