The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Watching these real-life viewers is so addictive


DOYOU remember when The Royle Family first aired, how we all thought what on earth could be interestin­g about watching a family watching television, before realising it was compulsive viewing?

We are now watching “real” families watching “real” television in Channel 4’s Gogglebox and it is no less compulsive viewing. I was late coming to it, but am now thoroughly hooked.

For anyone not familiar with this strangely addictive format, it involves cameras watching families and friends of all shapes and sizes as they all watch certain programmes whilst voicing their opinions. So far so tame. But the characters featured are more interestin­g and the comments more pithy and unintentio­nally hilarious than anything that could be scripted.

We all have our favourites I’m sure. I have to admit I’m particular­ly partial to Steph and Dominic, the permanentl­y sozzled token “poshos” who are no strangers to a controvers­ial opinion. I also love the older couple, June and Leon, who stick rigidly to their roles of cheeky rascal (him) and longsuffer­ing, eye-rolling stalwart (her).

The format works because we want to know more about the families and friends involved in the programme and we look forward to the next episode to see what further insights we might get. I have to admit to having to restrain myself from Googling any of the Gogglebox cast as I fear there will be no going back.

Part of the reason it’s so addictive is for the joy of the viewer to be able to shout “That’s you that is” at regular intervals to any of their own family watching at the same time. So regular is this occurrence at Penman Towers, one of us has been banned from saying it. Ever again. Where’s the fun in that?

One of the mysteries with Gogglebox is how quickly the viewer overcomes their own reservatio­ns about the fact that those families featured are aware they are being filmed so can’t be acting completely naturally. This vanishes as soon as you see that the participan­ts seem to have so few inhibition­s that they must surely have forgotten about the cameras.

One of the highlights in a recent episode for me was when one of the more orangeskin­ned teenagers wondered out loud during a programme about the space shuttle whether the reason the astronauts’trousers were so high-waisted was due to gravity. Priceless.

It is one of those genres which we enjoy despite our best intentions as we’re aware that there is an element of laughing at people who are voicing their unedited opinions, but with Gogglebox you don’t feel too bad as you know the participan­ts are complicit.

And it is also heartwarmi­ng to see the families coming together and interactin­g with each other. This seems to go against everything we’re led to believe about modern life, with families never sitting down for meals together and in many cases only communicat­ing through electronic devices.

I like to think Gogglebox gives a truer picture, with the outspoken views and gentle teasing reflecting “real” lived up and down the country.

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