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TV: Screenwipe

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I thought I had written about the unalloyed joy provided by Charlie Brooker before on this blog, but I have been remiss in my expressions of devotion to the vicious and poetic humour and intelligence of this misanthropic television critic.

My knowledge of him started with his painfully funny pastiche of television listings at the website TV Go Home. The next regular fix was the column Screen Burn in The Guide (the entertainment supplement in The Guardian on Saturdays). It is a television review column where Brooker rips into the rubbish that litters the airwaves with precision and profane sarcasm in a wonderfully entertaining read, but he also praises quality television when he sees it (such as The Wire, Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica). There is a collection of the first few years of the column, which is one of the funniest things you will ever read. He now also writes a free-association column for the G2 section of The Guardian on Mondays – archives can be found here. His evisceration of David Cameron is one of the greatest things I have ever read.

He himself is one of the founders and directors of a television company, Zeppotron, which I think shows that he puts his money where his mouth is. He has written for television himself; he wrote for Channel 4’s The Eleven O’Clock Show, co-created and co-wrote Nathan Barley, and wrote for the sketch show Spoons.

However, the funniest thing he is doing on television now is Screenwipe, which is essentially Screen Burn on television but with added swipes at the TV industry itself and the horrors involved. It is the most enjoyable half hour of programming on air at the moment, with Brooker taking the piss out of everything, including himself. In the episode of Tuesday 2 October, he attained a moment of beautiful genius. I had turned over to BBC4 to watch the show, after watching the Stephen Fry documentary about HIV. However, the end credits for Screenwipe were playing – I was completely bemused. Where was the programme? It was 10pm, the Freeview listings showed it was supposed to be on, yet there was a woman in a coat presenting something else. I didn’t understand.

I was looking through the schedules, trying to find out when it was repeated, if we could trust them, so I wasn’t listening to the woman properly. I started to listen more carefully when she said that corners hadn’t been invented until 1839 and that the one she was standing in front of in a street in London was the first invented. It was at this moment that Brooker steps in and shoves her forcefully out of the way – it had all been a joke about the new BBC rules concerning closing credits. The BBC prohibits any ‘content’ to be aired during the show’s credits because it would get in the way of the voice-over announcing the next programme (as the credits are squeezed into a small section of the screen and a trailer for the next show takes up half of the space). This was Brooker’s hilarious response to regulations he has to follow on his very own show, and to the marketing pricks who have imposed them. Absolutely inspired.

The rest of the show was the usual mix – indulging in his puerile side in reviewing Billie Piper in The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, an overview of a career in television (from runner through to past-it producer), and his list of The Biggest Cocks and She-Cocks in Advertising (including the annoying Botoxed-woman with her pentapeptides; the winner was the most infuriating advert on television at present for a shampoo product which starts with the line, ‘Everyone knows a bloke like Mickey …’ and features the most smug twat in the universe). Funny, intelligent and, most importantly, passionate about television. It is this that sets Brooker apart; he may be sweary and sarcastic, but it is done with a genuine love for good television and the show reflects the anger when IQ-losing shite is foisted upon the general public.

God bless you, Charlie Brooker.

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