|Created by||Andrew O'Connor
|Theme music composer||Daniel Pemberton (Series 1)|
|Opening theme||Harvey Danger - "Flagpole Sitta" (Series 2 onwards)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||6|
|No. of episodes||36 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Andrew O'Connor|
|Camera setup||Single-camera (sometimes head-mounted)|
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Objective Productions|
|Original channel||Channel 4|
|Picture format||PAL (576i) (Series 1-5)
HDTV (1080i) (Series 6)
|Original run||9 September 2003 – Present|
Peep Show is a British situation comedy starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. The programme is written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, with additional material by Mitchell and Webb themselves, amongst others. It has been broadcast on Channel 4 since 2003, with the sixth series aired in 2009 and a seventh series commissioned for 2010. Stylistically, the show uses point of view shots with the thoughts of main characters Mark and Jeremy audible as voiceovers.
Peep Show follows the often sexually-frustrated lives of two men in their late twenties and early thirties, Mark Corrigan (Mitchell) and Jeremy Usbourne (Webb). Having met while at the fictional Dartmouth University together - they occasionally refer to themselves as 'The El Dude Brothers' in reference to their student days - they now share a flat in Croydon, South London.
Mark was, from series one until the beginning of series 6, a loan manager at the fictional JLB Credit (JLB Credit entered administration at the start of series 6). Mark is the more financially successful of the two, but is extremely uncomfortable socially and pessimistic about nearly everything. Jeremy, who at the start of the first series has recently split up with his girlfriend Big Suze, now rents Mark's spare room. He usually has a much more optimistic and energetic outlook on the world than Mark, yet his self-proclaimed talent as a musician is yet to be recognised, and he is not as popular or attractive as he would like to think himself.
In the first series, Mark and Jeremy start out with similar aims of bedding their next-door neighbour Toni, though Mark is also tragically obsessed with his workmate Sophie, who is more interested in the more macho Jeff. Both endure awkward situations; Mark suffers a sexual admiration for his boss, Johnson, while Jeremy remembers having oral sex with Super Hans. The two desperately team up to prank call Sophie and launch a pepper spray attack on Super Hans, who has begun a relationship with Toni. By the end of the series, Mark nearly succeeds in having sex with Sophie but this chance is ruined by Jeremy's apparent overdose, while the latter claims that he has a terminal illness in order to receive a hand job from Toni.
In series two, Jeremy meets and falls in love with Nancy and has some success with his music career with Super Hans. Meanwhile Mark is on a downward slope: Sophie plans to move in with Jeff, and Mark forges a short friendship with a Neo-Nazi, and falls for a similarly socially inadequate student, before losing her after an ill-judged return to his old university, where she is currently studying. However, the tables turn once more at the end of the series when Jeremy admits to Nancy — now his wife — that he accidentally had an affair with Toni, leaving his marriage a husk, while Sophie dumps Jeff. Super Hans also develops a crack cocaine addiction.
Series three sees Big Suze re-enter Jeremy's life. Meanwhile, Mark and Sophie have finally become a couple, yet Mark is left alone once again when she is relocated to Bristol. Jeremy seduces Mark's sister while Mark falls for Big Suze, and Jeremy and Super Hans attempt to run a pub. In the last episode, Mark plans to propose to Sophie but changes his mind upon realising that they have very little in common. Nonetheless he ends up agreeing to marry her to avoid "embarrassment" after she accidentally finds his engagement ring and accepts a proposal which he has not actually made. Meanwhile Jeremy's efforts to get back together with Suze are hindered somewhat by Super Hans' attempts to go cold turkey.
Mark and Sophie visit Sophie's parents in series four after their engagement, and Jeremy ultimately has sex with her mother. Big Suze breaks up with him for Johnson. In an attempt to get away from Sophie, Mark joins a gym, and discovers that Nancy is working there and Jeremy tries to win her back. Sophie leaves on a foreign business trip, leaving Mark to consider a fling with a woman from his school reunion. Jeremy finds some highly-paid handyman work for one of his musical heroes but discovers that his employer expects Jeremy to give him "a hand". Mark and Jeremy spend a weekend on a canal boat for Mark's stag do, where Mark meets a businessman with contacts in India and attempts to secure a job there as a means of escaping his impending wedding but the plan falls apart when Jeremy accidentally kills the businessman's daughter's beloved dog. In the final episode, as the wedding approaches, Jeremy is having difficulty juggling a hungover Super Hans, the wedding, Nancy and his desperate need to urinate. After several attempts to get out of marriage, including jumping out in front of a car, Mark ends up marrying Sophie. However, she runs out on him after the ceremony, planning to seek a divorce or annulment because Mark is "horrible".
In series five Mark resumes his search for "the one". He asks out the new IT girl Dobby although the date ends badly when they find a dishevelled Sophie in the toilets. Dobby remains interested however, even when Mark is forced to reject her offer to be his date at his upcoming birthday party as Mark has to take an Australian he met while speed-dating. Meanwhile, Jeremy runs out of money and is temporarily evicted by Mark and then fails in asking Big Suze if he can stay with her and Johnson. Jeremy next tries to obtain money from his mother after his great-aunt dies. Jeremy's poor relationship with his mother is revealed, while Mark thrives in her company and is given the job of writing her boyfriend's military biography. Jealous, Jeremy ruins Mark's ambitions by revealing how Mark was raped by the veteran's daughter, after she had sex with him while he was asleep. In the final episode, Mark fails to ask Dobby out and she finally moves on. He is promoted to Senior Credit Manager by Johnson but is unable to fire Sophie as ordered after she reveals that she is pregnant with his child. In the series' closing moments, it is revealed that Jeremy too has recently slept with Sophie and that her baby may, potentially, be his.
Series six begins with JLB Credit closing down and Sophie revealing that Mark is the baby's father. Meanwhile Jeremy meets Elena, a beautiful Eastern European woman and occasional drug dealer who lives in their building. Jeremy quickly falls in love with her, but things deteriorate when it is revealed that Elena is not only bisexual but also has a long-term partner called Gail who is returning to London. Mark looks for work, starting a company with a recession-frazzled Johnson, almost landing his dream-job as a history walks guide, and finally landing as a waiter in Gail's Mexican themed restaurant, all the while trying (and failing) to get anywhere with Dobby. To resolve their women troubles, Jeremy and Mark host a party, which ends in Jeremy rekindling his love for Elena, Mark drowning a snake in a bucket of vomit, and Gail and Elena deciding to get married. In the final episode, Mark pledges to take driving lessons in order to drive Sophie to the hospital when the baby arrives, but lies to her when he fails his test. Jeremy spirals into despair over losing Elena. Sophie goes into labour early and with Mark forced to reveal he cannot drive and Jeremy too drunk, the series ends with Sophie driving herself to the hospital with the two boys in the back seat.
On 18 March 2009, Channel 4 commissioned a seventh series of Peep Show, before the sixth series was broadcast. It has been scheduled for 2010.
Writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain met actors and writers David Mitchell and Robert Webb during a failed attempt to complete a team-written sitcom for the BBC. They had an old, unproduced script that they wanted to revive called All Day Breakfast and brought in Mitchell and Webb to help out. The show did not work out but the four developed as a partnership, and one idea eventually evolved into Peep Show for Channel 4. Peep Show was originally conceived as a Beavis and Butt-head-esque sitcom revolving around two characters watching and discussing television. However, the idea was dropped due to the large expense that airing clips from other shows would bring as well as Mitchell and Webb's fear that, because their characters would only be watching television, "[they] wouldn't be in the show".
Instead Armstrong and Bain opted to produce a more story-based sitcom with an unconventional filming style. The events of the two main characters' lives are seen almost exclusively from their own points of view with a voiceover providing their internal thoughts. Scenes in the show are sometimes filmed using cameras strapped to the actors' heads, or attached to a hat, to give the viewer a point of view identical to that of the protagonists. The quality of footage captured with this method is sometimes poor and the technique has been used less and less in recent series. When head mounted cameras are not used, scenes are filmed with the camera being held over the actor's shoulder, or directly in front of their face; each scene is therefore shot multiple times from different angles. Armstrong and Bain's choice of the style was influenced by the 2000 Channel 4 documentary Being Caprice about the model Caprice Bourret which featured a similar technique that had in turn been copied from the 1999 film Being John Malkovich. Bain noted: "So it's a third-hand steal, really. We thought it would be great for comedy, hearing someone else's thoughts. The voices give you a whole other dimension in terms of jokes." The idea for using voiceovers came from a scene in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall in which the true feelings of the characters are conveyed by subtitles. The POV technique separates Peep Show from other sitcoms and Mitchell claims that without it Peep Show would be similar to shows like Spaced and Men Behaving Badly.
Two pilots were filmed for the show which allowed Armstrong and Bain to firmly develop and finalise the style of the show. Armstrong said: "on the run of doing those two pilots we really created the show in the way that you couldn't if you hadn't tried it out." In the original pilot Olivia Colman's character Sophie Chapman had a voice-over as well as Mitchell and Webb's characters Mark and Jeremy. The POV technique was also restricted solely to the character thinking at the time; it was later expanded so that the view could come from a third-party. Bain and Armstrong are the show's principal writers and Mitchell and Webb provide additional material. Many storylines come from experiences in the writer's lives, particularly Bain's. For example, the season five episode "Burgling" sees Mark apprehend a burglar by sitting on him, something Bain once did in a video shop before he was told to get off as he was scaring the customers. The writing for each series takes place seven to eight months before filming begins; once each episode is mapped out scene-by-scene they must be approved by the producer Andrew O'Connor and Channel 4. Rehearsals take two weeks and filming lasts for six to seven weeks.
For the first two series the scenes set in Mark and Jeremy's flat were filmed in a real property in Croydon, where the show takes place. The flat's owners did not allow it to be used for series three and so a replica was constructed in a carpet warehouse in Neasden.
The theme tune for the first series was an original composition by Daniel Pemberton and is featured on his TVPOPMUZIK album. Since the second series the theme music has been the song "Flagpole Sitta" by the American band Harvey Danger  (however, the original first series composition is still heard briefly during scene changes). A working title for the programme was POV, as noted by David Mitchell on the DVD commentary for the first episode of the first series.
A book entitled Peep Show: The Scripts and More, which featured the scripts of every episode from the first five series as well as an introduction from Mitchell and Webb, was released in 2008.
In 2005, the Fox network commissioned a pilot for an American version of Peep Show (named Odd Couple); however, the pilot was unsuccessful. Jeremy was played by Josh Meyers, and Mark was played by Johnny Galecki. Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain have commented that the American version did not utilise the point-of-view filming like the original.
Spike TV has since commissioned its own version, originally to be written and directed by Robert Weide, who is the executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, it is currently being written by Armstrong and Bain.
The series was met with critical acclaim, and is considered to be a cult television show. Early previews called it "promising" and noted it had "the sniff of a cult favourite"; Peter Conchie of The Independent however labelled it "artless and [an] overly ironic hybrid of Spaced and The Adam and Joe Show [...] is best watched through knitted fingers."
The Guardian newspaper described it as "the best comedy of the decade". Ricky Gervais has been cited as saying "the last thing I got genuinely excited about on British TV was Peep Show, which I thought was the best sitcom since Father Ted". While presenting an award at the 2005 British Comedy Awards, Gervais called it "the best show on television today" and said it was a "debacle" that it did not win an award. The Times praised the show's "scorching writing" and named it the 15th best TV show of the 2000s.
Despite the critical acclaim, Peep Show has never garnered consistently high viewing figures. At the beginning of 2006 there were rumours that the show would not be commissioned for a fourth series due to insufficient ratings of just over a million viewers. However, due to the large DVD revenues of the previous series, a fourth series was commissioned. The premiere of the fourth series showed no improvement on the ratings of the previous, continuing to attract its core audience of 1.3 million (8% of viewers). Despite the low viewing figures, the fifth series of the show was commissioned prior to the broadcast of series 4. Channel 4's decision to commission the show for a fifth series was said to be for a variety of reasons, including again the high DVD sales of the previous series (400,000 to date), the continued high quality of the show itself, and the rising profile of Mitchell and Webb due to the success of their BBC sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look, their advertisements for Apple, and their feature film Magicians. The fifth series showed no improvement with 1.1 million viewers. Producer Andrew O'Connor cited the POV filming style as the reason for the low ratings: "It made it feel original and fresh and got it commissioned for a second series, but it stopped it from being a breakout hit and stopped it finding a bigger audience." Bain and Armstrong agreed that the POV style stopped it from becoming mainstream.
The first episode of series six - the first to be shown in its new earlier time slot of 10pm - attracted Peep Show's highest ratings to date, with 1.8 million viewers (9.2% audience share), with a further 208,000 (1.8%) watching it on Channel 4+1.
Peep Show has won several awards.