Thursday, 8 October 2009

You have been responded to

Aha - cleverly, rather than responding to Bambi's post with a comment, I'll make a post out of it, and thus fill my quota for the day.

As has been mentioned, I'm a real fan of Charlie Brooker - I feel he is unabashedly honest and straightforward in his views and appearance, and as well as having the quick-wittedness and sense of humour to back up his comedic leanings, he never believes his own hype, and is marked through and through with sarcastic cynicism combined with good old fashioned British pessimistic self-abasement.

So, You Have Been Watching. A panel show with a difference. Or... not, really. Just a panel show. A panel show which seems confused about whether it is a platform for Brooker's acerbic analysis, or a more general exercise in poking fun at TV. Brooker gets so much screen time that his guests often seem insignificant onlookers - occasionally with a point to make, but regularly one not as funny or relevant as the ones that Brooker makes.

I take issue with the idea that Bambi put forward that the show "uses the panel show format fairly loosely and rips it apart at the same time." I saw no evidence of the "ripping apart" of the panel show format in the programme (though admittedly I didn't see all of the episodes, so maybe it turned up later on), simply a panel show that was... just being a panel show. Maybe all of the very clever elements of the show that undermine the done-to-death strategy of assigning arbitrary points to professional-panel-show-guests passed me by, but I really didn't see anything of the sort. I would love to see Brooker given free reign to produce a really subversive panel show, and I believe that he would produce something groundbreaking and ingenious, but this is certainly not it.

Bambi also says "If nothing else, it's used so that Brooker doesn't have to explain why he and three other people are sitting there talking about TV programmes each week". I don't really understand why Charlie should have to explain this. I want to do a post about panel shows in the future, so I won't labour it too much, but what is the point? Why should we have this structure imposed on the Screenwipe idea, when all it does is dilute the things that can be done, and add in people who aren't as funny as the presenter, and overlay a totally unecessary studio audience? There's just no way that this is better than Screenwipe. We get less analysis, lower production values, fewer insights and less invention, all for the gain of a few cheap jokes from people who are seen so regularly behind desks with point scores on them that they might not actually possess legs.

A programme in which Charlie presents his analysis of television would be hilarious, and indeed is, in the form of Screenwipe and Newswipe. A programme in which Charlie discusses TV with other funny people in some sort of inventive format that allows for free debate and banter would be excellent too. A programme in which these concepts are forced into the straightjacket of the marketable-panel-show feels odd and awkward, with some guests seeming not entirely sure they want to be there.

I've repeated myself a bit there, so I shall try and summerise: Brooker is intelligent and insightful enough, especially in the realm of television, to make really groundbreaking programming, and this felt safe, flat and very very easy for him. It felt like the kind of programme that he would ridicule, if not for the content, which genuinely approached the heights of his previous work at times, then for the needlessly bland structure and the lack of any sort of invention in the process.

I certainly wouldn't describe it as unwatchable, just very disappointing.

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