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By Phil Thornton
For some reason Guardian TV critic and BBC TV pundit, Charlie Brooker has escaped the kind of critical mauling that he quite rightly dishes out to other programmes and ‘broadcasters’ – they love calling themselves ‘journalists and broadcasters’ these cunts don’t they? – so I think it is Swine’s duty to have a pop at these scared cows of the trendy liberal critocracy.
Brooker’s elevation to almost Eamonn Holmes style ubiquity began once the Guardian’s former TV critic, Jim Shelley took him under his wing and secured his Guardian Guide ScreenBurn column once Shelley pissed off to do ScreenBurn Lite for the Mirror. Brooker’s TvGoHome website had secured his rep as a fearless parodist of existing TV formats and was a very good site that picked its targets well and featured the magnificent ‘Cunts Corner’ where readers could nominate their own cunts, media or otherwise. I contributed a few myself, in the wake of 911 one was New York Firemen which didn’t go down well as I recall.
So, fair dos, Brooker’s angry, nasty, accurate style was usually bang on and because we’d done a few similar things ourselves for the Guttersnipe (Claudia Winkleman’s Late Nite Piss Orgy, Bez’s Beasts Of Burden, Mud’s Enlightenment Masterclass etc) some of which I sent off and to which he replied ‘you really don’t get it do you?’
What didn’t I get exactly? Charlie never really made that bit clear so forgive me if this sounds like extremely sour grapes harvested from years of resentment and a fair degree of jealousy, which is exactly what it is.
In the words of Joey, Johnny, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch ‘Hey ho, let’s go!’
Last month I watched Brooker attempt to de-mystify and deconstruct the creative writing process with the ‘cream’ of Britain’s TV writing talent; y’know megatalents of the caliber of Russell T. Davies and Paul Abbott (they should join forces and become Russ Abbott). These two in particular have assumed some kind of superstardom within the hallowed circles of London’s critocracy and some of their work has indeed been top drawer but not the things they’re widely praised for; Queer As Folk and Shameless. Both series offered cheap voyeurism in other peoples sexuality and poverty. Whether or not the writers had experienced these ahem, ‘lifestyles’ themselves wasn’t the issue; they were cheap titillation and Shameless in particular sneered at its subjects whilst claiming to ‘celebrate’ their sense of family and community values. Fuck off! If anything Shameless was nowhere brutal enough (benevolent bizzies?) just as Quuer As Folk was nowhere near GAY enough. Whatever, both programmes cemented the writers reputations and launched them into the upper echelons of the TV hierarchy, which is when they both began to take themselves and their ‘art’ very seriously indeed.
Brooker gave them both such an easy ride sat there nodding along with his ‘journalist and broadcaster’ pen pressed eagerly in his hand, as if poised to scribe these gems of wisdom for future generations…..of Dr Who script writers. Dr Who? Exactly! It’s not Chekov or Hemingway or even Alan Bennett or Dennis Potter, it’s Doctor fucking Who!
As if these two self-regarding whoppers weren’t bad enough, Brooker also spoke to Tony ‘Eastenders’ Jordan who outed himself as a posh scouse Mockney pretender even though BBC bigwigs regarded him as a ‘genuine Cockney East End whelk.’ Jordan’s another of these super-writers who gets wheeled out every once in a while to produce sub-Alan Bennett melodramatic tearjerkers. Other notable ‘comedy’ writers such as Father Ted’s Graham Linehan and the two It’s Grim Up North London stereotypes who gave the world ‘Peep Show’ also provided valuable insights into the torturous process of writing professionally. Poor tykes!
This is where these self-absorbed media twats always let themselves down, no matter how self-deprecating they are, they forget that they exist in a privileged bubble of cosy self-congratulation. People like Brooker like to crack on that they’re outside of this self-perpetuating cycle of buttering up commissioning editors and fellow hacks and ‘broadcasters,’ that he’s some kind of maverick who’s deconstructing the process for the benefit of us all. Cheers mate. I think most people know how TV works, even those who’ve never been on the inside.
Brooker has two weekly columns in the Guardian, one of which he recently devoted to defending his own Channel 4 series ‘Dead Set’ against the charges of fellow Zombie film maker and TV comedy genius, Simon Pegg that ‘zombies can’t run’ – self-indulgent? Charlie? Nah, he’s deconstructing the process for ya lad. See, Brooker wants it both ways, he’s happy to snap off the hands of the very people who pay to produce his TvGoHome spin-offs, Nathan Barley, Dead Set etc and those who pay for him to write about his own medium and his own post-modern miserable life sat around writing newspaper columns and making tv programmes.
He’s never happy Charlie, he’s a grump, a misery boots, a cynic, an existential parody of a man but that’s his shtick. That’s his ‘image’ his ‘USB.’ No matter how much he attempts to dress his modern angst up as genuine despair - and maybe it is sincere and maybe he really is as cut up and fucked off with life as he makes out - there’s no getting away from the fact that Brooker is in on the act, he’s one of ‘them’ and that’s fair enough, as long as he’s honest about it.
At his best Chuck B is a very perceptive and extremely funny writer and ahem ‘broadcaster’ - I still recall his description of Nigel Lythgoe as ‘the kind of man stood behind you in a motorway service station ordering a gammon steak.’ (not as good as Shelley’s ‘no wonder he shot himself’ line about Lennon mind) and his critical judgments are almost always spot on. It’s a pity he’s now moving away from his Screenwipe ‘persona’ to become yet another fawning idiot nodding along with a false smile to Graham Linehan’s woeful ‘IT Crowd’ anecdotes.
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