Peep Show

As a pseudo-language teacher in France (No PGCE/experience required), one of the games we always play with our students is ‘If an alien came and knocked on your door, and asked what breakfast was, or your parents, or how to play basketball, what would you say?’ Then they try to come up with the English for it.

So an alien knocks on my door. I open it, and at first I can’t see anything at all. He’s very small. Maybe 3 feet tall. Grey, and a little foetus like. A shrunken William Hague. If he said to me “Tell me what England is like”, I would sit him down, and put on Peep Show. It quite simply has everything. The class system (Jeremy and Big Suze), the obsession with youth violence (see the fantastic ending of series 1), the office politics, the booze-centric lifestyle, the dark underbelly (Super-Hans), and, most of all, the humdrum, supermarket existence that makes up 80% of the life of the average Briton.

Mark. Your typical Englishman. Jeremy. Equally, a typical Englishman. Taken together they represent the spectrum of men we meet in our everyday lives, from the wannabe hipsters to those who aren’t in the slightest bit cool and just don’t care. Most of us are somewhere inbetween. It is just painfully well observed. Who doesn’t have an idiotic druggie friend like Super Hans, except that yours isn’t quite so hilarious. He doesn’t come up with the line “This crack is really moreish”. What matters to these people is all in appearances. Mark frets about buying the right dips. This is not a concern of a citizen of any other nation on earth.

Peep Show’s genius lies in its refusal to omit the idiosyncratic trivialities that make England truly English. The exorbitant price of boilers, to take a recent episode. The prioritisation of avoiding awkwardness over all other things. Honesty is not a commodity in the world of Peep Show. Honesty creates confrontation, and confrontation must never, ever happen. So when Jeremy accidentally kills a dog and burns the remains to cover it up, he ends up eating a chunk of the dog’s charred flesh in order to persuade the dog’s owner that the bag full of meat he is holding is not, in fact, their beloved family pet. He fails.

Peep Show celebrates this above all. The failure of the British nation, its lack of importance and our lack of importance in the grand scheme of things. What follows are some of the show’s best lines. They are nearly all Mark’s:

The terrible things we say misguidedly trying to impress someone: “She’s ignoring me. Of course, she’s ignoring me. I sent her a swastika.” – Mark

“If you get a van you’d be a man with a van. Then we’d be men with ven” – SuperHans

“I’ve shot you Jeff. With a bullet made of Scottish finance regulations.” – Mark

“Oh, right. I see. I get it. You were lampooning me. It was a simple lampoon.” – Mark

“Oh great, she’s posted a book. I suppose I’m supposed to find that terribly charming and French. But it’s not, it’s a waste of £8.99”-Mark

“The familiar gut-punch of pain and confusion is back. Hello old friend.”- Mark

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