Even the most fevered Peep Show fan must remember how irksome that camera gimmick was at first.
When it dawned that the in-the-face point of view wasn’t just a case of putting a new dress on a plain Jane sitcom, viewers quickly grew to cherish it.
Likewise, Pete V Life’s unique selling point (where the well-meaning but pathologically cretinous sports writer Pete Griffiths has his life overseen by two middle-aged and divinely unreconstructed sports commentators) might have seemed like an idea with little life outside a Big Train sketch, but surprisingly the concept works for a full series.
As with Peep Show, it takes a while for this series to settle into itself. The first episodes slightly overdo the commentary device, bringing in everything from slow-motion replays to stats and graphs relating to Pete’s luckless exploits.
However, once that analysis tool is used more sparingly it fits the show much better. The hapless Pete finds that luck – and work – elude him, and even though he manages to bed an inexplicably large number of drop-dead gorgeous women, his general twattiness ensures they don’t hang around for long.
In some ways, Pete V Life plays like a more easy to love Nathan Barley – employing a similar London media backdrop complete with Hoxton nobbiness, except everybody’s just that little bit more likeable.
Simon Greenall (Alan Partridge’s Geordie handyman) and Ian Kirkby are the Alan Hanson-alikes nabbing some of the best lines (“She’s like a Somali pirate in a skirt”), but Rafe Spall’s Pete is the spine of the show and manages to pump some warmth into a character who’s basically a tit.
Whether it’s giving his girlfriend’s mother a present of a rape alarm (“Well, you’re an attractive woman, and people are gonna wanna, you know...”) or pretending his new MILF shag is his auntie, he retains a winnable idiot’s charm.
That’s reflected in the behind-the-scenes documentary, where the writers reveal they originally wrote Pete as a bloke in his mid-thirties (it’s not a strain to imagine Robert Webb in the lead role). That doc is an average little feature, as routine as the few extended scenes on offer.
A commentary would have been nice, especially given how short-changed the audience feels at only getting five episodes, although perhaps the creators thought a commentary on a show about a life that already has one was a step too far.
Original and very funny, if Pete V Life bags a second series and builds on its concept it could give Mark and Jez a run for their money.