After a successful pilot series and an even more successful second season Jes (Robert Webb) and Mark (David Mitchell) are back and up to similar antics in the third season of Peep Show. The main selling point of this Channel 4 show was the Point of View shot, enabling the audience to hear the inner thoughts of the characters; it's a unique formula and one that makes for an entertaining show.
Those that are familiar with the show need little introduction to the main characters, so briefly Peep Show revolves around the lives of two twenty something flat mates Jes, an easy going musician and general layabout and Mark, shy, pathetic but generally nice guy, and their travels down life's lonely highway. This third season had a troubled start, many of the characters from the hugely popular second season were unavailable this time around, meaning there had to be numerous rewrites and new characters introduced to keep the flow of the show moving. In the first episode we are introduced to Jes' domineering girl friend and his ex love Big Suze. The episode revolves around Mark's mugging and Jes' indecision about the two girls in his life; thinking with his pants and not his head being the apt description. As the episodes develop these recurring characters help to further the plots and keep a sense of continuity. However, I found this season very episodic in nature, there was little of the cohesion that held the second season together. Characters and situations are introduced and dropped with alarming disregard, for example the second episode talks to us of Mary and her flat above the pub, she is a manic depressive and the boys have her committed because she is so unstable, however she gives the pub to Jes, even if he never manages to obtain the deeds; but after the end of the episode this is never mentioned again?
Also the boys attitude toward each other has a very different dynamic, instead of the backs to the wall, I'll defend you with my life attitude, we are left with a couple of back stabbing teens; in reality it would be unlikely that these two would continue to be flat mates since their attitude stinks. Jes in particular becomes rather unwholesome to his friend, locking him in his room because he wants to get off with Big Suze at a drugs party for example. In the forth episode Mark's sister on the rebound from a failing marriage and slips easily into Jes' willing arms, much to the disgust of Mark, only to find himself trapped and jealous of Mark's blossoming relationship with Big Suze. This all ends very badly, but more so for Mark, who, I know, is the foil for the show, but with such a bucket load of pathos ends up being the bad guy, when clearly he was not. It is a particularly cringe worthy episode to watch, the choices made are toe curlingly agonising, and that, of course, is part of the shows appeal. When it is done right there is nothing better (The Office), but when it misses the mark, as I felt in this case, due to the lack of empathy with the characters, it becomes crass. And then just I thought all was lost the final two episodes being back the show to the front. During the Jury Service episode, both Mark and Jes have outstanding scenes, Mark, vents his frustration on a group of Sophie's 'friends' as they come down from their drug taking while in his flat in a gratifying scene that shows how deep his feelings are; and Jes gets to play judge and jury when he wants to convict the defendant in the case he is involved in and gives a passionate plea to his fellow jurors. However it is the final episode that really pulls the season back from the brink, while lost on the moors Mark and Jes have a conversation about Marks rash decision to marry Sophie, and all at once the heart was back, these two friends looking out for each other. Nice set up for season four too!
So, this season hasn't the passion or fervour of the previous seasons but it never manages to bore and there are still plenty of laughs to be had. It even introduces mirror POV shots, clearly blue screen but inventive none the less, plus there are POV's from people walking along the street allowing for two shots. It is interesting to listen to the writers talking on the commentary, they are acutely aware of the faults, and know that this season is not a patch on the previous two, and, even though there are moments of blaming the inability to secure the talent from past shows, they are not above themselves to lay the root of the problem on their writing. I'm not as critical as they are, thinking that there is still much to gain from this season, it was not enough to turn me off from the show, but had I not seen season two, I'd probably not have given it as much time. Take from that what you will.
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