“ BBC / Entertainment „
Screenwipe is a series in which Guardian TV columnist Brooker sets his scathing and acerbic wit on the TV of the moment. Shown on BBC Four, over the course of several series and some 'year-end' reviews it has challenged conventional television programming and also tackled the sordidity and hypocrisy that takes place behind the scenes and in the output of television. Brooker as a personality has really come to the fore in recent times, thanks mainly due to the popularity of his equally excellent but somewhat lighter in tone, late night Channel 4 show "You Have Been Watching" which has one some quite high profile television awards. The layout of Screenwipe does tend to vary from episode to episode, sometimes each show is based around a theme - however mainly they are just highly skilled rants about the dumbing-down of television, particularly those which are touted as being primetime. Most of the show is performed by Brooker in voiceover, intercut with shots of him in his own flat watching TV programmes and commenting on them. His style is dark and aggressive, yet always impassioned and articulate - he has a very definite voice which anyone who has read his "screen burn" column (editions of which you can find on the Guardian website) will know what to expect. He reserves a particular level of scathing for advertising, and the transparent, manipulative tactics that are used. The show itself is faced paced, zipping between lots of different styles. He also has a number of regular contributors, though these can change depending on which series you are watching. Most recently the show normally contains an animation which is particularly dark in tone. There is also a section by 'angry' American stand-up comedian Doug Hope and a specially commissioned poetry performance by 2009 Edinburgh Festival comedy main-prize winner - Tim Key. Undercutting all of this, and making it the well-rounded programme that it is,is that Brooker is not afraid to give out praise where praise is due. If he loves a programme then he actively raves about it - it was initially through this show that I first heard about The Wire a few years ago when it was solely being shown on FX. Something that is worth particular mention is his tribute to Oliver Postgate, creator and writer of many popular 1970's children's TV programme such as Bagpuss and The Clangers. Shortly after Postgate's death in 2008, Brooker did an impassioned tribute to him and the breadth of the legacy that his work has left. If you can find it on You Tube I would recommend you watch it as it is written with obvious passion and admiration without being cloying, sentimental- a lot of TV producers could learn from this! Increasingly in later series he has focussed some of his vitriol towards the manipulative tactics of the news, over here and in the US - particularly with the increased use of rolling news channels. This in turn has lead to Brooker being given his own show along the same lines called Newswipe, which I also highly recommend. He also did a one-off show about the state and history of one of his other passions - computer games entitled 'Gameswipe'. In my view this is a very important programme, it cuts through all the faff and fakeness which is presented to us on a daily basis and shows jsut how potentially damaging it is. However it comes from the point of view of someone who has real passion for television and only criticises it because he knows that for the most part it could be so much better and beneficial to society. Through all of this it is highly intelligent, not to mention funny - there are few peole on TV who have such a wise but acid tongue as Brooker does and you cannot help but wonder what TV would be like if Brooker was a commissioning editor. Many episodes are available on YouTube and I would strongly recommend that you watch them!
Charlie Brooker is one of my favourite TV presenters, having carved out a rather good niche for himself as a TV, video game and news commentator, as well as working for the Guardian newspaper. It all began with his show "Screenwipe", which debuted a few years ago, and although not watched by lots, apparently does well enough for Brooker to keep getting offers for new shows, such as Newswipe. The show consists of him satirising what has recently been airing on TV, with his bitter, cynical, aggressively sarcastic tone. As a result it's not going to be all tastes, and does lampoon a lot of "popular" programming, but he also does occasionally recommend TV shows, and gained fame for his championing of HBO shows The Wire and Deadwood in particular, but he will normally accompany it with a funny critique of the show. What I find most telling and most funny is how mockery of the homogenised talent programmes that our screens are filled with these days. They are easy targets, but he has a very unique and offbeat sense of humour that permeates throughout his critiques, and has me in a fit of laughter for the large part. He also also done a few special, such as one where he went to America, one where he focused on advertising, and just this week he did a Year in Review special. He's more intelligent and less condescending than most presenters, for he knows what his audience wants sets his comic and intellectual standard quite high; he also manages to eduate the viewer with some interesting insights into the TV, replete with a wealth of postmodern wit and a refreshing attitude given the self-congratulatory nature of TV.
Charlie Brooker has to be one of my all time favourite people. His sense of humour is brilliant, and so is this show, Charlie Brookers Screenwipe. Screenwipe was first broadcast in 1996 and has had 5 series so far, not including his "spin off" Newswipe. Each programme is half an hour long and is broadcast on BBC Four, which in my opinion is a poor channel for this brillant show to be on, it should at least have a spot on BBC 3 but would also work well on BBC 2. Screenwipe is a program all about television ranging from reviews of programs, the cost of tv, different genres of programs, what goes into making tv, cost and laws regarding adverts etc. It is presented in a humourous, sarcastic and sometimes dark style, mostly from Charlie in his living room watching the tv with a sky remote in his hand. The show also has contributions from other people, such as animations, poetry from Tim Key etc. Overall, this is a brillant program and very funny which is robbed of a better audience by haveing to be broadcast on BBC Four, I say everyone should watch and enjoy this show and give Charlie Brooker a slot on BBC 2!
And so I decide to make another 'comeback' in review writing terms...this time to write about a couple of brilliant TV shows that I recommend 100%...so there's the impartiality out of the way - Ladies & Gentlemen, let me introduce to you, "Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe". First aired in 2006 and produced by Zeppotron, a subsidy of Endemol, it's a TV programme broadcast on BBC Four, and then often repeated later in the week on BBC Two by Charlie Brooker, based in a similar vein to his column every week in The Guardian newspaper. It's tone is often cynical, it's viewpoints often the pure thoughts of Brooker, but on the surface and deep down it is a fantastically accurate description of a programme that talks about other programmes and the TV industry. It's often a half an hour episode that come in about 6 a series. Not shown around the year, but regularly around Xmas...often to coincide with a 'Review of the Year', mentioning a whole host of TV events - some just being scratched on the surface and some being delved into so deep you become engrossed in what Brooker is describing. Often elements such as Reality TV and late-night quiz shows are focused on; unsurprising really as it is the sitting-duck for criticism in media circles. Often it focuses on news-based television, something I find fascinating with my degree from university, and it is there where I first discovered this show thanks to a channel-hoping lecturer. Brooker must have also felt the current affairs genre of TV should be looked at further, so in 2009 he produced "Charlie Brooker's Newswipe"...but that'll spoil one of my next reviews so lets just say that's another story... The likelihood is that the show has a limited budget, so for the majority of the time, much of the programme is filmed in what appears to be Brooker's living room, as he sits in front of his TV discussing what he's watching. This is interspersed with clips of the shows - often ones that can be shocking, humerous, innuendo-based, make the individual/programme appear idiotic, or all of the above. There are elements, somewhat surprisingly, that Brooker appears to thoroughly enjoy when it comes to today's television schedules. American dramas, such as "The Wire" and "Deadwood" are mentioned as being favourites of his, and a pleasant liking for childrens TV...or at least the majority of it. One could compare it to "Harry Hill's TV Burp" in the loosest of terms if I were to fix the programme into a genre. It is simply a show looking at other shows, often with a slightly sarcastic and humerous spin. Yet it analyses things in greater details than Hill's successful effort. It has a slightly academic approach in assuming people's knowledge of TV and the industry. Although Brooker can be over-the-top and biased in his viewpoints, most of what he says is valid when looking at the bigger picture. Comparing what he's watching to real-life situations, in a twisted, pessimistic way is what he excels at - for example, describing Alexandra Burke's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as "a song destined to be played at thick people's funerals." Genius. All of the episodes can be found on YouTube, something I thought was odd considering the BBC's stance on the website...but perhaps it is Brooker himself uploading them. Anyhow, I thoroughly recommend anyone to give them a viewing. Some would say Brooker is the Grinch in TV critic clothing. His harsh, yet intuitive tongue can offend some. Others, myself included, would call him an exceptional talker and with an imagination to match.
Before I start, anyone expecting an impartial review of this almost popular TV show should consider themselves forewarned that Charlie Brooker is fairly close to being my ultimate hero. Well, just behind Stephen Fry at any rate. Yeah, I may be setting my sights low, but he does what I would love to do. He gets paid to do something he loves - watching TV - and rant about it. Ranting just happens to be a favourite pursuit of mine, but as yet no-one has paid me for it, instead moving a few seats away on the bus when I reach the ten-minute mark. So when I heard that he would be hosting his own show on BBC Four I just about soiled myself with delight. By which I mean I nearly knocked over the bowl of cereal I was eating. Of course. I have been a Brooker fanboy since 2001. In fact, it goes back earlier than that, to when a friend introduced me to Charlie's TVGoHome website - a spoof TV listings page so acutely observed and darkly humorous that I was hooked from the first read. I didn't put the website and the man reviewing TV shows in the Guardian Guide together for a while. But then, I am somewhat slow. If you truly, honestly believe that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, you will not enjoy Screenwipe. But if you truly, honestly believe that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, you clearly haven't seen Bo' Selecta, so it's debatable whether a programme "all about television" (as Brooker reminds us at the start of each show) would be for you. I digress! Charlie is a very sarcastic man, so much so that I'm not sure I ever want to meet him, because he could reasonably have a field day with my many and varied inadequacies. This sarcasm is used to quite lacerating effect on mostly deserving targets. You won't see Charlie focussing much on Big Brother, for example, because everything that can be said about the show has been said a thousand times over. In fact, as often as not, the focus of the show will shift to TV advertisements, a topic on which Brooker is jaw-droppingly funny. A particularly savage set of remarks about a Head and Shoulders ad featuring a central character named "Mickey" had me simultaneously punching the air and laughing myself silly. I'd noticed the awfulness of the ad weeks previously, but had been limited to shouting profanity at the screen. Some kind soul has taken captures of all the shows and posted them on YouTube, an act on which the BBC normally cracks down on with furious vengeance. If I were Charlie I'd feel somewhat put out by the corporation failing to defend my honour, but reportedly he's actually more than happy with the situation. Then again, the chances of anyone wanting to put anything I say on YouTube are limited, so I guess it's a moot point. The show doesn't just talk about the content of TV programmes or ads, though. It features regular investigative features explaining how things happen behind the scenes on a show, matters of funding, production and the little tricks that are used to convince us that what we're watching is real. These segments are interesting and informative, and never patronising like they would be if Noel Edmonds did them. It's all shot on a tiny budget - much of the show features Brooker sitting on his living room sofa speaking into a steadicam about clips that have just been shown. This makes the show not unlike being ranted to in an otherwise quiet pub by an overall friendly acquaintance who has found a way to be comfortable with his rage. These are my favourite segments of the show, as Brooker has an uncommon gift for one-liners and reactive humour. You may find that this show isn't your cup of tea, that Brooker is a touch too cold and misanthropic, or that the format jars with you. Or you may, like me, find it the most enjoyable 40 minutes of the schedule.
Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe is something of a guilty pleasure for me. Whilst I find Brooker himself to be a sharp, witty, brilliant comic writer and exceptional critic, he often - and oh so very cynically - engages in the kind of hyperbolic, short-sighted, narrow-minded, vaguely chauvinistic blather so beloved of his audience, and the lot shot through with a wholly nauseating nostalgia for an age that never existed. During these intermittent reactionary spiels, Brooker wants us to believe that everyone is sat rapt before the Big Brother live feed 24 hours a day, wants us to believe that The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent are in any way a New Development, like Stars In Their Eyes or Opportunity Knocks never existed, wants us to believe that contemporary culture amounts to a squall of incomprehensible noise and image where once, in some fanciful telly past, every half-hour block of programming pulsated with charm and wonder. I say he wants US to believe, but I don't think for a second HE believes it. He knows that his success depends upon the Outlaw Renegade Outsider image he has so brilliantly fashioned, and every opportunity to milk that he takes. No-one would blame him, but it's all still fairly depressing to be honest. When he throws that aside, though (and that's not to say that those moments are anything less than sublime in so far as the writing and the word-play is concerned), what we get are a series of insightful, incisive and hilarious critiques - his take on the Celebrity Big Brother race row, or the rolling news coverage of the Madeline McCann case, for example, are absolutely flawless pieces shorn of the hysteria and the tiresome student-nattering he indulges in elsewhere. Screenwipe is then something I enjoy immensely, but which has me chewing my knuckles with frustration as often as it has me clutching my sides. The more you buy into the Everything Is Sh*t hyperbole, the more you'll get from it, I'd imagine. But the truth is, Everything Is Not Sh*t, and even the things Brooker sees as particularly deserving of his studiously-feigned-wrath are Not Sh*t.
Guardian journalist and writer of Nathan Barley, Charlie Brooker has his own half hour review of the weekly tv on BBC3. Unlike Harry Hill's TV Burp, this definitely is not fun for all the family, with coarse language, incredibly offensive comments and very, very well thought out synopsis on programmes. This is very much an extension of Brooker's weekly tv column in Saturdays Guardian magazine and allows him to spout lyrical on anything he sees fit. Much of the time this can involve taking aim at the vacuous airtime filled by reality tv nonsense or actually talking up a programme if it is very, very good. The format of the programme is quite cheap and lo-fi with Brooker generally sat on a soft talking to one camera and then voicing over tv highlights/lowlights with his own profane views. I really enjoy the programme, some of it is average, sometimes it can miss the mark, but when Charlie Brooker hits the mark it is incredibly funny and accurate and can really make me laugh out loud. This programme isn't for everyone and if your offended easily please avoid.
The programme contains reviews of current shows, as well as stories and commentary on how television is produced.