Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe
is a television program written and hosted by Charlie Brooker
, a British Caustic Critic
, about television and how it's made. The show is similar in content to the Screen Burn
columns that Brooker wrote until recently for The Guardian
. Started in 2006 and ended in 2008.
The show usually involves a couple of different segments. He reviews shows and programs, with a shot similar to the one at the top of the page of him in the living room of his house with his remote (and often various other peripherals such as a laptop, or PS2
or Guitar Hero
controllers), scathingly reviewing whatever's on screen. Secondly the show often has segments that show how difficult and painful it is to make a television program, or what a career in television is like. The show also features animations by internet animator David Firth (of Salad Fingers
fame), and various other famous (or not) people talking about various aspects of television.
Part of Screenwipe
's appeal is the Sophisticated as Hell
contrast of watching Charlie swing between being an incisive, intelligent commentator on modern culture and a poo-flinging Man Child
bellowing profanity at the screen and pretending to masturbate.
The show inspired Yahtzee
's review style
, and is generally a very entertaining and educational watch, even if you're not a fan of television. Due to the nature of the show, it makes excellent viewing for tropers.Spinoffs
, and he also made How TV Ruined Your Life
, which is a kind of Spiritual Successor
A new series in 2013 called Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe
essentially combined elements of Newswipe
(such as Doug Stanhope's monologues) and the original Screenwipe
. Tropes for that show go on this page.
This show provides examples of:
- Alternative Character Interpretation: In his analysis of the Fox News Channel, Brooker describes various hosts as characters from an '80s teen comedy — Sean Hannity as the Jerk Jock bully, Bill O'Reilly as the disapproving, uptight principal, and Glenn Beck as the Class Clown.
- Atomic F-Bomb: Emphatically rejecting the false dream of glamour TV sells us. Note that his face turns bright red.
- Author Filibuster: The show is built on them.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: Discussed during a critique of Ross Kemp's gangs. Kemp was set on fire by Russian Neo-Nazis as part of their initiation ritual:
Kemp (on television): This is, without doubt, the hardest initiation I've ever done.
Brooker: Yeah? Wait 'til you meet the Minnesota Bear-Fuckers.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: The BBC, and production company Endemol. Both pay his bills, and both get speared quite often on his show. Television in general - Stewart Lee mocks him in his sketch for essentially being part of the machine he is criticizing. Brooker himself likened it to being a particularly sarcastic bird, sitting in a crocodile's mouth.
- Black Comedy: And lots of it, such as adding slide-whistle effects to the opening titles of Animal Hospital.
- Catch Phrase:
- "Welcome to Screenwipe, a program all about television."
- And when ending a show: "That's all we have time for this evening. Now go away."
- Caustic Critic
- Child Hater: Hates kids and never misses an opportunity to show it. He even states that one of the reasons he loves Doctor Who is because "it scares kids shitless!" (He later had a baby with Konnie Huq. He described how it affected him, in his usual style, in this column for The Guardian.)
- Credits Gag
- Credits Pushback: Or more accurately, a constant battle against it. Brooker hates the BBC's policy of squashing and speaking over the credits, and one episode's unforgettable denouement featured him standing gagged and furiously saluting "our lords and masters" as the credits rolled. The poor announcer who had drawn the short straw sounded more than a little embarrassed.
- Additional attempts to flummox the continuity rules included scrolling the credits in the middle of the show, and putting an ass with eyes stuck to it in front of a microphone so you could pretend the voice over guy was literally an ass. Note that they decided not to include a continuity speaker in the reruns of this particular episode... The original showing was hilarious as the announcer said villainously "Yes Charlie, Merry Christmas to you too. But you're forgetting! We can squeeze it! And you won't feel a thing!"
- Strictly, there's no rule about when credits can be shown. So most shows put them at the end, but they're allowed maybe a minute or so stinger afterwards. Brooker took advantage of this by running them 10 seconds after the starting sequence, pretending the show had ended (making any pushback voiceover on the credits completely useless) and getting Victoria Coren, of all people, to run a fake documentary about corners before performing a Hostile Show Takeover of his own show and going into a rant against this trope. Since he'd already run the credits, there was nothing at the end and the episode just slammed straight back into the adverts.
- He mentioned this again in context of Doctor Who, demanding to know the point of getting an orchestra to record Doctor Who's Theme Tune if they're just going to talk all over it.
- Deconstruction of television.
- Description Cut: In a piece about shooting sprees in America, a psychologist is interviewed on the news and gives advice about how to avoid sensationalising such events, intercut with news channels doing exactly what he warned against.
- Fan Disservice: He spends an entire episode shirtless. It's not likely to be a titillating sight.
- At the ending of one episode in which he commented on the double standard regarding male and female nudity, he said that over the end credits he would make up for it by having full, unsimulated sex, to climax, with a loaf of bread. He has The Grunting Orgasm, then looks down at the bread on his penis, says "Oh, I feel depressed now," and wanders off forlornly with the bread still attached.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: You may not believe it at first, especially when the man himself is uncredited, but Mr. Noseybonk was portrayed by Stuart Ashen himself. Really.
The whole town is populated by one solid character actor after another, most of whom are real "Oh, It's Him
!" faces. For instance, "Oh, it's him
from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
!" plays the kindly local doc; "Oh, it's him
from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
!" plays the newspaper guy; and "Oh, it's him
from Blade Runner
!" plays the wonderfully creepy no-good mayor, so sleazy that every word he utters sounds like a gobful of worms landing in your lap.
- Hypocritical Humour: Especially about the way TV shows are made. Also, in the 2007 retrospective the storm of scandals over faked phone-in contests and a misleading trailer about the Queen damaged people's trust in TV as a whole, illustrated by asking a member of the public:
Charlie: Do you believe anything you see on TV?
Charlie: Would you mind...just for this...saying that you don't believe anything? Is that all right?
Charlie: Do you believe anything you see on TV?
Interviewee: No, not really.
- I'll Be in My Bunk: And then some: upon viewing disturbing or violent imagery, Charlie's reaction is to utter "oh yeah" and stick a hand down his pants.
- Insult Backfire: In the "Aspirational TV" segment (see Atomic F-Bomb above)
Random Socialite: [Unflinching] No
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Charlie's Jerkass Fašade is really paper-thin. He's clearly horrified when some of the show's participants for a parody of The Apprentice mistake him for an actual mean git, and quickly tries to make amends.
- Also watch his sensitive and balanced coverage of the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
- "Perhaps surprisingly, some of the most measured coverage came from Fox News."
- As well as his heartfelt tribute to Oliver Postgate.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: As Charlie explains in the first episode, the BBC has a blanket license to use commercial music on broadcast TV - something Screenwipe uses liberally - the theme music is a commercial song, as is virtually all background and incidental music. However, this license does not extend to DVD or downloads, and the complexities of licensing all that music for that purpose (or removing it) mean that Screenwipe will never have a DVD release. As such, the only way you can now watch it is to watch uploads on YouTube or torrent it (something Brooker unofficially encourages).
- Lampshade Hanging: During the show, they claimed they interviewed "TV insiders", but to conceal their identity, they filmed them in a darkened room, and used one of the researchers in their place instead.
- Logic Bomb: In an episode that examines televisual trickery used to bend the truth, Charlie presents the "Truthbot 2000", a deliberately low-budget prop he claims can detect falsehoods and alert the viewers. Truthbot instantly points out that it is just a box with some lights and circuits inside with a voice dubbed on later. Charlie asks it how it knows this if it's just a cheap prop, the paradox causes it to overload and explode.
- Male Frontal Nudity:
- Shows up when talking about how it usually doesn't show up.
- In Weekly Wipe's 2013 wrap-up, a screen full of penises are displayed for a few seconds as parity for showing several scenes from the uncensored video of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines".
- Manipulative Editing: A segment about reality television demonstrated quite aptly that with exactly the same footage, you can create almost any narrative you want.
- Metaphorgotten: 24 "is like a bag of pistachio nuts, really. You have keep reaching for one more, before you know it, your table is covered in empty shells and your fingers stink of salt. Actually, that's where the analogy breaks down."
- Mood Whiplash: Deliberately invoked in his piece about aspirational TV; shows such as Dallas, Sex and the City or Desperate Housewives. In contrast to the glamorous world of the beautiful people on TV, he's dishevelled and grimy, sharing a litter-strewn concrete backlot with a homeless bum, all filmed in a washed-out filter and set to the bleak "Lux Aeterna".
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: A past-lives "investigation" show featured "A top A-list celebrity (or Eddie Large.)"
- Name McAdjective: The most obvious example, "Shouty McHeadwoundman", is from Newswipe. "Dermot Q Thingie", "Kate Hugamaboobs" were his names for the hosts of The X Factor. Piers Morgan was dubbed "Shitslug O'Ballbags". He also likes to use funny names or 'thingy' for people whose names he can't be bothered to remember.
- And of course his frequent interview subject Barry Shitpeas
- Odd Friendship: In his Screen Burn columns in The Guardian, he always held the opinion that humanity would be fractionally improved if everyone who had ever appeared on Big Brother was loaded into a rocket and fired into the Sun, and in one episode of Screenwipe he reviewed the seventh series of Big Brother with no softening of this view. Later on he became friends with one of the most memorable contestants of that series, glamour model Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, (occasionally referred in Screen Burn as "my improbable friend Aisleyne") and she appeared in a few episodes and Screemwipe Christmas specials.
- Our Lawyers Advised This Trope
- Postmodernism: "We're so bloody postmodern we're about to post a screenshot of me typing this very entry into the example list itself!"
- Precision F-Strike: When the Sound Effect Bleep is omitted from Charlie's f-bombs, it's done for a good reason
- Reaction Shot
- Real Song Theme Tune: Grandaddy's Am180, also known as the "28 Days Laters Shopping scene" song.
- Recycled Premise: Charlie notes the proliferation of cooking shows differentiated only by setting.
It's surely only a matter of time before we start getting Underwater Cookery or Graveyard Cookery or Cookery Near Some Pencils.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Charlie frequently responds to lines from clips he watches, which can produce this trope.
Woman in diet commercial: Who says you can't lose weight and enjoy yourself?
- Running Gag: The three monsters who attack and piss on people. They also appear on TV Go Home.
- Self-Deprecation: Very often.
Everyone knows that having your own low-budget show on BBC4, where you sit around and pick holes in the things, that is where...true...greatness...(breaks down sobbing)
- While discussing Paul Ross' Big Black Book of Horror:
Seriously, who the hell's going to tune in just to watch some unattractive, increasingly paunchy and irrelevant TV presenter just sitting around on his own in his house, just talking...and talking...and talking...(gets sad face)
- From the beginning of the very first episode: "In fact, I'm probably well on my way to being the worst TV presenter you've ever seen."
- Sex Sells: Attacked in #10 of "The Ten Biggest Cocks in Advertising": "I think mortgages should have holes you can put your nob in!"
- Sound Effect Bleep: Even though the show is shown post-watershed, Charlie gets bleeped almost every time he says "fuck".
- Note that while Charlie's speech is censored, clips from shows he's reviewing aren't.
- Lampshaded in one bit of the show where it's revealed that Charlie censors himself via a foot pedal (A Rock Band drumkit pedal) which he presses down on whenever he says the f-word, thus creating the sound effect beep.
- Brooker explained this disparity on Twitter, saying that bleeped swearing is funnier.
- Take That: Life With Zeb in Weekly Wipe makes fun of YouTube Vloggers, complete with Jump-Cuts, a quirky style, and Product Placement.
- Totally Radical: In the links for a segment on yoof TV, Charlie is dressed in a hoodie, baggy jeans and a chunky gold chain.
TV is largely run by people in their thirties who only dimly remember what it's like to be young. Consequently, when TV tries to court youth, it ends up looking as ridiculous as I do right now. Y'GET ME?
- Trivially Obvious: Vapid commentators Philomena Cunk and Barry Shitpeas are often given descriptions like "Lifeform," "Entity" or "Vertebrate".
- Vox Pops: Parodied, as above in Hypocritical Humour.
- Vulgar Humor:
- Your Mom