Channel 4 logo

Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong interview for Peep Show

Category: News Release

It’s been three years since the last series. Is that because you were so busy, or did you actively want to take a break?

S: We’ve done two Fresh Meats and Babylon in that time, and we couldn’t do all of that and Peep Show, is the short answer.

Are you aware of the anticipation building among fans out there for this series?

S: Yeah. I instagrammed photos from set every day I was on there, and some of them went into the paper. It’s fun, I like that. It’s nice that people care and want to watch your stuff. I think to celebrate that is important. But you don’t want to overdo it. You don’t want to spoil anything or over-explain.

Why did you decide to make this the last series?

J: I don’t know, really. We’ve been talking about that today. It seems very perverse, because we enjoyed making it so much. Before we’d made it, it felt like it had been such a long time. It’s increasingly hard for me and Sam to find time to do it, and get David and Rob to do it, with their commitments. It felt like we’d been doing it for a long time, and eventually you need to say “This is the last one.” And we thought it would be really inspiring to try and write a really, really good last series. We thought “Let’s end it properly, when everyone is still excited about the show, and it isn’t petering out, and people aren’t saying “Oh, you’re doing another one are you?”

S: Without sounding self-pitying or self-aggrandising, writing a sitcom is the hardest bit – it takes the longest. It takes us roughly nine months to write the show. And we were desperate not to do a bad one. And doing a final series was a great impetus for us to really go into it and say “What could we do that we’d really like to end on.” It has been incredibly helpful for us, creatively.

Peep Show is the longest running sitcom in Channel 4’s history. When you started, did you know you were making something that was going to really strike a chord with people, and run for ages? Can you tell when something is good?

S: No, I don’t think so. It’s such a hall of mirrors. You see a good bit, and it seems great, but you just don’t know how people will respond – there are so many factors involved. And you’re so close to it, and you’ve got so many hopes and fears. Often you’ll find yourself obsessing about what shirt they’re wearing, when, to the viewer, there are so many more important factors. I think we liked it. But sadly that doesn’t always mean other people like it.

Is there a link between how much you enjoy writing something and how successful it is?

S: I think that is true, to an extent. For us. I can’t speak for other writers. In my experience, the things I’ve enjoyed writing the most have tended to be better. If it feels easy, it’s because it’s been well thought out and well-constructed.

Does it frustrate you that Peep Show has won all these awards, and has this very loyal fan base, but it’s never really got the audience it deserves?

S: I disagree with you, I think it has got exactly the audience it deserves, it just happens to be not a very big one. You can put zeros on the end of an audience figure but the fact that there’s an audience out there who absolutely love it is brilliant. I’d rather that than twice the audience figure but half the appreciation index. These days, the audience we have, which used to be small, isn’t so small anymore, because audiences have fragmented so much over the past 12 years.

We know that Johnson and Sophie are back in the series. Are there any other old faces in there?

J: Dobby’s back again, obviously, and Super Hans, but there are a couple of others who show up who we’re not going to reveal. They’re fun plot points, so I think it’s more fun not to say.

Did you have a dilemma about whether to give Mark and Jeremy a happy ending after all these years? Or would that have just been a betrayal?

S: I don’t think we agonised about that too much. I think we had to be faithful to what’s funny. In the final episode, we definitely didn’t go down the sentimental “let’s all have a nice time” route. We went for the funny option, and funny, nine times out of ten in Peep Show means quite a lot of suffering and pain, because people who are happy aren’t that funny. So we never had much doubt about that. But then we thought about the final scene quite a lot. Hopefully we haven’t left them too broken and destroyed.

Is there a possibility to leave a door open and come back one day? You’re not killing them off, for example?

J: No there’s very much the possibility of coming back at a later date. I would be dead keen, in a few years, if Sam and I feel into it, to approach Dave and Rob and say “Would it be fun to find out what Jez and Mark are up to?” I’m not a huge fan of hour-long specials or what have you, but I could imagine doing a slightly different show about where they are in ten years.

Would you ever consider a Peep Show film?

S: We talked about that. I think one very unusual reason, which always stops me at the first hurdle, is that it would look fucking weird on a big screen. It’s all people staring at you, and close-ups of people’s faces.

Do you ever go back and watch previous series?

S: I don’t really do that. You did more recently than me.

J: Yeah, I don’t really do that at all, but I caught a couple on London Live. We probably should watch it back more than we do. We rely on producers and Dave and Rob and Becky, who’s been director for five series, to if we’re going wildly wrong.

What have been your favourite scenes or storylines over the years?

S: I think we were both really pleased with the way Mark’s wedding turned out. That series was a strong one. I have a lot of affection for the first series, not because it was the best but because it was the first. We learned our trade, there was the thrill of doing it for the first time.

J: We saw on a clip reel recently the scene when they’re in the theatre. I quite often feel like that in the theatre, so to have had the opportunity to do a comic version of one’s occasional feelings at the theatre was very enjoyable.

You don’t always feel you can say it in real life, because you’re labelled a philistine.

J: Exactly. You can put all your philistine-dom on TV.

S: I wrote a play recently, and that came up in a few meetings. That was a little awkward!

Peep Show and Fresh Meat are both coming to an end at the same time. Are you guys planning on going off and starting a window-cleaning business or something?

S: We are thinking about plumbing. We’ve got a van! I’m looking at planting quite a lot of stuff in my vegetable garden. We’re writing quite a lot solo and also together.

J: We’re definitely not jacking it in. We’ve got lots of things going solo, and we’re going to pitch some new shows together when we’ve finished writing Peep Show voiceovers.

Do you feel quite excited about that, or is it a bit terrifying, losing two great successes at once?

S: I feel happy. I feel like we’ve worked too hard for the last few years. I’m not going to moan about how shit my job is, but we’ve done a lot of work recently, and I wouldn’t mind having a bit less to do in the short term.

J: I feel excited too. It’s sad ending Peep Show, but it’ll be fun starting some new shows. It doesn’t worry me, the idea coming up with new stuff.

What do you think you’ll miss the most about Peep Show?

J: Writing for David and Rob’s voices as Mark and Jeremy, they’re very easy to write dialogue for, and we know how they’ll react to most situations now. That’s a very comfortable place to write from.