TV O.D. : The Return of Peep Show (Season Five)
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 5, 2008
“I’ve got balls like baked potatoes!”
At what moment does the discomfort caused by some great art start to negate its quality? Sure, great drama doesn’t always have to always be sunshine and roses, and comedy especially can get away with murder in the name of good humor. But with some art, there reaches a certain point where regardless of artisrtic credibility, you have to wonder to yourself: is it really worth watching this?
Peep Show is, somewhat inarguably, a great show–a Great Show, even. It seems almost unfair to compare it to most US comedies, since there’s never really been a show like this on our side of the pond. Seinfeld would have to be the closest thing, in spirit anyway, but at least Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were able to live most of their lives in a sort of ignorance (or denial) of the meaninglessness of their lives. In Peep Show, Mark and Jeremy (admittedly moreso Mark) are shown quite often to be all too aware of their existential malaise, but are shown as being virtually powerless–unwilling, even–to do much of anything about it. For a show as funny as it is (and it is funny, as funny as any TV comedy this decade), it can be a miserable fucking watch, especially for those of us who may or may not be entering in their 20s, and who may or may not anticipate their future not being much brighter than those of Mark and Jez.
Truth told, I wasn’t even sure there was going to be a fifth season of Peep Show–I’d heard it rumored a while back, sure, but they don’t exactly give regular updates on the show on Zap2It.com, so I had to rely on info from my overseas internet acquaintances to let me know that a new episode was even out there. And to continue telling the truth, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea of there being a fifth season in the first place–as with S5 of The Wire, I just didn’t know where else there was to go, and the finale of the fourth season was so brilliant and definitive an ending (I wouldn’t dare ruin it for those of you that haven’t seen it) that I feared seeing it cheapened by a sub-par new season.
But as with most great TV comedies, the show returns the same as it ever was. There’s some very, very minor plot advancement–Mark tries to move on from his disastrous, split-second marriage to Sophie, and Jez struggles with the dilemma of informing his ex-girlfriends about his recently discovered chlamydia while trying to get back with one of them, the recently single Big Sooze. But mostly, you could slide this episode somewhere in season two without raising too many eyebrows–more sexual insecurity, more desperate attempts at masculinity, more fear of teenagers, the whole nine yards. And that’s not really a bad thing–the show clearly has a groove, and though you’d hope they’d try to have some sort of larger arc over the course of the season (all of them have so far, to an extent), you don’t want to see them stray too far from their bread and butter either.
But just an hour or so after watching the new episode, I started hearing my brain narrating my thought processes a la Mark and Jez, and I got instant flashbacks to the couple of weeks I spent this summer watching the first four seasons, where afterwards, the sound of my brain was unavoidable, nagging me, vocalizing all my worst fears and self-doubts. And now that I’m almost a year older, and that much closer to leading an M&J-type existence, I just don’t know if I can take it right now–I’ve come to rely on TV as an escape from some of these thoughts, and for this fucking show to continue to echo them so exquisitely…I just don’t know if I can take it. Peep Show is still brilliant in its fifth season, but I might be better off waiting until I’m married with children, a multi-million dollar salary, and a guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that I won’t be entering middle age going on bad double dates and logging a hundred hours of PS3 before I watch the rest of it.