This is our first installment of Master Ninja’s Thing of the Week, where we at Master Ninja recommend something (usually some sort of entertainment thing) to you, the loyal reader, or recommend against something, or just discuss something without particularly judging it.
This week’s thing is Peep Show.
Peep Show is a British comedy starting David Mitchell and Robert Webb. I know, nerds are supposed to love British comedies, but this one is actually funny no matter how nerdy you are. Still, nerdiness helps with some of the jokes David Mitchell’s character makes sometimes.
Peep Show’s unique element, which makes it stand out from a thousand other sitcoms, is our access to its main characters, Mark and Jez. The camera often takes a point of view shot from one of the characters, but more importantly, the inner thoughts of the two main characters are also done as voice-overs. With this storytelling method, we get a secret look into how completely awful Mark and Jez are on the inside.
But the dark truth is – Mark and Jez are not more awful than your average person. They are selfish, insensitive, and driven by lust and greed, and you can’t help but feel they’re horrible people. However, at some point in watching it, they’ll think something horrid that you’ve also thought, and you’ll come to realize you’re not much better than they are.
Seinfeld made a business of using immoral jerks as main characters, and having them suffer ignoble situations because, in the end, you didn’t have to feel that bad for them. Peep Show takes a new angle on this – by peering inside the minds of the characters, we come to understand that so many of their problems are a result of their insecurities, their unfaithfulness, their cowardice, their dishonesty, and their general tendency to be ruled by their weaknesses. And we do feel bad for them, even though we know it’s their own faults.
The most interesting aspect of Peep Show, to me, is that there are actual lessons to learn through the misadventures of Mark and Jez. Sure, the sitcom has long been a breeding ground for lessons like “Don’t lie” and “Listen to your parents” and “Don’t use drugs.” But these lessons are forced down your throat in the form of an awful exposition at the end. And, while Peep Show and Seinfeld share some similarities, Seinfeld was a show about horrible people in funny situations, and while one could almost always derive the lesson that dishonesty leads to trouble, at the end of each episode, everything was mostly back to normal.
Peep Show is much more subtle than, say, Full House. (Of course, a bazooka is more subtle than Full House.) In many of the episodes, the lesson is simply, “See how these guys got into trouble? You should avoid the behaviors that got them into trouble.” And thus the show encourages honesty, self-motivation, resolve, self-esteem, and actually thinking. Since we hear the characters’ thoughts, it’s easier to understand the whys of what they’re doing, and thus how their personalities lead to their problems.
The actions of the characters also have more immediate impact, unlike your usual sitcom. If something awful happens at the end of an episode, the characters are still dealing with it in the next episode. It’s more serial as a result, which isn’t uncommon of British shows when compared to American ones.
So, go watch Peep Show, laugh at Mark and Jez (and feel bad for them at times), then go out and don’t do what they do.
Peep Show is on Hulu Plus, which is how I peeped it, but it’s probably on DVD or something, too.