‘Imagine if while you watched TV, it was watching you’. So says the sinister narrative voice of Gogglebox.
The premise behind Gogglebox is that people are being filmed watching TV. As such, this is going to be a little meta – a reaction to a TV show about reactions to TV shows.
Take a few minutes.
So, according to narrator Caroline Aherne, we manage to find the time to watch four hours of television a day (pah, amateurs). After the brief induction, and the cursory hash tag (GUYS, it’s interactive), we meet the audience. Filmed from the comfort of their own armchairs, the appropriately diverse selection of armchair critics gives us their opinions on the week’s viewing. Viva democracy! I’ve watched barely any of this stuff, so it’s an excellent recap.
Episode 1 features reactions to Meteor Strike: Fireball. We have hairdressers Chris and Stephen, who have been together for six months. They have a cat, lovingly referred to by Stephen as ‘gingey minge’. Everyone is terribly critical and somewhat bored of the Russian meteor. After all, as we are told by the disappointed narrator, it didn’t kill anyone. Best mates Stevie and Michael, who like to chillax with a mug of herbal tea, compare the meteor to a cocopop, while a fantastically cynical old couple think it’s boring. To the programmes’ claim that ‘it’s an incredibly exciting time’, Fred (I’ve forgotten his real name, so let’s go with Fred) states sagely: ‘It isn’t’. Then we have the typical nuclear family who just loves to bicker. The matriarch is convinced the meteor’s a hoax: ‘it’s the Americans doing something’ – it always is. The family mourn the lack of Brian Cox to the show, with Conspiracy Mum treating us to a rendition of D:ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’.
They do. We are now introduced to a posh, foul mouthed couple called Dom and Stef (self proclaimed ‘Devil’s Avocado’), and best pals Sandy and Sandy, who’s telly is emblazoned with a sticker reading ‘No regrets with Jesus’. These guys are great. Dom and Stef live in a 17-bedroom detached, and seem to spend most of their time off their faces. Anyway, Stef’s on the Vodka Redbulls and it’s time for Top Gear. This week, the lads are riding around Africa with sofas strapped to their Volvos. The astute old couple label Jeremy Clarkson as stupid, while Dom and Stef are, unsurprisingly, in raptures; according to Dom, Clarkson would make a ‘great prime minister’.
Sure, Dom. Have another Woo Woo.
It’s the polarities that are fun here – whilst Dom would just love to go ‘fuck-arsing around Africa in a broken down car’, Fred (in a sly dig from Channel 4) notes that it’s ‘a nice way to see Africa…at the country’s expense…’ They’re saying what we’re thinking (‘we’ being every potential C4 demographic) – it’s a bit like Twitter, but more fun. One Born Every Minute next, and this I have seen. I bloody hate it. It is grim. Every push, every snipped umbilical cord reduces me to a quivering wreck. And the majority of our “viewers” share my reaction (apart from Sandy and Sandy – HOW ARE THEY EATING PIZZA?). It is, as the narrator informs us, “a chance to share in the joys of labour”. Ahem. We’re sharing a bit too much, I think. I don’t want to see a woman giving birth and I don’t want to hear about the Queen’s shits (Her Majesty’s gastroenteritis) and I don’t want to see someone’s mouldy ball sack (Embarrassing Bodies). BUT it turns out that I do want to see people watching those things. Gogglebox is good fun, and has the potential to be an interesting social barometer. But in essence, it’s still just people watching TV. Turns out we’ll watch anything, these days.