“A TV programme about people watching TV? What absolute shite.” This was basically the unanimous reaction when it was first announced that Gogglebox would be airing on Channel 4 over a year ago. From the programmer that brought you Shameless, Top Boy and the unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons) Dogging Tales, they now wanted us to watch a TV programme about people… watching TV programmes?
But how wrong we were. 13 months later, the show has recently been nominated for two Baftas: the Radio Times Audience Award and for the best reality and constructed factual show. It’s now in its third series and has gathered an audience of over 3.2 million at the last count. In terms of rankings it’s moved from being outside Channel 4’s Top 30 programmes to the No. 1 position. Hurrah.
And why not? It’s great TV. It’s consistently funny and emotive – I mean I cried, watching them cry about Sports Relief. It made me feel weird sure, but is a good a illustration as any of the power of the show. Gogglebox is also astonishing in the way it really lays bare what us Brits are truly like - both good and bad. The participants are filmed in the comfort of their own homes, meaning there’s an immediate sense of intimacy, and it’s almost impossible not to feel some affinity with these people, who are allowing you to peek into the very bosom of their homes.
It also has the effect of legitimising your own TV watching. Sometimes I simply don’t feel like watching shiny rich people swanning around Chelsea, or people necking Jägerbombs in Brentwood. Sometimes, I just want to watch normal people like me, doing exactly what I’m doing: slobbing around on the sofa, wearing a T-shirt covered in fake-tan stains and eating Indian takeaway without cutlery. And what?
The participants have been picked with care, and it shows. From Leon and June in Liverpool – the liberal, retired teachers who have no qualms in calling a dickhead a dickhead (otherwise known as Nigel Farage), to the posh drunkards Steph and Dom, these are characters you can’t help but love. It’s even hard to seriously dislike mother-of-two, Carolyne Michael, who spouts some very dubious facts and political views – it’s ignorance rather than malevolence.
Of course with success, come the haters. Just last week one of the participants, who some media outlets have hilariously referred to as “the Gogglebox whistle-blower” (Snowden look out), gave an anonymous interview with the Daily Star, apparently exposing the show’s fakery. As well as saying each episode is filmed over just one night – meaning participants must continuously change their clothes (and snacks), they also implied that the producers wrote some of the best jokes.
What the fuck man? We all know that the likes of TOWIE and MIC are scripted and their plot lines laid out way before filming begins, but surely these people’s reactions are real? If you ask me this ‘whistle-blower’ is definitely Silent Jay from the Wirral. Behind those dead eyes and mad mop of hair, there’s a conniving, super villain, just plotting a way to sell his story to the red tops. Mark my words.
The Gogglebox format has already been snapped up by America, Ukraine, Canada and China and I hope that the likes of Brixton-dwelling Sandy and Sandra will be on our screens for yeas to come. After all, who needs huge budgets, meth-addicts and iron thrones? All we really want to watch is people watching TV.