Everybody’s got their own idea of the greatest Peep Show episode, whether it’s Mark’s Wedding, University Challenge, Quantocking, Jeremy Makes It, The William Morris Years or ‘the one where Jeremy eats the dog.’ You could make an excellent case for giving any of these the title of the greatest Peep Show episode, but there’s one in particular that has a special place in my heart and it involves eye shadow, yes, it’s Threeism.
The episode sees Mark finally track down April, the girl from the shoe shop, with whom he fell hopelessly in love with way back in series 2, whilst she fitted him for some new shoes (“Could get brown brogues? Best stick to black, don’t want to go completely mental.”). He plans to ‘steal her’ from her husband by inviting her to a dinner party that he’s hastily hosting, which, by no coincidence will only be attended by himself and April. Meanwhile, Jez has ended up in the ridiculous situation of dating both Megan, a woman who he’s supposed to be ‘life coaching’ and her boyfriend, Joe, or playing ‘genital Jenga’ as he so ‘chivalrously’ describes it.
After many series spent on Mark’s relationships with both Sophie and Dobby, it was interesting that series 9 threw the ultimate curve ball in bringing back April – a one-off love interest of Mark’s from the episode, University Challenge. As surprising as her return was, revisiting the episode you can definitely see that the pair had wonderful chemistry, even to the point that it was a bit heart-breaking when he walked away. Mark thinks, “This is OK. This is just a moment that will haunt me forever.” as April unknowingly disappears from his life.
But now April’s back! Mark’s finally found ‘the one’ again, so what could possibly go wrong? Everything naturally. She’s now a successful author and is also married, which presents a huge problem for Mark. Unperturbed by this setback he comes up with the useless dinner party plan to win her affections. As preparations for the dinner continue, things become more and more surreal, in what surely must be British Comedy’s greatest modern farce since The IT Crowd’s, The Work Outing.
Peep Show has always been masterful at presenting fairly normal situations that quickly crescendo into a cacophony of weirdness. As with all classic sitcom episodes the script and the actors are working in perfect harmony here; it’s no surprise as Peep Show writers, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong have been working with David Mitchell and Robert Webb for many years. They know how to write for them, and it’s clear that only Mitchell & Webb could have pulled off a script like this. In less capable hands this episode wouldn’t have worked. But somehow everything from Jez convincing Mark to allow him to write ‘Love you’ on his eye lids (in a somewhat obscure call back to a scene in Indiana Jones) to Mark moulding some dairylea cheese with his bare hands before flecking it with a biro in order to create a ‘tasty young stilton’ just lands perfectly.
The dinner party plan turns into a complete nightmare for Mark when April calls him to say she’s bringing along her husband, Angus, played by Angus Wright (he’s Angus through and through). Even by Peep Show standards he is a bizarre character, when it’s revealed he cheated on April he tells Mark: ‘As Penance I went to live with the monks on Mount Athos for three months.’ April chimes in: ‘Apparently he lived on dry bread and goat’s milk, but when I picked him up I found a lot of Nutella jars in his recycling.’.
Jeremy’s attempt to look intelligent up against Angus was another highlight in an episode almost entirely composed of highlights: ‘Did Jesus have a cat? If you don’t know just say.’
Probably the best scene in the whole episode is Mark contemplating an entire evening where he won’t allow himself to blink due to the love message on his eyelids Jez had scrawled on earlier using a permanent marker, although, when his back is turned, he does manage to snatch a few blinks.
‘Ahhh, lovely, lovely blink. Enjoy it. Last one of the night.’
There’s an utter delight in watching this scene – Mark standing there, eyes wide open offering a glass of Rum, water, lettuce, vinegar and salt; taking a sip himself and then fighting back the desperate urge to blink!
Of course, Mark only made enough food for two people for his dinner party façade, so confronted with entertaining April’s husband he panics and makes ‘Moroccan Pasta!’ A dish you can make for yourself with old eggs, lettuce, baked beans, bread and fresh pasta. No seriously, there have been a few fan reworks of this recipe over the years, not least this amazing one by Youtuber Babish:
And this one from illustrator, Daniel Nash, who created these incredible Bake-off inspired drawings of Mark’s dinner party menu. ‘Look who’s won the lettuce lottery!’
The amount of fan art and general outpouring of love for this episode is almost unmatched. Although ‘four naans’ does give it a run for its money. You could spend all day quoting lines from this episode and you’d almost comprise the entire script – it’s that good, and could only really be called an ‘Undeniably Great Episode of Comedy’. Pour yourself a glass of Ribena, settle down to some scribbled cheddar and enjoy.
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