Archives for posts with tag: Gogglebox

I must confess to being a bit stuck what to write this week. There’s nothing new I have started watching and, therefore, nothing new I want to say. It has been a real struggle finding something. Yes, there are new shows popping up all the time, but time is limited and as much as I love TV, I want a life outside of it as well.

Then it hit me. Something that has been gnawing at my brain for a while now. A change in my feelings towards a show. And now is the time to express it.

So here is my declaration: I’ve fallen out of love with Gogglebox. I can’t put my finger on when, but I watch it now out of habit rather than love.

What I do know is why. The biggest reason is that it has lost its naivety and charm. Take some of the intros. Whenever someone pulls out of a bag that they claim they have bought that week to try, I have started wondering if they really have, or if a producer has given it to them. I hate being a cynic, but I feel the participants have become performing seals rather than being one of us. I remember one former fan describing the cast as a group of people desperate to fight their way to the buffet at the National Television Awards, and it seems a very apt description.

The problem is when you have breakout stars. Scarlett Moffet transcended from bit part cast member to a star in her own right. And now so many of them want to repeat the arc. But you can’t review TV as an ordinary punter if you go behind the curtain. Yet the best ones often do. Steph & Dom are missed more than anyone else, bar Leon, who sadly passed away.

I also find myself increasingly infuriated at some of the puerile and ignorant comments. Take the news story on the Extinction Rebellion protest. There was universal mocking across the cast about the actions of the protesters and snide comments. Not one person recognised the issue that the protesters were actually trying to raise.

There are still some bright spots. Pete and Sophie are current favourites, and the Siddiqui and Malone families remain good value. Occasionally the show can still surprise, and any politician worth their salt should watch some of the conversations around Brexit: general tone being they don’t care if it happens or not, just stop talking about it.

It was a fun show while it lasted and had moments of pure genius. But now I feel it should be put out to pasture as it were. Let some new formats come through. Channel 4 is meant to be home of the bold and different, and Gogglebox just isn’t that any more.

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One of my favourite shows is Gogglebox. It offers a snapshot of daily life and how real people think in a way that a deliberately constructed focus group cannot. Any politician wanting to see why their stock has fallen amongst the eyes of the public could do worse than see what the concerns are of the people watching them.

Of course, the biggest challenge when you have a successful format is the need to spin it off. Hence why, following a successful Christmas special, we have a series of Gogglesprogs. As with its parent show, there has been careful casting, with kids from across the nation, ethnic groups and classes taking part.

Obviously, with the cast all being 12 or under, there is more care taken as to what they watch. No documentaries on nudism or fetishes, films strictly family orientated, no Tom Hiddleston humping his way through The Night Manager. There is still plenty of space for documentaries and news stories though.

I have to confess for having less of a fondness for Sprogs. Perhaps it is my own allergy to children that means any noise or half-baked comment lacks the charm it has on others. Still, it has led to a new game of mine, which is imagine the child as an adult. For instance, Sam’s insistence of using frat boy language, like dude, bro and douche, being juxtaposed with his opulent surroundings has all the hallmarks of a future David Cameron.

Having said that, there are moments that fill me with hope. It is interesting that how, when confronted with anything different, the kids all seem to be quite happy to let people be people. The adults on Gogglebox are quick to judge and label. Children have a remarkable tolerance for diversity, at least in theory anyway. It does make you wonder how racism or homophobic ideas ever come about when they are virtually non-existent in pre-teens.

An interesting experiment would be to have their parents watch the same shows but separately, and then come together and compare reactions afterwards. Not only would it help my game significantly, but it would be interesting to see how much of the children’s worldview is coming from their parents and how much from the wider world. It would be like 7Up, but where we gauge a child’s future on what they make of the EU referendum rather than a broad interview. Channel 4, if you like the sound of this, call me. I’m open to offers.

When everyone is talking about a big new show, my instant reaction is to avoid it. If the trailer didn’t win me over, then the excited babble of Twitter hipsters or even my friends is unlikely to succeed. There have been a few exceptions – Community being one, after I got recommended by three friends who I knew had a very good barometer for TV. 30 Rock was another, after the same select few singled it out for rare praise. But mostly the chatter washes over me. Breaking Bad and The Wire may well be excellent, but I feel like sticking two fingers to everyone who has been swept up by them, so refuse to watch either.

Gogglebox though was a strange one. Most of my friends, TV educated or not, hate it despite never seeing it. It is the kind of show that gets the chuntering classes angry, like Big Brother and its ilk. Kirstie Allsop in particular deemed it reality TV at its most cruel, arguing that a private conversation should not be made public for entertainment, especially when said conversation is dull of judgement. Apparently it is fine for us to talk Joey Essex ‘thick’ in the comfort of our own homes, but not on TV. As Madame Allsop is one of my TV pet hates (somehow both too twee and too severe at the same time) I felt naturally inclined to see what had riled her up. On the flip side, my personal literary heroes Grace Dent and Caitlin Moran loved it, so that too became an encouragement.

I wasn’t disappointed. The show, though ridiculous in concept, is genius. The cross-section of participants is brilliant – from the traditional nuclear family in The Wirral to the gay friends in Brighton, the poshest people in the universe (or at least Kent) to the more modest environment of Brixton, there is a feel that this is Britain.

Of course everyone has their favourites. I find it hard to choose between the mum in Clacton (who reminds me so much of my own I actually got a little scared), the heavily bejeweled Sandy and Sandra, and the brilliantly offensive pensioner Leon. The choice of programmes is canny as well: a mixture of reality TV, news stories and with the occasional complex documentary thrown in just to put the cat among the pigeons. My personal highlights these past few weeks have included Sandra’s shock at home much it costs to get in cinema in Streatham these days, Clacton mum’s insistence that Steve McQueen is white, and Leon demanding a new smart phone, despite him having no concept of how even a basic mobile works. Oh, and of course the heavy metal kid who has apparently not said a word for 3 entire series yet expresses his opinions perfectly through a brief glance.

So you naysayers can bleat on all you like whilst you paint chairs and make wicker baskets. I’m enjoying the company I have found myself in. Now just to wait for inevitable moment when one of the programmes featured on Gogglebox is, well, Gogglebox.