‘Gogglebox may become a victim of its own success’

As Gogglebox returns to Channel 4 this week, Michael Moran worries that the normal folk on the couch may have been made less normal by the show’s outrageous popularity.
 
  • Steph and Dom from Channel 4's Gogglebox
    Michael Moran
    Last updated: 07 March 2014, 09:22 GMT

    Gogglebox returns to our screens this Friday. Yes, Friday. Not on a Wednesday, in the slot where it once provided a hump-day highlight. Gogglebox is now up against the big hitters.

    And it is a pretty big hitter itself these days. The unexpected success of a show that on paper looked like a pretty desperate bit of programming has made stars of its participants.

    Raucous gigglers Sandra and Sandy are regularly stopped in the street by fans, and are even accosted by celebrity fans – “In our local pub Nick Grimshaw saw us through the window and ran in and said ‘Oh my God, Gogglebox!’ We couldn’t believe it. He asked us for a photo before we had a chance to ask him for one,” said Sandy.

    The USP [of Gogglebox] is ‘ordinary people talking about what’s on TV’, but when perennially tipsy couple Dom and Steph are no longer ordinary people, what are we left with?"

    It has its celebrity non-fans too, including TV property guru Kirsty Allsopp. “I hate it. It’s the worst form of vile, mean, cruel television. It’s one thing to talk about people in private, but to put it in a public space is not entertainment. It’s just people being negative about other people,” she said.

    I don’t know why Kirsty has taken against Gogglebox. It was her great rival Sarah Beeny that came in for a memorable ribbing from the Tapper family.

    The question is, what will all this attention do to the show? Its USP is ‘ordinary people talking about what’s on TV’, but when Sandy and Sandra, or perennially tipsy couple Dom and Steph are no longer ordinary people, what are we left with?

    The format transferred to America last year.  The People’s Couch (as it’s known there) drew a big enough audience for its test run last October to warrant a full series this year.  The US version feels a touch more arch, and less natural, than the original. Is that just a difference in our cultures, or can we expect to see more knowing, more theatrical antics from the returning series regulars?

    Now that some of the principals of Gogglebox have split up under the pressure of recording the show... is it still realistic to expect them to speak with the authentic voice of the average telly watcher?"

    Because Gogglebox is edited at the very last minute so as to include reactions to the most up-to-date broadcasts, there aren’t any previews available. So my guess is as good as yours. Perhaps my guess is slightly better, because I’ve been thinking about this all morning.  I’m a bit worried about Gogglebox.

    The cheeky, slightly subversive idea that mashed together elements of The Royle Family and all those YouTube videos of people reacting to unmentionable videos worked because it was so unaffected. It had the same appeal as second-screening Question Time on Twitter, or trying to watch X Factor with a disgruntled father-in-law muttering about jazz from the corner of the living room.

    Now that some of the principals of Gogglebox have split up under the pressure of recording the show and others have been profiled in the Daily Telegraph’s gardening section, is it still realistic to expect them to speak with the authentic voice of the average telly watcher?

    Perhaps the new ‘cast members’ – The Carrs from Birmingham and geek duo Joe and Josh from West London – will provide the guileless freshness of opinion the show needs.

    I’ll be watching on Friday. Hoping for the best. But with a few carefully-polished sardonic asides prepared in case it doesn’t go well. 

    The TV commenters of Googlebox are becoming increasingly slick and professional. Don't worry. You'll get none of that from Michael Moran.

    Twitter: @themichaelmoran

    This article is the opinion of Michael Moran and not necessarily that of BT.

    Michael Moran
    Last updated: 07 March 2014, 09:22 GMT

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