renart: Alain Delon, acting adorable (sherlock)
dev ([personal profile] renart) wrote2016-02-18 03:11 pm
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Peep Show (2003 - 2015, UK)

You know, this is far less of a review and more of a memorial. Mostly because I can't quite fairly review Peep Show; I think it's the best TV sitcom of all time, and there's not much else one can say about that. It's similar to Seinfeld in that it doesn't really offer anything narratively substantive to viewers. You're just suddenly in the middle of the tragically pathetic lives of two 30-something British men living together and subsequently have to deal with it as you follow them and their personal thoughts through their prime years. It's dark humor that makes the trendy 'dark humor' of most modern comedies look passé and completely lacking in authenticity.

It's quite terrible; Mark and Jez are clearly just two fuck-ups who can never have even the slightest bit of happiness for anything longer than a few seconds, but the best part of it is that it's entirely their own faults. It's not that they're bad people for the sake of being bad people. This isn't South Park, where one (supposedly) delights in how terrible the characters are as human beings to the point that they're scarcely meant to be seen as people at all. In fact, Mark and Jez are pretty relatable because they find themselves in so many familiar situations; the tedium of bullshit workplace politics, the pain of unrequited romances or spurned loves, drug and sex addiction, the challenge of learning to let go of failed relationships, the unending annoyance of familial conflicts and disappointment, and on and on. But you can't feel all too sorry for them, either, because they're both phenomenally egocentric and show a general disregard for social decency, honesty, and penance.

They are in a hell of their own making for all eternity because, as Jim Gavin smartly observes, they can't ever just let go of what makes them miserable. Primarily, each other, because no one else will have either of them. Every episode leaves you asking, "What terrible, soul-crushing, socially disastrous and horrendous circumstance can they find themselves in that could possibly top this one? What on Earth could possibly bring them to a lower point than this insanity?" And then you watch the next episode, and your only response is, "Oh. That, I guess."

(This is particularly true of the one with the dog. Anyone who's seen it knows what I'm talking about. For the record, it's the one Gavin refers to as "The Episode" in the above link.)

And it's a bit twisted and beautiful, because it somehow never manages to get old. Mark and Jez never really learn their lesson, and each mistake they make and resentment they build is never fully resolved. Just forgotten about, however briefly, until the next one piles right on top in a never-ending tower of humiliation and regret. I've never watched a program before where I've been delighted and almost compelled to re-watch old episodes, but every single Peep Show episode holds up on its own and is perfectly great to watch again, and again, and again, and remain sadly funny all the while.

I'm upset to see it go. I was first introduced to it by my best friend when I was either fresh out of college or in my last year--maybe five or six years ago or so--and it was practically my hobby during that time to get high, eat whatever crap we had sitting around, and marathon it on Netflix for what seemed like days with her and R. Watching it was sometimes blessed relief, because no matter how bad things were in my life, things would always be worse for Jez or Mark. And for the most part I've been able to, quite gladly, hold it to that.

Here are a few more interesting reads on it and it's timely end:

'The British comedy Peep Show was a very funny show about very sharp pain'
VICE: An Oral History of 'Peep Show,' the UK Sitcom That Defined a Generation

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