I know what you’re thinking, Peep Show was one of the longest running British sitcoms ever (a whole 54 episodes!) so why is it featured here? Or perhaps you’re thinking why are you patronising me you fucking idiot, you’re clearly discussing the American pilot for the show which was absolutely abysmal. Either way, the latter is the reason for this article, as back in 2005 Peep Show became the latest of many many sitcoms to fail to work with a US cast and a script which while bearing some resemblance to the British version is all rather clunky and unlikeable.
One of the biggest problems is the casting of The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki as Mark. He’s far too good looking and normal for the role and though he tries to act geeky and inept with women he doesn’t come close to capturing David Mitchell’s superb portrayal of a socially rubbish man. He shares an obsession with history but is far too confident with women (believing that a woman “digs him” just because she briefly talks to him) and when Sophie leaves a cartoon on his desk at work he instantly thinks “I am the strongest and most handsome man in the world”, and at one point he decides he wants to get in a fight with Jeremy, which are three examples of how he’s pretty much the opposite of the British version but there are many, many more.
Their take on Jeremy is weak too, he’s even dumber than Robert Webb’s rendition of the character and though they’ve got his arrogancy down to a tee he’s so idiotic it’s hard to understand why he and Mark would be friends at all, or why anyone on this planet would tolerate his existence in the slightest when it comes to it. Josh Meyers is a fine comedic actor (at least in his recent role as Barry in the underrated Red Oaks) but this is a one note portrayal and lacking in any element of humour at all. The poor casting choices extend to Sophie (Alexandra Holden) as well, here she’s a charming sexy young blonde so once again it’s nothing like the original show. Not that I’m saying Olivia Colman isn’t an attractive woman, without a doubt she is, but Bain and Armstrong deliberately made her downcast and glum so that Mark would believe he had a chance with her, but obviously the Americans thought everyone had to be pretty if anyone was going to watch the programme.
There’s a good few other reasons as to why it feels so inferior to Bain and Armstrong’s series, it ditches the point of view camera work which made the British version so unique and though it maintains our hearing Mark’s thoughts you’ll soon find yourself wishing it hadn’t, as it misuses the device to make you dislike the character rather than find him endearing, and all of his thoughts only go to highlight how unfunny the script is. It was written by the married writing team of Jackie Filgo and Jeff Filgo (That 70’s Show, Man With A Plan) and they’re clearly the wrong people to handle such material, only having had a history of writing for bland network sitcoms, if it had been made by someone else for a cable channel it might have been more interesting but as it was for Fox all the edges have been taken off.
Is there anything good about it? Sadly the answer is no. All of the characters bar Sophie are unsympathetic, the script misfires with every attempt at comedy and it’s lacking pretty much everything which made the original so special. I always try and find something positive to say about a show but the only times I laughed were at how bad it is, for instance at one point Mark is convinced that Sophie will like a bad boy and draws a swastika within a love heart that he gives her while thinking “This is going to make Sophie so hot”, it’s so badly misjudged it’s almost unbelievable, as is her believing that Mark’s making a satirical point about office politics with that drawing and she happily gives him her phone number.
At least the executives who commissioned it recognised how bad it was and didn’t give us twelve seasons and a spin-off starring a kid version of Super Hans, that would have been truly depressing, but at the same time it’s disappointing that they weren’t able to make a version of the show which was it’s own beast but still resembled the original in certain ways, because as with The Office the source material shows how much potential it had to become a long running series.
You can watch the pilot on youtube here.