The show Gogglebox proves how far terrestrial television has fallen over the past decade and a half. Lost in a sea of Reality TV and motivated by low cost and high returns, Channel 4‘s best concept is for us at home to watch people on TV as they watch TV. Instead of hiring better and more creative people and then in turn making better shows, mainstream broadcasters have succumbed to the mediocrity of reality television and amongst the back-to-back baking shows they now think “average” families talking about bad television is somehow good television. No wonder people are abandoning the traditional televisual format in droves, is it any surprise that audiences would rather watch Netflix when the best idea broadcast TV has is to gawp at random people as they watch the idiot box?
Gogglebox is no Mystery Science Theatre 3000, it isn’t cleverly critical, it isn’t carefully scripted, and isn’t skilfully produced. It is however a relative success for Channel 4, so much so that it’s now been running for seven series, there was also a Christmas Special named Gogglesprogs, and the show has even won a few awards such as a BAFTA and an NTA. Gogglebox has also been adapted by the Aussies into Gogglebox Australia and the show has even spawned a few books and a board game… are we sure that we’re not in hell? All this is pretty surprising since the majority of the people who appear on the show are worthy of the contempt they dish out to others; I mean there was the dull as pishwater David, Kye, and James, there’s the failed UKIP candidate Andrew Michael and his humdrum family, and let’s not forget the irritatingly bland yet horridly centre-right Tappers. The people selected to be on Gogglebox are by and large repetitious and wearisome, and similar to other Reality TV programmes (and the word programme is probably apt) we have the obligatory ditzy airhead (or heads) and of course ignorant commoners. This is most likely done so society can feel comfortable mocking the working class, northerners, or women… or all of the above. Then there’s the other contrivances; African-Caribbean Brits Sandy and Sandra can be heard saying “ya get me?” in the opening titles, the two sons in the British-Asian Siddiqui family are IT and Science nerds, and Stephen and Chris are gay hairdressers! Wow, stereotype central.
But regardless of the ethnicity, the class, or the sexual orientation of each family, thanks largely to the editing and the selection process, each and every person on Gogglebox conveniently has the same viewpoint and the show itself seems to perpetuate the idea that the public have some kind of hive mind and possess no individuality. Watch for instance every time the show mentions the Royal Family and see everybody coo over the baby Prince, ahh over the ginger Prince, and sit in awe of the crispy Queen. If Studio Lambert, the production company couldn’t find any republicans for the show what other demographics and opinions do they edit out? Gogglebox is such a fake pile of trash, it looks to me like the show is basically a form of opinion coaching or some kind of mass thought shaper… look, this is what the British people think about this show or situation, we at home should think the same! Proper-fucking-ganda.
In some sort of odd ode to ouroboros, television these days seems to be eating itself, and the so-called stars of Gogglebox have now become part of separate programmes or stranger still have been given shows of their own. Slowly and ironically these nobodies are becoming part of the medium they’re supposed to be critical of. Surely the point at which these imbeciles become “TV stars” they should cease to be part of Gogglebox since they themselves are then part of the “other world”? But no, we have to watch these numpties each week acting like they’re “normal” whilst knowing full well that they’ve appeared on Celebrity Big Brother or on adverts for EE with Kevin past-his-sell-by-date Bacon.
There also seems to be a massive classist hiring policy on Channel 4, I mean there’s Giles and Mary who are apparently friends with Boris Johnson and Mary has written several novels one of which she’s turning into a movie script. Mary Killen (to give her full name) is also a journalist who works for The Tattler and she writes The Spectator’s “Dear Mary” column, in fact the pair were asked to be part of Gogglebox because someone in the production team knew them, oh how ordinary they are. Anything to promote people within the media I guess.
Then there’s Steph and Dom, and probably because they’re the poshest and ponciest, they’ve spawned a few of their own shows including At Home With Steph And Dom (not to mention a book titled Steph And Dom’s Guide To Life). Like most of mainstream TV the richest and most over-privileged arsewipes automatically get masses of airtime regardless of the fact that they possess zero talent. I mean, Steph and Dom are so mediocre that they make Dick and Dom look like De Niro and Pacino, the two are so obviously devoid of personality (other than being toffee-nosed alkies) and it was pretty obvious that they were monotonous when they appeared on Four In A Bed (another dull Channel 4 reality show). And when the pair essentially promoted Nigel Farage on their other spin-off show Steph and Dom Meets… they came off as annoying (if not more) than the UKIP politician they met with. Their horridly showy-show was so obviously an elongated-ad for their overpriced B&B, I guess when you have money you get all the help you need to make more, regardless of whether you’re an aggravating pair of undeserving tossers.
On the other side of the classist scale, there’s the stereotypically loud-mouth Scarlett Moffatt who seems to be the biggest media factotum of them all. This serial reality TV junkie was a one time contestant on MTV‘s Beauty School Cop Outs, she then appeared on Gogglebox and because of her “popularity” she also appeared on panel shows like Virtually Famous. She then landed a job on Capital Radio, released a book called Scarlett Says and then went on to appear and eventually be crowned the winner of reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! (the term “celebrity” obviously doesn’t mean the same thing to ITV as it does to the rest of us). Because of all this “fame”, you can catch Moffatt tarting around red carpets and appearing scantily clad on various tabloids relishing in her new found (yet unworthy) “sexy celeb babe” status. This reality “star” has basically moved from behind the TV to in front of the TV (whilst still appearing on TV), then onto print media, the red carpet, and onto the radio. Another non-celebrity gaining a warped sense of fame like a Frankenstein Chantelle Houghton.
While I’m mentioning unneeded celebs, there’s also Kate Bottley, the Church Of England priest who has written for The Guardian and The Independent newspapers. She has over the years appeared on Celebrity Mastermind and Celebrity Masterchef (“celebrity” – really?). She has also popped-up on the lame panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats, on the mundane Songs Of Praise, on Chris Evan’s Breakfast Show, in an advert for Christian Aid, and she now fronts the Radio 2 show The Sunday Hour Programme.
The public really needs to get a grip, the whole point of Reality TV is that it’s populated by ordinary people, but when the contestants or participants are elevated to celebrities themselves it cheapens the whole idea of fame whist killing the reality format itself. Ever since the closing of the first series of Big Brother, we’ve have numerous mundane arseholes walking hand in hand with actual talented people, and it’s because of this automatic fame machine that the culture of celebrity has devolved into the tacky, Kardashian-style, no-talent-required world of fame we have today. Celebrity was supposed to be a by-product of an artistic meritocracy, if you showed the most talent in singing or acting for instance then you were respected, but why should we respect people who do nothing special? What is Gogglebox but a bunch of unexceptional people watching and critiquing another bunch of unexceptional people? Is this what Charles Francis Jenkins or John Logie Baird envisaged when they invented television?
So like a serpent devouring itself, broadcast television seems to be completely lost in an incestuous and cannibalistic loop as Netflix and Amazon Video take over their turf, terrestrial telly in thinking its creating new and enjoyable shows is in fact gobbling its own tail in an attempt at a rebirth. I’m surprised that some prat working for Channel 4 hasn’t proposed some E4, red button, or online counterpart to Gogglebox whereby another set of families watch and comment on each episode of Gogglebox in some kind of never ending-cycle of shite. Hell, that actually sounds like something they’d consider, let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.