I have mentioned previously my adoration of Charlie Brooker in print (Screen Burn) and on TV (Screenwipe, basically Screen Burn on TV; Newswipe, a mocking and angry look at news; Gameswipe, an intro to video games but with humour), so I was very happy with You Have Been Watching, his mainstream panel show all about television on Channel 4. As the host, he was warmer than his other shows but also spontaneously funny while allowing the guests to operate.
It started shakily with the inclusion of Jamelia as one of its first guests (who knew nothing about TV and wasn’t funny), but the show went from strength to strength when the guests were people who were actually funny and knew about TV (such as David Mitchell, Frank Skinner, Frankie Boyle, Phill Jupitus, Richard Herring and Ben Miller). It was also nice to see funny women, such as Josie Long and Grace Dent (TV critic for The Guardian), on the show being funny and smart – this show wasn’t a male-dominated atmosphere all about scoring points like Mock The Week and seemed more inclusive and welcoming.
The show tended to mock that week’s TV but it also included looks into the archive (the last episode was devoted to 1990s shows about sex), and was very funny and worked well – it’s not really a panel show, just a vehicle for people to be funny about TV. It also looked at some of the more bizarre television on offer; my favourite was Deadliest Warrior, which recreated fake battles between historical combatants, such as a samurai versus a Viking. The most insane recreation was the IRA versus the Taliban – I can’t believe this actually existed as a genuine programme.
Brooker, who first hosted a TV programme (admittedly on the little-seen BBC Knowledge) in 1998, was awarded the Best Male Newcomer award for 2009 at the British Comedy Awards for You Have Been Watching. I’m sure he saw the funny side …
These notes may be about a programme that was on many months ago, but I can claim topicality based on the new series of Newswipe starting on BBC4 this Tuesday. Just goes to show you that failing to stay current doesn’t really matter.