Reviews: Screenwipe

Picking apart television, brick by brick

I first got into Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe from a friend on Facebook via this clip, where Charlie details how easy it is to make television - "as easy as... falling off a log!" After seeing it, my eyes were open. As a standard couch-dwelling consumer, I never thought making television contained that many parts. Suffice it to say, I was hooked.

Our host Charlie Brooker, who got into television via a review column in The Guardian, is on camera or in voice-over most of the time, and he is always interesting and/or funny. His charm partly comes from being able to switch between sophisticated Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and a refreshingly anarchic sense of humour (with subjects such as masturbation, Self Deprecation and sarcastic social commentary).

However, Charlie is not afraid to say that he likes something. Much of the programme is taken up by reviews of various television programmes and genres (filmed in Charlie's living room in front of his television screen), and while he gladly takes the piss out of Big Brother, Deal Or No Deal and similar, he heaps praise upon Deadwood, The Wire and The Shield.

Other than reviewing, Charlie talks about various parts of making television (the massive costs, the fakery used in advertising, how television tricks us by using music, Manipulative Editing or uninformed voice-overs). The focus is deconstruction, to take something apart to show you how it works. In Charlie Brooker's hands, it works very well indeed.

The crowning example of this is when Charlie talks about aspirational television, and among the shiny clips of beautiful people living successful lives, we see bleak shots of Charlie sitting in a slum with a dishevelled appearance and a bum by his side, talking about how our regular lives do not compare with aspirational television, no matter how we fool ourselves. It is very chilling and it succeeds in sending the message that watching beautiful people on television is ultimately escapistic in nature, to make us forget our own normal, boring lives.

Charlie Brooker has created something unique in Screenwipe, something that manages to be truly informative, wildly humourous, and biting-the-hand satirical at the same time. Go check it out, it well deserves a watch.