Ranking every Peep Show character on the morality spectrum
I mean, Mark, obviously, but for the sake of argument...
Peep Show is a programme in which the protagonists are the real villains, but the pitiful nature of their life, as they lurch from crisis to crisis, always of their own making, garners sympathy from the viewer. Most people see a bit of themselves in both Mark and Jeremy, hopefully notwithstanding some of their extremely creepy and borderline psychopathic behaviour.
Even the side characters are flawed, it would be boring if they weren't. But their flaws all vary in nature and in depth, with many of them being dragged down to Mark and Jeremy's level simply by spending too much time around them. Sophie the prime example.
But are any of them actually good people?
Here is the definitive ranking of every main Peep Show character (one offs excluded, so no Saz) on the morality spectrum, starting with the best, ending with the worst.
Gail is good. She gives Mark a job, but has that generosity thrown back in her face when she has to sack him for (trying to) urinate into a pot of jalapeño sauce. She is also almost killed by Jeremy, who is sleeping with her partner, Elena.
Gail gets a really tough time on Peep Show, and shows no malice throughout it at all. Justice for Gail.
Her short-lived involvement in the show comes in series seven when she has an affair with Jeremy after meeting him in the hospital while her boyfriend, Ben (The Shit) is in a coma. But it's important to note that Ben is awake and well when the affair starts. It's important because it gives us a chance to see what a terrible, terrible person Ben is. Controlling, obnoxious, and not worthy of Zahra.
She also influences Jeremy to pick up a book and actually show him some interesting art. She's sound.
Often derided as the most annoying character in the show, Dobby gets a tough ride from viewers. Her idiosyncrasies are slightly irritating, sure, but she shows a level of patience with Mark that any real human would simply not be capable of. On their first outing, she discovers he is married. She later discovers that Mark and Gerrard formed the "Dobby Club", the biggest and reddest flag ever known. The only bad thing she can be accused of is delaying moving in with Mark, but honestly, who can blame her? Would you want to live with Mark? No. Case closed.
She's a bit... kooky. But she's nowhere near the worst characters on the show. Mysteriously never seen after series two.
It's easy to fall into the trap of viewing Super Hans as the bad guy in his friendship with Jeremy. But how much of this is a subconscious snobbery about his obvious drug addiction (which Mark and Jeremy do nothing to help him overcome), and how much of it is actually justified? Sure, he breaks the occasional law, smashes their bathroom door down, also smashes their TV when Jeremy reneges on his promise to join a cult... Alright he's done some pretty bad things. But fundamentally, Super Hans is a good person who lives with demons and whose two best mates enable his behaviour.
Big Suze is too stupid to be truly bad. She'd probably vote Tory - if she bothered to vote - but more out of ignorance than malice. At her core she is a nice person. Her worst crime throughout the show is probably suggesting they put cigarettes out on a burglar's skin, but you know, in times of crisis you have to indulge in a bit of blue sky thinking. She didn't actually do it.
You might also feel like she betrayed Jeremy by jumping into bed with Johnson. Don't. Johnson is an arsehole but Jeremy tried to "rent out her sexual organs on a one use basis." He deserved it.
She was The One. Not Dobby, definitely not Sophie. April was The One. She shared Mark's passion for history, embraced his geeky flaws and genuinely liked him. Admittedly she does cheat on Angus with Mark, but that's kind of tit for tat, given what he got up to in Corfu. If only Mark hadn't approached the situation with all the decorum of a reversing dump truck, they might have ended up together.
A boring old fart who made a big mistake in cheating on April but ultimately just a middle aged man with a passion for orthodox churches who wants a friend. If Mark wasn't in love with his wife, they could have been great mates. Shame.
Sophie has the best character arc out of every character in the show. The innocent, happy Sophie we see in series one is a far cry from the depressed alcoholic Sophie who falls asleep in the ball pit at the kid farm in series nine. What happened? Mark happened. From hacking into her emails, to worming his way between her and Jeff, to jilting her, Mark ruins Sophie's life.
Jeff is painted as the villain, but he's not really that bad is he? He's a bit annoying, the sort of person you wouldn't want to be stuck alone with in the pub for more than one pint, but the only reason we're lead to resent him is that he beats Mark to Sophie's heart in the early series. Flip the point of view narration around and he comes across as the good guy, with Mark the pathetic villain, as my colleague Alex Roberts more eloquently explains in this video.
Even if it was technically a visa marriage, fleeing the wedding for a job interview, leaving Jeremy to have his first dance on his own was pretty low. She also cheats on him with Super Hans.
The lesser of two evils in Dobby Club, but still an absolute creep. He was treated abysmally by both Mark and Jeremy, whether that's during the Project Zeus workshops or at the house party when they ply him with alcohol, but his part in Dobby Club undoes any good will I have for him. He milked that tube up his nose for all the sympathy it was worth in his pursuit of Dobby, the stomach levels bullshit wanker.
Given how many characters on this list have been unfaithful to their partners, I don't want to go in too hard on Elena for the way she juggled her relationship with Gail and her affair with Jeremy. But telling Jeremy she will leave Gail for her, just minutes before accepting a marriage proposal from Gail was particularly insensitive.
The Bottom Four, this is where we get down to the real pieces of shit
Ben (The Shit)
In terms of his actions on the show, it's hard to pin down anything particularly abhorrent that he does. But Ben has the aura of a man who is capable of some truly dark stuff. He is a controlling boyfriend, a bad boss and just exudes the worst vibes possible. The moment when Mark shows him up for claiming the opinions in an online essay about Wuthering Heights as his own is just pure... chef kiss.
It says a lot about Mark's values as well as lack of self esteem that he admires Johnson so much, and wants to be his Camilla (if the public will accept him). Johnson is a ruthless narcissist, whose worst moment comes in the form of his 'indecent proposal', when he offers Jez £530 for the chance to sleep with Big Suze. Add that to the horrible way he treats his employees and it's very hard to argue he should be any higher than third bottom on this list.
Deciding who to put bottom of this list was difficult. Both Jeremy and Mark are probably as bad as each other in terms of the atrocities they commit throughout the nine series. But if you had to decide who is worse - as I do here - then you have to look at intent.
Jeremy does some very bad and weird things: eating Mummy the dog, sleeping with Sophie's mum, sleeping with Sophie, burning the Royal Mail, the list is endless. But Jez very rarely intends to hurt the people he does, he's just an idiot. And that is what separates him from his best friend Mark, who is almost incapable of feeling any sympathy for the people he harms in his various attempts to escape the pits of loneliness.
Mark demonstrates a very specific mix of lack of self esteem and narcissism. We've all met someone like this, the sort of person who thinks they are the best in the world at their job but is also deeply insecure and cannot take any criticism and so creates an atmosphere so toxic as to avoid any sort of conversation. This is how Mark gets away with so many heinous acts while always retaining the support of the viewer - we are made to pity him.
Let's go through just some of the mad shit he does throughout the show.
Spying on the women he is trying to woo, sneaking into a colleague's office to literally piss on their work, forming Dobby Club, his insane reaction to Jeremy's joke about forgetting the turkey at Christmas, standing by as Jeremy and Super Hans waterboarded his flatmate Jerry with beer, then standing by as they kidnapped Angus while he tried to steal his wife. This is not the behaviour of a 'good guy' who's a bit shy, is it?
This is the behaviour, one might argue, of a psychopath.
Mark Corrigan thinks he is the hero of Peep Show.
He's actually a psychopath. This is why. pic.twitter.com/AqUUhqZQbk
— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) June 3, 2020