Hail, Croydon's kings of comedy: 'Peep Show' is back for series eight

The mismatched housemates return tonight. Hugh Montgomery looks at the rise of two sitcom losers

You only have to witness the weekly, Sunday night Twitter feeding frenzy to know that, when it comes to TV, the day of rest is anything but. From Homeland and Downton Abbey to The X Factor results, schedulers serve up the most overblown dramas with the most outrageous twists, in the hope of dictating watercooler conversation for the week ahead. In such octane-fuelled company, a ready-meal-fuelled sitcom about a pair of mismatched Croydon housemates might seem out of place. But, then, the rise of Peep Show, which returns tonight, is as remarkable as its premise is mundane.

The sitcom's redeployment from Fridays to Sundays is a marker of its flagship status at an otherwise at-sea Channel 4. But it wasn't always this way. When it started in 2003, it was acclaimed for reinvigorating a classic Odd Couple comic scenario. But critical fervour didn't translate into ratings and, through the first few series, cancellation loomed. What earned it a reprieve was its reportedly stonking DVD sales – anecdotally verified by the fact that you couldn't go to a house party in the mid Noughties without someone slurring verbatim the musings of its two lead characters, David Mitchell's anally retentive loan manager, Mark, and Robert Webb's feckless musician Jez.

And so, vociferous cult following in place, it's now back for an eighth series, a rare achievement for a show with no metaphorical "journeys", kangaroo gonads or Gregg Wallace. It also flies in the face of the received British sitcom wisdom that less is more. How, then, to account for its staying power? Well, there's the brilliantly bilious writing, obviously. But also the perversely satisfying fact that the more that its thirty-something man-children experience – marriage, parenthood, attempted sectioning, etc – the more they stay the same. Really, is there any funnier, more nightmarish representation of our cultural drive towards perpetual adolescence? Well, Top Gear aside.

The irony is that such sad-sack roles have propelled its lead duo into the charmed ranks of the comedy elite. Long assumed to be interchangeable with his nerdy on-screen persona, Mitchell is now talked up as a national treasure-in-waiting, while his recent wedding to Victoria Coren attracted the fawning attention of the gossip rags. Meanwhile, Webb's populist cachet was confirmed in 2009 with his victory in the BBC's reality dancing contest Let's Dance for Comic Relief.

As for its writers, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, they have subsequently applied their trenchant talents to Fresh Meat, a junior Peep Show set in a university house-share. Not that they're about to give up on its parent. "It takes self-awareness to know when you're past your peak. We'll probably lack that, like everyone else... And crank them out until [audiences] are bored with them," joked Armstrong some time back, when I interviewed him for Peep Show's fifth series. So might we get to see Mark and Jez grow old together? It would certainly beat Last of the Summer Wine.

Five of British comedy's oddest couples

Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and Richard DeVere

To the Manor Born

Class antagonism andinevitable romance between Penelope Keith's widowed aristocrat and Peter Bowles's nouveau-riche millionaire.

Blackadder and Baldrick

Blackadder

Take one sharp-witted schemer, one stupid sidekick, some time-travelling and numerous not-so-cunning plans, and the result is comedy both historical and historic.

Del Boy and Rodney

Only Fools and Horses

It certainly wasn't a case of brothers in arms when it came to David Jason's cocky wheeler-dealer and Nick Lyndhurst's lily-livered half-sibling.

Howard Moon and Vince Noir

The Mighty Boosh

Musical tastes spoke volumes in the best friendship between Julian Barratt's and Noel Fielding's fellow zoo-keepers, the former a fastidious jazz musician to the latter's chilled-out glam-rocker.

Rigsby and Miss Jones

Rising Damp

The 1970s sitcom saw Leonard Rossiter's scummy landlord try, and fail, to court Frances de la Tour's refined spinster.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam