sat 19/10/2019

Gogglebox, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Gogglebox, Channel 4

Gogglebox, Channel 4

A chance to catch up with Channel 4's runaway success and have a nice sit down

Back for good? The Michaels made a welcome return

So Gogglebox, a programme that allows voyeurs to watch viewers, has made it to series six. Rarely has telly been more knowingly “meta”. I can only think of Game for a Laugh’s catchprase, “Watching you, watching us, watching you, watching us,” but that was: a) nowhere near a true representation of how the show actually worked; b) creepy and weird.

In any case, a nation (or at least a sizeable portion of it, with figures regularly breaking four million) settled down to welcome back old friends with what would have been open arms had they not had their hands glued to their phones, lest the Gogglebox hashtag have a moment’s rest. Now I don’t know for sure (and I really can’t be arsed to count), but I’d imagine that C4’s runaway success must be pushing The X Factor for most tweeted programme.

Indeed, The X Factor was first out of the gate for our televised audience. More specifically, someone called Bupsi, who sang one song (not very well), before belting out a second with all the conviction of a woman who had been very well coached through the moves. This, of course, didn’t make it past the Goggleboxers unnoticed – these are people who know genuine. Two points immediately sprung to mind. The first was that, by watching something along with other people’s (largely cringing) reactions, the impact is somehow weakened. Normally, I have to leave the room, fist in mouth, at the merest hint of someone else’s humiliation. Here, however, I found myself protected by a shield of other people’s embarrassed empathy.

The second point was just what astute TV critics these people are. Seriously, the Gogglebox hive-mind consistently tosses off comments that most hacks would pay handsomely to have thought of. Most surprising were the inspired nuggets from Giles (pictured below with Mary), who when faced with Time Crashers’ assertion that the celebs they’d tasked with living as Edwardian staff would face testing times, said: “A testing time for us is trying to find out who they are, Mary.” Previously, during a debate between the couple on who’s the bigger national treasure – Stephen Fry or Ant and Dec – I noticed Mary had taken "matchy" to chameleon-like extremes and wore a dress that quietly blended in with her chair, which exactly matched her wallpaper. You could barely see her. Still, if I lived with someone who insisted on using my name every single time they spoke, I’d probably try to keep a low profile too.

Giles and Mary, GoggleboxGiles kept on, undeterred. He’s a fan of The Great British Bake Off: “If it gets people baking then that’s a good thing,” he reasoned. “It’ll stop them sexting.” He’s clearly possessed of Jedi-level comic genius. Stephen, too, managed to skewer Bake Off in his own, inimitable style: “Who’s got the time to be fucking baking?” Well, quite.

While waiting for a glimpse of pissed-up poshos Steph and Dom to appear (they didn't), I was wondering whether the newly reintroduced Andrew Michael, fresh from his bid for UKIP candidacy, might have something to say about the coverage of Calais. In fact, his only “racy” comments were confined to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, of which new recruit Liza declared: “This is so romantic – it’s like something out of a book.”

But look, this can’t turn into a transcript of the show, otherwise we’ll be here all day. And you’ll get bored. Eventually. Gogglebox is great TV, but why? Why is it so entertaining to watch people fail to warm to a programme such as Time Crashers, yet fall about laughing as soon as two celebrity servants carrying a dessert over a landscaped garden turns it into Jellywobble Pratfall Challenge? I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because, in an age of digital TV, with a billion channels at our fingertips and the ability to watch a soap in the shower, Gogglebox creates the illusion of event TV. It’s like we’re all together, laughing at the same stuff and enjoying an intimate and meaningful communal experience. We are watching something that used to happen, but doesn’t happen anymore, appear to happen. How’s that for “meta"?

The Gogglebox hive-mind consistently tosses off comments that most hacks would pay handsomely to have thought of

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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