The Cornetto Trilogy Golden Mile, Day 6: Is Peep Show The Next Spaced?
Before Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost took the film world by storm with the start of their Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, Shaun of the Dead, the trio made a name for themselves on television with the hilarious and inventive sitcom Spaced. The show set in contemporary England follows two roommates (Pegg and co-star Jessica Hynes) whose stunted adolescence leads them into a silly string of misadventures, while their wild imaginations allow the show to ape various genres and allude to countless movies and TV shows. Even with this simple description, it’s easy to see how these elements fed into the Cornetto movies Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. But with the last of these bringing a close to this trilogy next week, I started wondering who we might look to for the next film series as sidesplitting and satisfying as the Cornetto.
For me the answer is simple: David Mitchell and Robert Webb, the stars of the outstandingly funny sitcom Peep Show. On the surface this show actually has a lot in common with Spaced. It’s a Britcom with English stars that follows a pair of oft-arguing roommates who have a circle of wacky friends and a never-ending barrage of bad luck. And in both, it can pretty easily be argued that the anti-heroes at the shows’ centers are their own worst enemies. But that’s not why I think someone should be giving Mitchell and Webb a development deal. It’s because the pair—who write and star on the series—are wildly inventive, bitingly satirical, and have a great skill for tackling various genres within their comedic style.
As to their inventiveness, the name Peep Show hints to the series major distinction from countless other urban-set sitcoms about emotionally immature schmoes. The entire show is shot in first-person point of view, and this vantage point also gives us access to the inner workings of its leads Mark (Mitchell) and Jeremy (Webb)’s innermost thoughts, revealing how most of their motivations are essentially selfishness or cowardice. You can see this device in action below:
Peep Show also offers Mitchell and Webb a chance to criticize modern society’s more frustrating factions. Jeremy is an avid drug-user and slacker who claims he’s a musician destined for rock ‘n’ roll legend, and yet he does virtually nothing to reach this goal. Instead, he spends most of his time chasing women and fraternizing with a dangerous junkie called Super Hans (Matt King). Meanwhile, Mark is a spineless pencil pusher with an elitist attitude who is continually sabotaged by his own awkwardness. He at once thinks he’s better than everyone but also worthless, and his mental gymnastics between the two play out with a fantastically funny frenzy that is nonetheless relatable. Who hasn’t gone to war in their own mind over an issue—especially self-worth? Basically, These guys are losers who think they are better than everyone but fail at every turn to prove that fact. Watching them fail is profoundly satisfying because of course we want to hate the entitled and the elitist…even if we can see shades of ourselves in them.
This comedy duo’s skill for social commentary took a new and loonier form in their sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look, allowing them to leap into a wide array of sketches that point out societal biases with a sharp wit. Check out this parody of commercials below and marvel in how acutely they nail the difference at marketing as targeted at women and men.
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