Back (Channel 4) is back for a second series, and if you missed the first I recommend catching up. I confess to abandoning series one after the first episode and dismissing it as a pale imitation of Peep Show; that was partly a failure of imagination on my part, and partly down to the fact that, in Peep Show, David Mitchell and Robert Webb created a comedy so perfect that it’s impossible not to measure everything else against it and find it wanting.
But I went back and watched all of Back ahead of its return, and found that this tale of toxic rivalry is actually pretty good. Yes, if we’re honest, Mitchell and Webb’s characters are a bit like their Peep Show characters. Mitchell’s Stephen is an emotionally constipated coward, here middle-aged rather than prematurely middle-aged. Webb’s Andrew, the long-lost foster brother whose arrival turned Stephen’s life upside down, is cooler, although the difference here is that he’s not an idiot.
Maybe in their next project they could try changing their accents or dyeing their hair or doing something to banish Mark and Jez from our minds for half an hour.
There’s much to enjoy though. We’re back in lovely Stroud. Andrew is fed up with being landlord of the John Barleycorn, the novelty now worn off as he traipses back from a shopping trip to buy urinal cakes. Stephen has had a stint in rehab – or what is termed a “wellness centre” – and is feeling rejuvenated, although mostly this is just fuelling his loathing of Andrew.