As Peep Show creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain have spent the past year developing Fresh Meat from a bleak Inbetweeners to one of Channel 4's strongest original comedy series, you could've been forgiven for worrying that the sitcom which made them two of Britain's most established comedy writers would have taken a backseat. I certainly was. Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Peep Show's eighth series kicks off with Mark (David Mitchell) and Jeremy (Robert Webb) at a crossroads in their lives. Jeremy's erstwhile bandmate and crack-smoking buddy Super Hans (Matt King) has found himself a steady 9-5 job, forcing Jeremy to reconsider his life as a perpetual 20-year-old having unofficially moved out of Mark's flat (he still lives there, but doesn't pay any rent) and he makes the decision to receive therapy, which Mark kindly offers to pay for. Meanwhile, Mark is coming to the realisation that his girlfriend Dobby (Isy Suttie) may not want to move in with him as originally planned, as he fears that the bed-ridden Gerard (Jim Howick) is attempting to swipe her from his clutches (quite literally, as Mark worryingly compares his future with Dobby to that of the Josef Fritzl kidnapping). Fortunately, Super Hans of all people has set him up with a promising job interview, which gives him some respite from his burgeoning relationship problems.
Those who may have feared that the self-proclaimed 'El Dude Brothers' were growing up and moving on with their lives, however, needn't have worried, as it's not long before the opening episode of series 8 sees the hapless pair revert back to their old ways. Jeremy uses the money Mark has loaned him for therapy to instead buy a curry, while Mark escorts Dobby to Gerard's house under the illusion of feigned sympathy in order to threaten his sickly former co-worker. However, it transpires that Mark's suspicions of Gerard were justified all along, as Gerard confirms that he is attempting to lure Dobby away from him.
Mark doesn't need to remain fearful of Gerard's poaching ways for long though, as Gerard ends up (hilariously) dying from flu ("that's so Gerard", says Jeremy). This ends up impacting on Mark's job interview, as the funeral is scheduled for the same day, which leads Mark to hastily rush through his eulogy. In earlier series' of Peep Show Mark was cowardly, meek and eager to please, but throughout the years the character has become far more clinical and ever-so-slightly sinister. He's still as socially awkward as ever, though, purchasing a 'Wake Cake' for after the funeral of a Liverpool football shirt with "Gerrard" written along the back of it, which doesn't fool Dobby despite Mark's justification of it ("Gerard loved the reds… the red team"). However, it transpires that Gerard had the last laugh, leaving Dobby with a large wedge of money which she can continue to afford living alone ("you couldn't beat me on Earth, so you're shitting on me from heaven like a dead, jealous pigeon", Mark says, looking at a photograph of his deceased love-rival.
On the other hand, Jeremy's life takes a more positive turn after Mark forces him to finally attend his first therapy session. After attempting to disarm his therapist by way of appearing to be completely unpredictable ("how about if I just pulled my nob out and started wanking? You'd love that, wouldn't you?"), Jeremy eventually succumbs and later informs Mark that he's had an epiphany and, rather than simply acknowledging the suggestions of his therapist, he now actually wants to become a therapist. Regardless of whether this is a viable career move for Jez, it's still a lot better than his plan of selling the headline '3-0 Walcott' to a major newspaper when Theo Walcott turns 30.
All in all, the opening episode of series 8 is a showcase of the same sharp writing we have come to expect from Channel 4's longest-running sitcom. While it doesn't rank up there with the greatest Peep Show episodes, that says more about the level of quality we have come to expect from Armstrong and Bain than it does the episode itself. A strong return for the El Dude Brothers.
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro