If you watch one thing on TV this week, make it the last in the series of Gogglebox. The premise of Channel 4’s latest reality show may sound dull – filming families’ reactions as they watch television programmes – but the result is anything but. Gogglebox offers an intriguing insight into human behaviour, and also happens to be very, very funny.
In the UK, on average we watch a staggering four hours per day of television. Often, the most enjoyable part of a show is not what’s on screen, but the comments of your fellow viewers. By pushing the sofa into the spotlight, the creators of Gogglebox give us an insight into the viewing habits of a diverse cross-section of British society.
We meet Stephen and Christopher, a couple from Brighton who make astute, acerbic observations on all aspects of TV culture. And Leon in Liverpool: a retired teacher who constantly pesters his wife for a snack and finds himself bemused with modern life. Then there’s Stephanie and Dominic: middle-aged spouses from Kent with an enormous house and a frightfully well-stocked liquor cabinet. They would awfully like Jeremy Clarkson to be Prime Minister, and they reckon the Queen is ‘top totty’.
In the Michael family, mother Caroline is beside herself at Chummy’s labour on Call the Midwife. Her son, Louis, fetches her a roll of loo paper and loudly despairs of her melodramatic side. His long-suffering father just wishes they’d both be quiet so he can eat his monkey nuts in peace. Meanwhile, Antiques Roadshow inspires best friends Sandy and Sandra to take a break from their incessant munching of junk food in order to painstakingly inspect a Tutankhamun paperweight to ascertain its value.
It is incredibly easy to relate to the personalities in Gogglebox. Who hasn’t become infuriated by their family members talking over the top of a programme? Or watched a show just for the fun of criticising it? The show’s hilarity lies in its humanity: we see the participants wince at One Born, cry at Comic Relief and get mildly aroused by Paul Hollywood’s Bread. The universality of these reactions is comforting.
Gogglebox shows that television is powerful. It can captivate our attention and have us on the edge of our seats. It can make us laugh and cry within the space of half an hour. Although it can be hard to remember when you’re fighting over the remote with a sibling, watching television is a pleasure best shared, as our mutual experience sparks discussion. Far from stifling real human interaction, television encourages it. Gogglebox bears witness to that interaction, as banal or insightful as it may be. I have enjoyed it immensely, and sincerely hope it returns for more than four episodes next time.