6 August 2017 | rudyardk
Early work by (amongst others) Christopher Guest, David Letterman and Barry Levinson.
"Peeping Times" is a sporadically amusing mock-news magazine show that originally aired in January 1978. Ultimately, it's probably more notable for the talent involved than for the finished product, which is uneven -- but it has its moments.
On-screen, this is a very early credit for a young David Letterman, as one of the two hosts. He's clearly already got his deadpan snarky comic persona down cold, and acquits himself well, even though he's not always given terribly funny material.
The 7-man writing staff includes 6 veterans of The Carol Burnett Show, including later acclaimed film writer/director Barry Levinson. The one 'ringer' is newbie Christopher Guest, here getting his feet wet in the mockumentary format that would eventually become his stock in trade. Unfortunately, you can often see the sketch comedy mentality at work in "Peeping Times"; a comic idea is introduced and played out (sometimes past the point of diminishing comedic return), then it's on to the next one. There's very little momentum in the show, and some of the pieces just go on too long (and/or are based on tired premises). However, there are individual moments that work well, and the cast is uniformly fine.
For fans of 70s/80s TV and film, there are LOTS of bits by some great character comic actors: Barney Miller fans will recognize frequent guests J.J. Barry, Philip Bruns, Peggy Pope and of course Ron Carey; Mel Brooks has an extended cameo; even if you don't know the names, you're sure to recognize the great Richard Libertini, Richard Stahl and Larry Hankin; and *real* devotees will recognize the always-reliable character comedy work of Royce Applegate, Lewis Arquette, Valerie Curtin, Murphy Dunne, Michael Fairman, Alan Oppenheimer, and Julie Payne. Oh, and yes -- that's an uncredited James Cromwell playing the film archivist!
Overall, "Peeping Times" is worth a peek as an historical curiosity, especially if you're a fan of Letterman, Guest, or late-70s "alternative" comedy in general. It's not quite as good as it could have or should have been, but it's an interesting early starting point for some real talent.