In Review

Back: is new Mitchell and Webb comedy another Peep Show?

The comic duo team up again in Channel 4 sitcom about sibling rivalry

Peep Show stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb return to our screens this week in a new black comedy about tensions in a family-run business.

Six-part series Back was created by Simon Blackwell, best known for his writing on The Thick of It, Veep and Peep Show. The new show co-stars Louise Brealey, Penny Downie and Geoffrey McGivern.

Mitchell plays Stephen, who has just inherited his late father's pub when his estranged foster brother, Andrew (Webb), makes a sudden appearance. The charismatic Andrew claims he just wants to reconnect with the only family he's ever known - but Stephen suspects ulterior motives.

The trailer shows Andrew surprising Stephen at his father's funeral by announcing that he is his long lost-brother. Later, Stephen, who is divorced and edging towards a midlife crisis, accuses Andrew of trying to steal his life.

Although the show sounds "like it has the makings of a mystery thriller”, says Oliver Wheaton in Metro, the pairing of writer Blackwell with Mitchell and Webb “guarantees hilarity will be found in the most uncomfortable social situations”. The comedy duo “specialise in creating underdog characters who audiences simultaneously dislike but can’t help rooting for”.

Mitchell and Webb’s portrayal of squabbling roommates in Peep Show was a "study in dysfunction”, says Vicki Power in the Daily Express, and their personas in Back “are not a million miles from Peep Show's Mark and Jez". Mitchell is again “the hapless nerd”, and Webb “a charming, but deluded, character”.

The actors have said they are expecting the inevitable comparisons, but insist Stephen and Andrew are "new characters”.

That hasn't stopped the critics. 

John Dugdale in The Times says Back “only works as a sitcom when subjecting Mitchell’s sweary blunderer to a string of humiliations; and that, tellingly, is when it most closely resembles Peep Show, rather than creating a viable comic world of its own".

The flashback to the 1980s are entertaining, Dugdale adds, but present-day scenes are “flat”, and the conceit seems to have more obvious potential for drama than comedy.

Back starts on Wednesday 6 September at 10pm on Channel 4

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