“Jeremy’s Manager” (season five, episode five; originally aired 5/30/2008)
“Jeremy’s Manager” represents Peep Show’s most ambitious attempt to imagine just how far Jez might be able to go toward fulfilling his dream of living the rock and roll life. Not just the indiscriminate drug-taking and mindless sex—two areas where he’s actually done okay—but actually playing music in front willing audiences and being financially rewarded for it. The episode also provides an unusually convincing possible candidate for Mark’s One. Niki Wardley is brilliant as the title character, Cally, a music-company flack who briefly hooks up with Mark after being assigned the job of beating Jez and Super Hans into something marketable. It’s not that she and Mark might be genuinely, mutually happy together. But you can see how they might be able to function as a social unit, in public. Cally’s job requires her to speak fluent bullshit and to immediately shift her strategy and ambitions to accommodate any sudden changes. This leaves her with no remaining capacity to adapt in her private life, and no inclination to smile politely and suck it up. In other words, she’s the exact opposite of Mark. The attraction, from his point of view, is obvious.
At first, Cally casually hops into bed with Jez, because he’s there. But she’s so bored by his technique, or lack of same, that she has to ask him to shut it down and climb back off her before either of them has climaxed. (“Do you think this is going well?” she asks Jez, whose face betrays the absolute bewilderment of a man whose thinks that, if he’s been allowed to achieve entry, sex is going very well by definition.) Such is her practical-mindedness that she sleeps over anyway, and meets Mark over breakfast the next day. They hit it off, so Mark invites himself along to the great gig that Cally has lined up for Jez and Super Hans. There’s only one catch. “They listened to your CD,” she says as the guys are preparing to hit the road, “and they loved it, and they don’t want you to play the festival.” But she has another job lined up: a stage at a Christian music festival called Life ’08. Jez grumpily agrees, even though he feels that “If we play the Jesus festival, we’ll be selling our souls.”
At the festival grounds, Mark seduces Cally with his handsomely produced folder of research on the Christian-rock market. She in turn wins his heart with a steady stream of sarcastic remarks, though things turn rocky when Mark realizes that her chatter about the magical healing powers of a crystal skull that, she reckons, must have been fashioned by ancient craftsmen in the lost city of Atlantis, isn’t intended to be sarcastic at all. Sensing skepticism on his part, she demands that he agree with her—“Sorry, science. Sorry, enlightenment. Sorry logic,” he thinks. They fall into bed together, and then, after Mark has silently congratulated himself on the best sex of his life, she takes charge and shows him what to do. (“I’ll drive,” she says and she clambers on top of him.) Mark loves it. “I’m a sex robot!” he thinks. “I’ve always wondered what my fetish was, and it seems that what really turns me on is being basically absent for most of the sex act.”
In the afterglow of the morning after, Cally suggests that Mark tell Jez that he’s out of the band: “It’ll be better coming from you. You’ll tell better lies about how he’s not terrible.” It doesn’t go well at all, and Jez is further appalled to hear about Cally’s instructional approach to having sex with Mark: “That’s cheating. Anyone can please a woman if she tells you what to do.” In the end, Cally comes crawling back, begging Jez to take the stage solo after Super Hans has had “an ego attack” and driven off to the original planned venue “with all the windows down, shouting his own name.” Unfortunately, the news arrives only after Jez has taken out his rage at being dumped by trashing Cally’s trailer—he methodically tosses eggs on the floor while Mark, trying to get into the spirit, hurts his hand smashing a crystal skull—but Jez has a backup plan: Not only does he tell Cally that all the destruction was Mark’s doing, he describes the attack as “classic Mark,” which is a nice touch. Sadly, Cally will never be seen in Mark’s life, or on this show, again. But the one person who shows up for Mark’s performance does look happy.
“Mark’s Women” (season five, episode six; originally aired 6/6/2008)
Before she takes her leave, Cally does tell Jez that he and Super Hans sure do know how to celebrate. So does Peep Show, in its way: For its season finale, it struts its stuff by demonstrating that it can be funny even when managing to include two separate scenes in which two different characters break down in prolonged crying jags. The scene in which Jez cries is both the edgier and the funnier one, probably because it’s so much more unexpected. He and Super Hans are busking outside the recruitment offices of a Scientology-like organization whose wisdom is based on “the seven sacred truths from the golden tablets found inside the asteroid that crashed in Siberia in 1911.” They decide to go inside and submit to one of the cult personality evaluation tests, figuring it’ll be a mean laugh. They can, as Jez says, “freak out the freaks. Might be quite warm in there.” The smiling interlocutor hits Jez with a few questions about how his life has gone, versus how he thought it was going to go. Before long, he’s thinking to himself, “What was my plan again?”
While Jez is signing up to become a spud, renaming himself Jared and planning to feed all the physical reminders of his past life into the nearest incinerator, Mark is rejoicing in having finally been promoted: “Goodbye, Mark Corrigan, credit manager. Hello, Mark Corrigan, senior credit manager!” It’s all a lot of fun until he’s called upon to perform the chief new duty that goes with the title, which is firing people. That might fun, too, if the person Johnson weren’t adamant about firing didn’t happen to be Sophie. And even that might not be so bad, if the firing didn’t come so soon after he and Sophie, giddy from having finalized the annulment of their marriage, hadn’t just enjoyed a drunken one-night stand together. By the time Sophie is sitting in his office while Johnson stands behind her making throat-cutting gestures, she’s discovered that she’s pregnant, which means that directing her to the unemployment line demands a special level of tact on Mark’s part. “Have you ever considered voluntary redundancy?” he asks. “No!” she says. “Have you ever considered involuntary redundancy?” he asks.
Many of Mark’s lines about his problems with guilt and his indecisiveness could go on a T-shirt, but the one that’s most revealing about the specific nature of his self-destructive neurosis may be when he looks adoringly at Dobby and thinks, “My dream. My nightmare.” After bonding over their shared love of a video game, he’s crazier about her than ever, but the only person he can reveal the depths of his longing to is his romantic rival and fellow nerd, Gerrard, and he reveals it in the worst possible way, by trying to fire the poor guy. Understanding perfectly what’s going on, Gerrard tells him to shove it, and goes off to renew his pursuit of Dobby with even greater fervor. Mark is left alone, which is to say, with Jez. In the closing minutes of the season, he learns that there is a connection between Sophie’s pregnancy and Jez’s recent meltdown, and jokes that, given the uncertainty over who is the father of Sophie’s baby and Soph’s own close proximity to the edge, he and Jez may soon be “adopting, like a gay couple.” Is this funny ha ha, or funny peculiar? I’m not sure myself.
- Mark is struck by the unfairness of Jez’s career seeming to take off while he’s working through a divorce. “Typical! I do everything society demands and die in a ditch. He sits on his ass and accidentally shits a golden egg.”
- Cally nails the difference between Super Hans and Jez as performers (and potential commercial prospects) when she classifies Super Hans as “fuckable. It’s an industry term. It means someone might want to fuck him.”
- Since Cally is in the rare (but not, alas, unique) position to compare Mark and Jez as lovers, it would be a great waste if she didn’t do so, and Peep Show does not believe in waste. Jez, she tells Mark, “is like a red setter bounding after a tennis ball. You’re like a captain solemnly going down with his ship.”
- When Jez is really cross with Super Hans, he just calls him “Hans.” It’s like your mother addressing you by your full name, middle name included.
- Most 2008 line, and most Homer Simpson-esque line, both: Mark looking at his new TV and thinking hopefully, “HD will fix everything!”
- “Jeremy in a cult!” Mark thinks to himself when he gets the news. “Does have a certain ring to it.”
- This installment of TV Club Classic brings down the curtain on both the fifth season of Peep Show and my time on the Peep Show beat. Thanks for watching.