Interview: Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong on Peep Show – 'Hopefully we haven’t left them too broken and destroyed'
David Mitchell and Robert Webb return for the final series of the point of view sitcom
Not many comedies last nine series and even less stay as fresh and painfully funny as Peep Show, a quirky sitcom that literally got inside the head of Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) and Jez Usborne (Robert Webb), an uncomfortable double act sharing a flat in in Croydon. First hitting our screens back in 2003, Peep Show is now officially the longest running comedy in Channel 4 history.
Peep Show was never a conventional sitcom, the most obvious stylistic aspect being the point of view shots that gave the viewer access to the uncensored private thoughts of the main characters. They were both equally flawed but in very different ways, Mark being socially awkward while Jez was outgoing and reckless. Writer/creator duo Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong were willing to take their show to far darker places than most comedies (witness the 'bad thing' in episode four of season one for a prime example).
However, all good things must end and Peep Show bows out with its ninth and final season. 'It takes us roughly nine months to write the show,' Bain explains. 'And we were desperate not to do a bad one. Doing a final series was a great impetus for us to really go into it and say “What could we do that we’d really like to end on”.'
'It felt like we’d been doing it for a long time, and eventually you need to say “This is the last one”,' adds Armstrong. 'And we thought it would be really inspiring to try and write a really, really good last series.'
Since Peep Show Bain and Armstrong have written several other darkly comic creations including Four Lions with Chris Morris, Babylon and student sitcom Fresh Meat (which also starts its final season this autumn). It was also the first major role for Olivia Colman, as Sophie Chapman the object of Mark's fumbling affections. Since then Colman has picked up multiple awards for Broadchurch, Tyrannosaur, The Iron Lady and Twenty Twelve. She's back for the last series of Peep Show alongside several old favourites. According to Armstrong: 'Dobby’s [Isy Suttie] back again, obviously, and Super Hans [Matt King], but there are a couple of others who show up who we’re not going to reveal. They’re fun plot points, so I think it’s more fun not to say.
Considering the car wreck that is often Mark and Jez's life, littered with failed relationships, ruined career prospects and petty squabbles, don't expect everyone to live happily ever after. 'I think we had to be faithful to what’s funny,' says Bain. 'In the final episode, we definitely didn’t go down the sentimental “let’s all have a nice time” route. We went for the funny option, and funny, nine times out of ten in Peep Show, means quite a lot of suffering and pain, because people who are happy aren’t that funny. So we never had much doubt about that. But then we thought about the final scene quite a lot. Hopefully we haven’t left them too broken and destroyed.'
Peep Show series nine airs on Channel 4, Wed 11 Nov at 10pm.