Procrastinate Better

Peep Show: A British Sitcom More Innovative than “The Office”

From time to time, a Slate staffer or critic offers up a favorite cultural pick for Procrastinate Better readers. Today’s endorsement is from Slate social media editor Jeremy Stahl.

The most subversive, funniest, darkest, and most innovative sitcom of the past decade came out of Britain, and it wasn’t The Office . Peep Show —a British series that found critical and cult acclaim in its home country, but has yet to earn equal success on this side of the pond—has spent six seasons pushing comedic boundaries in a more novel way than The Office ever did. The entire show takes place from the perspective of two pathetic thirty-something roommates—one a sexless, hopelessly self-conscious office drone, the other a slowwitted, wannabe techno-God, both the shallowest narcissists imaginable. Much of the series is shot from the point-of-view of the two main characters, in the style of Being John Malkovich : The audience regularly hears the internal monologues of the two protagonists in-between the dialogue.

A typical monologue from the uptight traditionalist and history buff Mark encapsulates the character’s disdain for life generally, and the modern age particularly.When his fiancée tries to get him to buy a Mao Tse-Tung tee-shirt and a sweater with random, pocketless zippers, Mark expresses his disgust internally: “That’s the way things are these days. ‘Let’s just put a zip here, a swastika there. Why not? Who knows what these things were once used for?’”

While the BAFTA award winning show is practically unknown in the United States, it seems to be developing a minor cult following on some college campuses. This NYU blog describes its audience base as “people who don’t find Curb Your Enthusiasm to be excruciatingly awkward enough.” I like to think of it as being like a more warped version of Seinfeld , if the show was presented from inside George Costanza’s brain.