Do you have the bluntness of Paxman yet the vocabulary of Shakespeare? Have you perfected that dry and devastatingly sarcastic tone? Do you enjoy shouting at the TV and pointing out the glaringly obvious? Cynical Critic Wanted To Monopolise World of Televisi- oh wait, position filled.
The words ‘Charlie Brooker’ are enough to strike fear into the heart of any television executive as the ruthlessly funny critic returns for the second series of Newswipe, currently on repeat for those unlucky enough to have missed it the first time, to mock, scoff and generally laugh at the world of the British media. And we love him for it.
Sensation journalism is the target of Brooker’s scathing wit in this episode, with the media’s ever more hysterical reporting of terrorists, freak weather, epidemics, pandemics, bulimics, obesity and oh-my-days, more terrorists! All designed to whip up fear, sell papers and bring in viewers. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia when shown footage of the frenzied news coverage of the ‘Millennium Bug’ scare of 1999, I fondly remembered the day when Newsround, in a piece of hard-hitting journalism, brought this to my attention. In a more contemporary yet genuinely giggle-inducing piece of television, Brooker mocks the coverage of Britain’s recent ‘Big Freeze’, showing tired and cold-looking presenters dispatched to such exciting places as grit depots to grimly utter the words “It’s still snowing”.
With a straight face, Brooker could almost be one of the news presenters he so brilliantly deconstructs. Sitting behind a mock-up news desk, diligently tapping away into a laptop during the credits before treating us to some poses, he fits seamlessly into that half-way world between comedian and social commentator. However, I have an ever so slight problem with Newswipe. No, it’s not that poet guy with his irritatingly unfunny interjections that could be easily remedied by, well, getting rid of them. It’s not even the three clocks Brooker has behind him in the ‘I’m-watching-TV-naturally-at-home’ section, as if he lives such a jet-set lifestyle that he needs to know the time in London, Paris and Tokyo from his living room.
It’s the inescapable fact that no matter how much Brooker criticises and mocks sensation journalism, he himself is part of that world. As a journalist, he is perfectly poised to deconstruct and laugh at today’s climate of fear created by the news programmes, and the newspapers and the 24hr news channels and the internet blogs and the Youtube channels and so on and so forth. It is us, the willing saps who buy into this parasitical relationship – the more they feed us the sensation, the more we lap it up.
Perhaps this is the reason Charlie Brooker always looks so smug to me. We love him for telling us what we already know, for pointing out the obvious. We may laugh and scoff knowingly, but we are the consumer. Brooker makes us feel clever and we love him for it.
For your chance to catch Newswipe with Charlie Brooker, tune in Mondays at 11:20pm on BBC2
Originally published on The Yorker 3rd March 2010