There is something quite serious to take away from Peep Show's presentation of male friendshipWilliam Fortunato on

Last month, in time for the 20th anniversary of the show’s first episode, I began what became a concerningly intense Peep Show binge, covering all nine seasons in a matter of weeks. I’d always been aware of the series (clips are inescapable in certain corners of the Internet) but had never quite started watching it. I’m glad I took the plunge. Peep Show is very, very funny: a sardonic portrait of young adulthood, full of dark, absurd scenarios and endlessly quotable lines that have rapidly turned into inside jokes with my friends, and it’s clear to me why the show enjoys such a cult fandom. But it’s far from just a simple comedic hit – there is something quite serious to take away from the presentation of male friendship.

For the uninitiated, Peep Show depicts the lives of Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) and Jeremy ‘Jez’ Usbourne (Robert Webb), two university friends living together in south London. Following the pair from their 20s to their 40s, with recurring parts including Matt King as the iconic Super Hans and Olivia Colman as Sophie, Mark’s love interest, the show is distinctive for its use of point-of-view shots (including scenes filmed with cameras strapped to actors’ heads) and voiceovers by Mark and Jeremy, who never appear in the same shot until the show’s finale.

“There’s more to Peep Show than a darkly comic depiction of male depression”

The protagonists’ internal monologues create a compelling intimacy that ranges from hysterical to discomfiting. Jesse Armstrong, one of the show’s co-writers, who is also known for Succession, recently described Peep Show’s tone as “odd and introspective, almost novelistic”. It is this unusual sense of being inside a character’s head that forces the viewer to both know and relate to Jez and Mark. While I’d like to think I have a more moral scruples than either Mark or Jeremy, and certainly hope I never find myself barbecuing a dog I’ve run over, there is something in their honesty that encourages us to identify with them. The excruciating awkwardness of a social interaction, the tantalising prospect of lazy self-indulgence, horror at the drudgery of everyday life, the dual impulse to lethargy and self-loathing – Peep Show spotlights these feelings with a potent frankness.

I can’t write about Peep Show, however, without acknowledging its treatment of gender. At its core, it is a show about two young men for whom women are little more than sexual objects to be pursued. Bechdel test? There isn’t a single scene without Mark or Jeremy taking centre stage. Particularly in early seasons the poisonous misogyny of early noughties lad culture manifests itself in some really crass moments. That said, while we may generally be invited to laugh with Jez and Mark, it’s clear their behaviour helps neither themselves nor those around them – ultimately, Peep Show is an indictment of a selfish, crude masculinity, and its protagonists are left feeling deeply alone and saddled with self-hatred.

“I’ve lived Peep Show’s closing scene more times than I can count”

There’s more to Peep Show than a darkly comic depiction of male depression. It is also a testament to male friendship, to an unflinching, enduring bond, an unstated affection built on mutual mockery and bickering that somehow survives. In the show’s final scene Mark and Jeremy are sitting on the sofa in the wake of a catastrophic party. They joke about how one would murder the other, before Jeremy’s voiceover cuts in: “Aww, we do love each other, really.” Mark’s follows immediately: “I simply must get rid of him.” At that moment the camera cuts away. We see the two men we’ve followed for a decade finally in the same shot. For the first and last time Jez and Mark are not separated. Then the show ends, the pair left preserved together for ever.


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I think about masculinity a lot. I went to an all-boys’ school, I love team sports and a trip to the pub; I also have a boyfriend and have seen just how toxic heteronormative male environments can be. I’m sure I’ve been complicit in misogyny and homophobia. I’ve felt how emotional repression and rigid patriarchal models can be seriously damaging. At the same time, homosocial bonds have meant so much. Male friendships built on jibes, unhealthy sports obsessions and wry self-deprecation have made me so happy and brought me so close to people. I’ve lived Peep Show’s closing scene more times than I can count; I’ve spent hours joking on a sofa with close male friends - “we do love each other, really”, though we’d never, ever, say it. Peep Show doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of this model of masculinity, but it also presents two men who, in spite of everything, stick with one another, and that has stuck with me.