The farcical structure of “Peep Show”

Peep Show is a TV comedy noted for its use of almost exclusive point-of-view shots and intrusive, uninhibited narration. These devices have allowed writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong to create a series that utilises techniques specific to the medium, while still retaining the traditional farce structure. The structure of farcical comedy is as follows:

The protagonist is introduced, as is their major flaw. They become involved with other characters. These characters are then involved in the same event, which is the worst thing that could happen to the protagonist with those characters present. This situation is made worse by established context. The protagonist lies their way out of the situation. This lie leads to a worse situation for the protagonist, with the other characters witnessing it. This is again made worse by established context. The protagonist then lies their way out of the situation. This creates a cycle that continues a varying number of times, depending on story length, with the protagonist’s willingness to lie becoming easier, and the situation becomes even worse, while the protagonist becomes increasingly deranged as the web of lies builds. Inevitably, the protagonist places them-self in a situation which cannot be escaped. The web collapses. The other characters discover the truth, and the protagonist fails to achieve the goal for-which they were prepared to lie. The other characters can then either forgive the protagonist for deceiving them, of punish the protagonist; the protagonist’s flaw is either increased or cured, but the outcome is almost almost always at the discretion of the writer.

Peep Show falls into this format, particularly the episode Holiday.

Sitcom episodes are usually self-contained, and will therefore introduce its protagonist every episode – Jeremy will do anything to sleep with someone, which he thinks is likely because of his over-confidence. He meets Aurora.

Wanting to prove himself to Aurora’s Dad, he helps him out with a 4×4 he can’t really drive, and subsequently runs-down Aurora’s dog. This is made worse by the dog being named “Mummy”, after Aurora’s dead mother. Jez tells Aurora that Mummy ran away. This leads to Aurora wanting Jez to help her look for Mummy. Unfortunately, Jez is hiding Mummy’s corpse in the bag he’s carrying. However, Bain and Armstrong build on the farcical comedy structure by using a secondary protagonist, Mark, who gets a job offer from Aurora’s father. Unfortunately, this means having to decide whether or not to relocate to India. Mark then discover Mummy in the bin, and realises that Jez put it there.

They attempt to bury it in the woods, but they don’t have a spade. Jez attempts to dig a hole in the ground with his bear hands, and loses much of his dignity in the process. Eventually, Jez goes to find a spade with Mummy still in the bag. Unfortunately, he meets Aurora, who thinks Jez is still looking for Mummy. Jez chooses to not tell Aurora the truth about Mummy. This makes Aurora stay with him.

To make matters worse, Aurora invites Jez to join her with her father while her father interviews Mark. Aurora then discovers what’s in the bag, but Jez tells her that it’s an under-cooked turkey from Mark’s barbecue. Aurora wants to eat some. Jez tries to prove his lie by eating Mummy’s leg-bone. And Mark refuses to help him because of his preoccupation with Aurora’s father. Aurora then finds Mummy’s collar inside the bag. Jez still attempts to lie by telling Aurora that “Mummy” could’ve been the turkey’s name. The web of lies shatters. Aurora doesn’t forgive Jez, unlike Mark, despite his plan of a life as a business shareholder in India now being over. The decision by Bain and Armstrong to make Aurora refuse to forgive Jez is a condemnation of Jez’s actions: his misogyny toward Aurora and willingness to commit animal cruelty is provided by his internal dramatic dialogue, and the audience can hear that he has no problem with these, which means he must be ultimately condemned.


Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

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