Unusually, this premiere continued directly from series 6's finale; no doubt because the prospect of seeing father-to-be Mark (David Mitchell) and best-friend Jez (Robert Webb) in a hospital, supporting Sophie (Olivia Colman) through her labour, was comedy ground too fertile to pass up.
The arc of the storyline was somewhat predictable: Sophie was dilating in agony, making "birth partner" Mark extremely uncomfortable (as they're no longer a couple, he's unsure how to support her); Jez was distracted by a beautiful woman called Zahra (Camilla Beeput), pretending to be supportive of the fact her boyfriend's in a coma (reading him extracts from FHM), while secretly hoping he dies; Mark was distracted by a water boiler problem at home, sending Super Hans (Mark King) to fix it (hoping for "minimal water damage"), before growing so impatient with Sophie's eight-hour labour that he headed to a local KFC and video-game arcade.
As always with Peep Show, its genius stems from being allowed to eavesdrop on the thought processes of its two leads, mainly because the dark recesses of their psyches aren't too dissimilar to our own. Mark and Jez are exaggerated creations to an extent -- but the core of what they say, do, and think has a realism to it. All great comedy reflects its audience, and Peep Show's found the perfect format for making the audience complicit in its character's actions and behaviour. We're literally in the head of Mark and Jez for the majority of every episode, and it's both a frightening, depressing, and hilarious place to be. Mark's anxiety over his imminent fatherhood was brilliantly portrayed, in a way it wouldn't have been without hearing his internal voice.
Overall, this premiere wasn't anywhere near Peep Show's best efforts (the "paedophobe" mix-up with "paedophile" was beneath this show, while some of the comedy scenarios felt a little forced), but it definitely marked a clear turning point for the series. Mark's now a father, with responsibilities he can't shirk, and no doubt that's going to play into the remaining five episodes quite extensively.
- Was it impossible for Sophie's parents to get to the hospital? Or Mark's?
- Mark's thought after glimpsing Sophie's cesarean: "I thought it would be all Chip and Pin, not London Dungeon!"
- Out of interest: I've always thought a female spin-off to Peep Show could be worth pursuing, although perhaps it would require female writers to give it the realism Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain bring to their male creations. Anyone agree?
- I know chasing girls with a tissue of lies and eventually tying himself into knots is what Jez tends to do every series, but has that arc run its course now? I can't help thinking it's time Jez was given a different storyline, so I hope his dealing with Zahra was just a one-off subplot for this episode.
WRITERS: Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain
DIRECTOR: Becky Martin
TRANSMISSION: 26 November 2010, Channel 4/HD, 10PM