"I've made a psycho call to the woman I love, kicked a dog to death and I'm about to pepper-spray an acquaintance... I mean, what's happened to me?"
Peep Show (2003-) is a verydarkly comical show about two very ordinary weirdos: Jeremy "Jez" Usbourne (Robert Webb), a manchild and would-be musician, and Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell), a fifty-year-old in a thirtysomething body. The show's gimmick is that (with very few exceptions) every camera shot in the show is taken from the point of view of one of the characters, whether Jez and Mark or just someone passing by. It also allows the viewer to hear the internal thought processes of both Mark and Jez as they bumble through their lives... and the show makes good on its promise of showing us everything going on in their heads.The central pair are accompanied by a gradually evolving supporting cast of friends, friends' friends and girlfriends, including Mark's love interest Sophie, Jerk JockJeff, Jeremy's stoner bandmate Super Hans, and Alan Johnson, Mark's insane but charismatic boss.
This show provides examples of:
Achievements in Ignorance: Jeremy manages to win at poker by not knowing the rules and mistaking a crap hand for an unbeatable one (while Mark naturally does the opposite, choosing to fold on the slim chance that someone else might have something better). Later on, he impresses Zara with some rather idiotic statements that she mistakes for hipster irony gags...in fact, it's safe to say Jeremy pulls these off fairly regularly.
Almost Out of Oxygen: "I suppose we do need to get out of here quite soon. Before the air supply runs out." Not really Jeremy, air doesn't actually run out in building foyers, on account of them not being airtight.
Babies Make Everything Better: Sophie seems to believe this, and in the opening episodes of series 7 there are moments which suggests that this trope may actually apply as the tone becomes a bit brighter. Mark seems pleasantly surprised at realizing he actually has pleasant feelings toward his infant son. Episode four puts the show back in fine form.
Mark manages to salvage a very awkward conversation and get together with Dobby because he has his baby son with him.
The Baby Trap: It looks bad for Mark initially, but the committment to his son doesn't end up taking up as much time as first thought.
Berserk Button: Super Hans has a thing about "locked doors - ever since Dad locked me in the airing cupboard to monitor the homebrew..."
British Brevity: Straight in that each series is only six half-hour episodes long, but averted in that it has now lasted for eight series and the ninth has been confirmed (making it the longest-running Channel 4 sitcom ever in terms of series).
Call Back: In the series 5 episode "Burgling," one of the teen burglar's friends calls Mark "clean shirt" as he walks out with the TV. Yup, it's the same character who tormented Mark in the first episode of the show—played by the same actor.
Canon Discontinuity: Jez used to be a nurse, but the writers have decided to "forget" this as evidenced by the first episode of series 7, where he has to have basic medical terms explained to him. Although this might explain why he is no longer a nurse: like most jobs he takes they don't tend to last long because he's useless at them.
Likewise, Jeremy gets chlamydia twice in the series; once sometime before series 3 and the next in series 5. The first time round he knows its 'symptomless' yet the second time knows absolutely nothing about the disease and must have it explained to him.
Even as early as Series 1, we still have Jeremy worrying about whether you can catch cancer as early as the first episode, and in episode 6 he doesn't know what a hospice is or what it means to be terminally ill. I think this can be safely attributed to Jeremy simply being an idiot.
Also, Mark manages to drive Johnson's car very slowly in first gear in series 1, yet in series 6 he knows so little about finding the biting point that he damages the clutch of his instructors car.
Celebrity Paradox: If you've seen David Mitchell's appearances on QI and other panel shows, it's a bit odd to hear Mark make an offhand remark about Jimmy Carr, and even more so to hear him compare his proposed escape from his wedding to Stephen Fry's suicide attempt and temporary disappearance. Still funny, though.
Jez pleads with Zahra not to break up with him, while Mark awkwardly studies a bottle of shampoo:
Jez: Is this about last night? 'Cause I can do better. I know I can. I didn't even go down on you, which is a great shame because I love to go down on women, don't I, Mark?
Mark: "Rinse and repeat," always with the "rinse and repeat"...
Character Development: Jez begins to understand himself and how pathetic he is more as the series goes on. Also, the entire relationship between Mark and Jeremy; Jeremy goes from looking down on Mark to truly appreciating him in the later series. Even Mark shows signs of caring for Jez.
Especially evident in the series 7 Christmas episode, where Jeremy buys Mark some well-thought out presents that he is genuinely appreciative of and even spends 'hours' on the internet researching what turkey he thinks Mark would appreciate best for Christmas dinner. Mark doesn't do the same, but he's tight-fisted with everyone, including his family.
At the end of the New Year episode, Mark arranges to move in with Dobby. Jeremy's plans to move in with Zahra have fallen through but even with no place to live, Jeremy realises that Mark wants to move on and lets him go.
Although series 8 has now been and gone and he still hasn't
Averted with Mark. In series 8, he effectively repeats all the mistakes of his relationship with Sophie - up to and including a disastrous trip to the Quantocks. His career has gone backwards, he continues to delude himself about 'Business Secrets of the Pharoahs', and his relationship with Jez has deteriorated.
Nancy also seems to disappear without explanation, particularly noticeable because she and Jez got married so she (an American) could stay in England after her visa expired. Did they get divorced or what?
It's true that there's no explicit explanation of her departure but after the final scene of series 2, it's assumed that now she doesn't like Jeremy at all, she stays in the flat for a while longer then eventually moves out while staying married to Jeremy. This is then confirmed when she reappears in series 4 and tells Mark everything that's happened to her 'after I left you guys'.
Church of Happyology: Jeremy and Super Hans briefly join a cult known as "New Wellness". The mythology revolves around "negative orgones" that cause human unhappiness. The cult takes personality tests and forbids thinking. They believe in the 7 truths taken from an asteroid that landed on earth in 1911.
Cluster F-Bomb: Mark, after leaving a truly cringeworthy message on Sophie's answerphone.
Mark: It's remarkable, isn't it, that out of the three billion adult women in the world, your one true soulmate happens conveniently to live in the same block of flats as you, rather than, say, in a village in Mozambique?
Jeremy: [serenely] Who knows how these things happen?
Jez and Mark conduct a conversation about "Kenneth" (Mark's dildo) in front of a book group, as if they're talking about a friend. After Mark leaves, Jez turns to the book group and says "Kenneth is Mark's 9-inch dildo!".
After discovering that Sophie has broken his "Piggin' Tea Break" mug:
Mark: (Maybe I'll stick it back to "Harpenden Harpenden Harpenden," see how she likes that! ...No. Can't we leave the mugs out of it? Even the mob never hit the families.)
As rioting laid-off JLB employees prepare to launch a photocopier down the stairs:
Mark: (Oh my god. That wasn't my main photocopier, but it was a trusty steed when the main one was busy!)
Trying to break into Zahra's flat with a shelving bracket:
Jez: (Come on, bit! Don't let me down now, bit!)
Continuity Nod: The show is remarkably consistent, briefly revisiting old plot points and character habits as throwaway brick jokes for the more astute fans to pick up on.
In 'Seasonal Beatings', Mark's dad spills Kava on the carpet. Mark remarks 'it's ok dad, the carpet's seen worse'. It certainly has seen worse, because one of Sophie's drug-addled friends spilled an entire glass of red wine all over it in series 3.
Couldn't Find a Pen: Super Hans (very messily) signs a contract with his own blood in "Man Jam."
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. Mark although less extreme still has elements of this trope in his jealous stalking of Sophie.
Crapsack World: Mark and Jez live in Croydon, where kebab shop stabbings are always in the local news, the police take too long to respond to burglaries, chavvy kids and muggers lurk on street corners and the corner shop doesn't even sell Alpen.
That may not be a deliberate invocation of this trope, because that's a relatively accurate portrayal of Croydon.
And of course the recession hits in series 6.
Creator Cameo: Jesse Armstrong can be spotted on the bus in the first episode and is the man running up the steps in Gog's film.
Cringe Comedy: In hefty doses. At one point, Mark is so desperate not to get married to Sophie that he makes a spontaneous proposal to a waitress in a coffee shop. It goes exactly as you'd suspect.
Beyond that, the show as a whole had a different feel in the first series. Because it wanted to establish its unique gimmick of showing everything through people's eyes, it did it to a greater extent, such as Mark running to the bus and it being shown exactly as it would look through his eyes even if it makes for very shaky footage and close-ups inside the toaster when Jez is making toast. As the series progressed, this was toned-down more and more and now the show is almost completely free of more 'arty' camera positions. Watching an episode from Series 7 alongside one from Series 1 can be slightly jarring.
The show was also a lot less plot-driven in the first series. Each episode had a much more simple storyline and scenes contained a lot more banter about topics completely irrelevant to it. There was also not really as much overarching storyline, besides Mark trying to seduce Sophie and both him and Jeremy lusting after Toni.
Eating Lunch Alone: This turns out to be a saving grace for Mark when he finds Dobby eating lunch alone. He sits next to her after returning to work due to everyone else hating him for jilting Sophie.
Eskimos Aren't Real: Upon hearing her accent, Jez wonders if Elena is from Russia "or one of those other, made-up countries."
Fan Fic: Sort-of 'live' version, as one enterprising fan tweeted as the characters while the episodes were broadcasting
Flanderization: Johnson's accent and mannerisms get more exaggerated and ridiculous as the show goes on. Possibly justified after JLB closes and his sanity goes down the toilet for awhile.
Big Suze, who goes from posh-accented but nice to, for lack of a better term, posh bitch for the later series (though she is only shown being a bitch to Mark, Jez and maybe Johnston all of whom have treated her pretty shabbily).
Faux Yay: Invoked when Jeremy and Mark are caught in Ben's flat. Ben doesn't buy it.
Ben: You aren't gay guys! You two look like shit for gay guys!
Feigning Intelligence: In series 7 Jeremy tries this approach in an attempt to woo beautiful intellectual Zahra. Interestingly it is heavily implied that Zahra is herself using this trope, coming across as something of an intellectual poseur who is neither as deep nor as bright as she seems.
Force Feeding: When Mark finds out that Jez went to an Indian restaurant instead of to the therapy session Mark paid for, he orders Indian takeout and forces Jez to eat it until he confesses.
Uncommonly for its genre, the show tends to have foreign love interest characters come from English-speaking countries: American Nancy, Canadian Merry and Australian Saz.
Freudian Excuse: When Jeremy joins the cult he cites a rocky childhood with his dad leaving when he was 10. More so with Mark; it is implied he had a miserable childhood, with a switch from private to state education, neglect / emotional abuse from his father and infidelity from both parents. This is turned up to eleven in Series 7 when we get to meet Mark's father and understand how much of a cocknob he is.
Friday Night Death Slot: Along with the POV shooting style, one possible reason for the show's low viewing figures despite a dedicated fan base and critical acclaim is that the original airdate for episodes is always Friday evening, on a channel which has a lower viewing figure than the other major UK channels.
Genre Savvy: Jeremy remarks in series 7 that his intentions are to juggle his job and try to have sex with the boss's girlfriend "until it all blows up in [his] stupid face". In the same episode, Mark wonders what he is going to do that will prevent him from staying with Dobby immediately after getting together with her.
Girl of the Week: In almost every episode in series 5, Mark finds a new love interest whom he thinks might be 'the one', only for them to leave him at the end of the episode.
Godwin's Law: Mark the history buff frequently thinks of mundane situations in terms of World War II campaigns, usually with himself in the role of either Hitler or Stalin. Subverted in series 7 when his claim to be Just Following Orders makes him compare himself to... Vince Cable.
Gold Digger: Mark decides NOT to call of his engagement to Sophie so he can get to live in her grandmother's cottage.
Gory Discretion Shot: Mark has a look at Sophie's caesarian section in progress, but thankfully, it isn't shown on screen.
Heroic Sacrifice: Jez at the end of Series 7 pretends to have somewhere else to stay so that Mark can "move on" with Dobby. He also takes a "wank bullet" for Mark in Series 6.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Olivia Colman appears in every non-Talking Heads shot in Series 4 either straight on in black, in a big, flowy dress, or with a bag in front of her belly.
Hypocritical Humor: "My dad died when I was three, it didn't fuck me up" - Toni, Mark and Jeremy's very fucked-up neighbour.
Mark sucking up to Johnson. "It's pathetic, the way [Blair] licks Bush's arse!" "...yeah!"
Jez sleeps with a life coach in nothing but a bra who randomly says she's wearing a grass skirt made of castrated penises during sex and then tells him that there are no boundaries. She asks him what his biggest fantasy is, only to say that he's unstable and unfit to be a life coach because he said he wanted to cut her hair and eat it. Even after he tells her he was lying to seem more edgy and taboo and points out the hypocrisy, she still thinks this way.
Jerk Jock: Jeff Heaney, an arrogant and confident bully who believes men are programmed to do two things: "Kill and knob". Hopefully one day Mark will give him a nice punch in the chops for all the abuse he's received.
Juggling Loaded Guns: "Gunny" is thankfully deactivated, as Jez finds out after he's been waving it at Mark with his finger on the trigger.
Just Eat Gilligan: Many, but not all, of Mark's problems would be avoided if he cut Jez (and by extension Super Hans) out of his life.
Kavorka Man: Superhans And Jez who despite his receding hairline, spacey teeth and a clingy, obsessed personality, he manages to find himself involved with a beautiful woman in almost every series (though they are all dumb and/or have low standards).
Kick the Dog: The treatment that Mark gets in the workplace after he ostensibly goes through with the marriage having been caught hiding in the church.
Mark: (Oh, great, she posted the guide book. I suppose I'm supposed to think that's incredibly charming and French. Well it's not — it's a waste of £8.99.)
Dobby seems like one for a while, but a large source of Mark's anxiety in later seasons is the fact that she does have a life of her own and is capable of deciding she doesn't want to settle down with him.
Mate or Die: Jeremy brings this up as a hypothetical scenario. Mark concedes that he would have sex with Jeremy to save their lives provided Jeremy didn't enjoy it.
"So...you could rape me, but you couldn't make love to me???"
Men Are Uncultured: Jez and Jeff. Averted by Mark, who loves history and classical music. Naturally, he regularly gets mocked for defying the trope. (However, Mark surprisingly feels the same as Jeremy about going to a play.)
Nerds Are Sexy: Dobby. Mark charmingly admits that she's the first person he feels comfortable around.
Mark, in "Jeremy's Manager": "We promised not to do the funny voices any more! Not after that week."
The two of them occasionally remind each other of their university days as the El dude brothers. Mostly when one wants the other to do something. How they earned that nickname or how they actually met is never revealed.
There are a lot of these. Mark's internal monologue: "Maybe I should get off with someone at Merry's party, in case Sophie does in Bristol. Yeah, right — when was the last time I got off with someone at a party? Well, there was Carol Bananaface... but that was just a macabre charade."
Obfuscating Stupidity: In "Gym", Jez applies for a menial job in order to get close to Nancy. The job is so unappealing that even the interviewer can't believe that Jez actually wants it, asking him if he's "writing a novel or something." Jez thinks "Don't want to seem overqualified!" and replies "What's a novel?"
Odd Couple: Mark (uptight, socially retarded, clean freak) and Jez (relaxed, socially capable, a bit grubby) at first glance. However they're both introverted and neurotic, with Jez more socially uptight than Mark in many ways. He's desperate to appear cool in front of people like Super Hans, but ends up looking smug and pretentious.
One Steve Limit: Averted in the episode titles, of all things — the finales of Series 2 and 4 are both titled "Wedding."
Operation Jealousy: Toni having sex with Jez in front of her estranged husband, Nancy telling Jez to sleep on the sofa because she's planning on bringing home a one night stand after discovering he cheated on her, Sophie flirting with Jeff after she walked out on Mark after he tried to get out of marrying her by hiding on their wedding day and Jez's unsuccessful attempt to make Elena jealous by flirting with Mark's sister.
At the end of the 4th series he realises what (funny though he is) an arse Super Hans is.
Played straight: the few seconds we see of him playing Blitzkrieg he's clearly playing the tutorial stage when he says he's spent hours on it. (Blitzkrieg is a long game, but the tutorial should take 15-30 minutes at most.)
Plot Parallel: Super Hans falls in love with a woman who speaks zero English, saying she's The One - paralleling in one episode most of Mark and Sophie's relationship.
Political Correctness Gone Mad: Darryl considers Mark's reaction to his rampant racism to be this. Jeremy also uses this phrase verbatim when he thinks Mark is saying he can't dislike Johnson because he's black.
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. It doesn't look like we'll be seeing much more of Jeff now either.
Real Song Theme Tune: "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger. Sean Nelson (Harvey Danger's lead singer) stated in an interview with some blog that Peep Show is "the only pop culture item the song has been associated with that feels like a kindred spirit to the original attitude of the lyric".
Reset Button: Pushed at the end of Season 8. Dobby breaks up with Mark as he is unable to let go of his controlling ways, Jeremy will probably move back into the flat and Marks been fired... again.
Right Behind Me: Jeff and Johnson manage to trick Mark into pulling this on Dobby at Johnson's New Year's Eve party.
Roommate Com: The show begins with the typical Odd Couple setup: pot-smoking slacker Jeremy is roommates with serious office worker Mark. Within the first few episodes it slowly becomes apparent that they and everyone else in their lives are all terrible, terrible people. Sometimes veers into Work Com territory when the plot involves Mark's coworkers, but the core of the show always comes back to the two roommates and their dysfunctional romantic lives.
Runaway Groom: Mark attempts to be this when he hides in the church on his wedding day rather than tell Sophie he doesn't want to marry her however after getting caught hiding he goes through with the ceremony only for a humiliated Sophie to give him a dose of Laser-Guided Karma and dumps him just after they married.
Johnson talks about the mundane middle-management machinations at JLB with the air of one dealing in matters of life and death, speaking in unrestrained jargon of his own invention. Mark nearly always follows his lead.
Mark, a history buff, envisages everyday social interactions in terms of epic historical military campaigns.
Jez: No Mark. I only told you for a laugh. You promised not to tell!
Mark:Hitler promised not to invade Czechoslovakia, Jeremy. Welcome to the real world!
Stalking Is Love: At least in Marks eyes. He reads Sophie's e-mail account, spies on her through his office's security camera, manipulates situations to spend time with her and follows her on dates.
This is Mark's usual strategy for all women; Sophie is just one in a long line of er... catches. Let's not forget he managed to 'do a Columbo' and collect information on April the shoe shop girl, then track her down and find her at university. Mark also goes so far as to catch five buses to get across town to see Dobby, as well as spying on her when she was at a party with Gerrard. Luckily for him, Dobby knows Mark better than himself so takes a more lenient stance on his behaviour than Sophie did.
Stop Saying That!: In "Jeremy at JLB," Jez keeps using saying that things are "poof! gone!" with a pretentious hand gesture. Mark asks him to cut it out after the fourth time.
Stunned Silence: In "Seasonal Beatings," after Mark's dad asks him why he doesn't "put a muzzle on [his] woman," everyone just stares at Mark, awaiting his response.
Stylistic Suck: The song that Jeremy is shown working on in the very first scene of the series. (One of the Series One extras is a terrible video for it.)
While it doesn't appear in the show proper, Mark's video CV also qualifies.
Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Of course I did all the lessons! What else would I have been doing, watching the frankly overrated The Wire on DVD day after day?"
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Controlling, scary, kinky, insane Michelle, who turns up between series to replace controlling, scary, kinky insane Toni. Sophie's mildly unhinged Jeremy-worshipping little brother is also replaced by Sophie's mildly unhinged Jeremy-worshipping cousin Barney. They don't even try to hide it, casting people who even look like the character they're replacing.
Talking Heads: Due to the way the show is filmed, it's a fresh spin on the old formula.
The Ghost: Mark's semi-legendary father up until series 7.
Their friend from university, Pedge, is often mentioned, usually when referring to a fun Noodle Incident that may or may not have also involved The El Dude Brothers, but never makes it onscreen.
Mr. Patel, the corner store owner, is mentioned a handful of times throughout the series without being seen.
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.
Although not spoken aloud there's a big one from Jeremy in the third episode of the 8th season: "I love you. Holy fuck where did that come from!?" Jeremy suddenly falling in love with a woman is nothing new except who's he in love with this time? Dobby
What Could Have Been: In the pilot, Sophie was written as the third main character, with her own inner monologue voice-over and (at least a larger amount of) camera POV. This was dropped for the series proper, although the series 5 DVD did include 'Sophie's Peep Show', a version of the final episode of the series re-edited with Sophie's own voice-over and POV shots.
What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out whether Johnson swindles Mark out of £2000 for the management consultancy scheme or whether he gets it back.
It's alluded to in the second episode of series 8 when a vanity publisher asks Mark for £2000 to publish "Business Secrets of the Pharaohs," and Mark thinks, "Just remember Johnson. Keep your panties dry until the big guy's hard."
How, exactly, does the Gog story end up? When we leave it, Jez and Super Hans are about to beat him up for money.
Lampshaded and then subverted in series 7 episode 2, where Mark has finally managed to get together with Dobby and wonders what's going to ruin it, thinking that it's likely to be something he says... and then he manages to end the episode still with Dobby and even managing to consolidate his position.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Hey, things are wrapping up, and Mark seems to have talked his way out of that zany misunderstanding. For once it looks like things are going to be all — wait, there's ten minutes left in the show? Crap.