It has been almost two years since Peep Show ended *cries*. I am the kind of person that has re-watched all 9 seasons numerous times and throws famous phrases and scenes from the show into casual conversation. I am certainly not alone in missing the duo of David Mitchell & Robert Webb and was elated when I heard of their return. Written by Peep Show’s Simon Blackwell, Back’s dark humour, antithetical characters and the overall sense of bewilderment felt by Mitchell’s character (Stephen) are all too familiar to Peep Show fanatics like me. However, the setting, the serial nature of the series (i.e. who the bloody hell is Andrew?) and its treatment of dark humour make watching Back quite a gripping experience.
The show’s focus on the death of Stephen’s father Laurie and the uncertainty of the family’s future create an unsettled and problematic foundation for Stephen’s sense of bewilderment, frustration and exclusion. This soon leads him to sheer paranoia and obsession over the increasing prominence of the enigmatic, if dangerously opportunistic Andrew (Webb) and his mysterious past. Back takes the viewer on a series-long journey which follows both Stephen’s life after the death of his father and the fate of the family pub. Stephen not only begins to lose his mind over the town’s unexpected arrival but also sees the family pub slowly escape his firm grip.
The tense relationship between the two contrasting characters, Stephen and Andrew, make for excellent television. Stephen’s out-of-place nature and his unlucky life seemed very familiar to us. We are used to seeing David Mitchell play the unfortunate, bitter and mentally troubled character who does not fit in. However, Andrew is a character we are not used to seeing Robert Webb play. He is mysterious, assertive and highly esteemed by Stephen’s family. His successful plans for the family pub and his generally likeable character places Webb in a new light, and it is these qualities which make Stephen go completely bonkers. The use of contrasting flashbacks is also a new, significant part of the presentations of both characters. For example, whereas Andrew would think of jovial evenings at an amusement park with Laurie, Stephen looks back at a bleak and stern life with his dad.
If you’re a Peep Show fan reading this, you may have had the tendency to compare Back to Peep Show, usually in the tone of slight disappointment with phrases like “Oh it is not quite Peep Show”. That was me after the first episode. Many mixed feelings and many mixed emotions! It felt like going home and someone had totally re-arranged the furniture. It was similar but not quite the same. I felt myself missing Peep Show more than ever – it is one of my favourite sitcoms after all. However, in the case of Back, one learns that it is important to NOT compare it entirely to Peep Show, even if it stars Mitchell & Webb. I feel like Back could be more closely compared to dramas than it could to sitcoms. Its dark, eerie and aged nature of its characters is rather different. The plot is also a bit more complicated than an unravelling carpet of calamity and mishap. Though yes, the latter made the bleak and unlucky world of Mark and Jez so enjoyable in Peep Show.
Without including spoilers, Stephen’s deteriorating spiral pervades through the series and the revelations revealed about Andrew say much more about the character of Stephen than it does about Andrew. The ending is also completely open to interpretation, which I rather enjoyed!
My final verdict?
Back’s exploration into the troubled mind of Stephen and the mysterious Andrew’s sudden and successful arrival makes for a darkly delectable comedy experience. It has just enough for Peep Show fans to make them feel warmly familiar with it but is also different enough and inevitably incomparable to provide a new light on the sheer artistry of Mitchell, Webb and Blackwell. If you have not seen it yet, I would recommend it for at least the famous chemistry of the comedy legends that are Mitchell and Webb. I bloody adore the pair of them and I cannot wait to see their upcoming projects!
From Sophia with Love x