In 2015, one of the great chapters of British comedy closed. The ninth series of Peep Show finished on a high and a low, keeping David Mitchell and Robert Webb’s Mark and Jeremy in the same bleak, middle-aged stasis as we initially found them over 12 years earlier.
Luckily, the cast never found themselves in the same predicament, and with Olivia Colman looking set to score a raft of award nominations in the new year for The Favourite, what better time to check in on Britain’s favourite middle-class South Croydon reprobates?
Already well-liked in 2003 by comedy connoisseurs thanks to his sketch-show successes, Mitchell carried on writing and acting in short-form comedy throughout the run of Peep Show, as well as becoming one of the UK’s favourite panel show hosts/guests on both radio and TV.
He can currently be seen on TV as William Shakespeare in Ben Elton’s Upstart Crow, as well as in his reunion with Robert Webb, Back. His long-running Guardian opinion column attracts thousands upon thousands of readers, with his relatably acerbic takes on the hysterical state of modern life both a fun reminder of his role as Mark and proof of his own skill with prose. Mitchell’s TV success hasn’t quite broken him into consistent film appearances yet, but with a starring role alongside Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom’s Greed on the horizon, the door to Hollywood remains open.
Webb’s career has generally hewn close to Mitchell’s, though he’s much less familiar on the panel show scene. From their eponymous sketch shows to Back on Channel 4 (and even a joint Doctor Who cameo), Mitchell and Webb are as legendary and near-inseparable a duo as British comedy has ever produced. Notably, however, Webb reunited, sans Mitchell, with Peep Show‘s creators on their university sitcom Fresh Meat as a tragic professor. Away from the screen, Webb’s 2017 memoirs of his childhood – How Not to Be a Boy – have earned him tonnes of richly deserved praise in his examination of the limits and dangers of traditional masculinity and its emotional stunting of young men.
An Oscar frontrunner this year and a ubiquitous face on British TV in both comedies and dramas, Colman’s star power has never been higher than it is right now. Having already burst onto the film scene with Hot Fuzz in 2007, during the last few seasons of Peep Show, Colman starred in other critically acclaimed comedies like Rev as well as making a well-calculated transition to drama. For all that Peep Show launched and sustained much of Colman’s career, perhaps her current world-conquering success can be more attributed to her role as DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch.
One of the most staggeringly popular UK dramas of the last decade, Broadchurch won Colman a BAFTA and allowed her to move into serious, critically lauded cinema like Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. In 2016, she won a Golden Globe for international thriller The Night Manager, where she stole the show from right under the noses of Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. Now rightfully earning plaudits for her sublime performance in Lanthimos’ The Favourite, Colman still makes time for modest Brit-coms like Channel 4’s Flowers and BBC 3’s Fleabag, and will next be seen in another royal role – as Queen Elizabeth in season three of Netflix’s smash hit The Crown.
Though he has enjoyed steady film and TV work in projects as disparate as Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson, The IT Crowd, and Paddington, Matt King is probably the Peep Show mainstay who remains most fully defined by his role on the show. A fan favourite with a cult-like devotion, Super Hans is possibly the second most-quoted character, after Mark, and King has used this popularity to blur the lines between himself and his on-screen persona. Touring the country and playing, in character, at festivals and club nights, King’s exploitation of Super Hans’ fame is of dubious legality, copyright-wise, but when you’ve hilariously defined an entire British subculture for over a decade, you’ve earned some goodwill.
Quite possibly my favourite Peep Show character, the magnificence of Alan Johnson was largely down to the truly inspired casting of Paterson Joseph. A serious actor with classical training and a powerful presence on stage, this booming seriousness, combined with Joseph’s simultaneous mastery of Johnson’s buffoonish absurdity, made for an immortal creation.
He has since appeared in critically-adored dramas like The Leftovers, been directed by Danny Boyle in Babylon, and continued to flex his Shakespearean muscles in Julius Caesar and the screen adaptation of Henry V, all the while being a long-rumoured choice for the title role in Doctor Who. The multi-talented Joseph has even written a play of his own, based on the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho, as a response to the lack of roles for BAME actors in period pieces; Sancho: An Act of Remembrance ran this year in both London and New York.