Posts Tagged ‘reality tv’

As one who has dallied amongst the world of Gogglebox before, the start of a new series has strengthened my resolve to watch an entire series if I can. For those who aren’t familiar with the UK reality hit, Gogglebox simply films viewers’ reactions while they watch popular TV shows in their living rooms. For example in the first episode of the new series, the following were observations made by some of the Gogglebox families:

  • Ant and Dec are on equal footing with Stephen Fry as national treasures.
  • All the families (or a least representatives within each family) were in favor of helping the Syrian refugees and were embarrassed that it took so long for PM David Cameron to act.
  • Most were not fooled by the X Factor stunt of singer Bupsi switching from a laid back version of ‘All My Loving’ to a raunchy, bluesy number in Tina Turner style and treating Simon Cowell to a lap dance in the process.
  • The Great British Bake-Off continues to be popular as well as the consumption of vol-a-vents.

While the concept may sound simple and a little bit passive, it’s the people who invite us into their homes that make the show compelling. It’s a diverse group of families and friends with a wide range of personalities and unique chemistry between them. Here are five of my favorite combos who make Gogglebox must-see telly.

Sandy and Sandra 

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media, Channel 4

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media, Channel 4

Sandy Channer and Sandra Martin hail from Brixton and are Gogglebox veterans from the very first series. Best friends for forty years, the two women are larger than life and very animated to say the least. Neither are afraid to accessorize nor speak their minds. Their joie de vivre is contagious making this duo a delight to watch particularly when they get surprised or excited about what they’re watching.


Stephen and Chris

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media and Channel 4

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media and Channel 4

Christopher Steed and Stephen Webb are hairdressers from Brighton. They too have been part of Gogglebox from the beginning. Reportedly they were a couple at the start and have since broken up, but obviously remain good mates. Their trademark viewing style is sort of snarky, but they often say the things I’m thinking so that’s nice to feel that we are partners in cynicism. They are also known to take the piss out of one another, but that’s what friends do. However,when the subject matter calls for it, they can be as serious and touched by tragedy as any other Goggleboxer.


June and Leon

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media and Channel 4

Another couple who’ve invited Gogglebox viewers into their home since day one is June and Leon Bernicoff, retired teachers from Liverpool. Viewers like this pair as much for their bickering as they do for their comments on the TV offerings of the day. They don’t seem too keen on people who are famous just for being on the telly which might be sort of ironic. But it’s the underlying affection behind Leon’s flirtatiously rude banter and June’s patient eye-rolling and diet monitor duties that endears us to this couple who’ve endured for over five decades.


The Siddiquis

credit image Studio Lambert, All3Media, Channel 4

credit image Studio Lambert, All3Media, Channel 4

Sid Siddiquis and his sons Umar and Baasit live in Derby and have charmed us with their insightful remarks and engaging family anecdotes for all five series so far. The trio (and sometimes a third son, Raza) are not as audacious as some of their Gogglebox counterparts, but this makes a for a good balance on the show. They can intelligently discuss some of the more sober topics they watch on the news or in documentaries but the low key humor between them is always natural and never mean spirited.


The Moffats

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media, Channel 4

image credit Studio Lambert, All3Media, Channel 4

Mum Betty, daughter Scarlett and dad Mark haven’t been around the Gogglebox quite as long (only since series three) but these Northerners from County Durham are perfectly amusing. Scarlett definitely takes the lead when it comes to entertaining quips and observations but her parents get in there with some good witticisms too. I think what resonates about this family for me is they remind me of of the pure pleasure I get from watching TV with my own grown children.

Do you have a favorite Gogglebox clan? And more significantly, which grouping reminds you most of your family or pals?


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Being critical of reality television in general,  I’ve spent little of my precious viewing time watching what the British have produced in that genre.  Okay, I’ll admit I couldn’t turn away from that fascinating ball of contradiction known as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, but can you really blame me?

A Irish Traveller girl’s dream come true.

…And I felt it necessary to watch one episode of The Only Way is Essex if only to learn more about cutting edge beauty trends.

For anyone not familiar with this program, it reminds me of the endless hook-ups and artificially generated drama of The Hills (my daughter used to watch it, all right).  The fake tans and male obsession to be ridiculously muscular smacks of that groundbreaking American series, The Jersey Shore.  While I couldn’t ignore the barrage of  media attention,  I can proudly say I’ve never seen a single episode of TJS.

My main complaints about such programs are the self-involved, superficial reality “stars”, their petty little theatrics and the heavy- handed editing that manufactures arguments and other uncomfortable moments.  Therefore, you might find it a contradictory fact that I quite enjoy mockumentaries, that clever form of satire which “mocks” the documentary/reality hybrid. As a rule these series are full of immature and/or incompetent adults engaged in painfully awkward situations.  But through a sense of collusion with the “film crew/documentarian”,  the viewer feels more inclined to root for the characters, no matter how flawed they might be.  And as real as it might seem, you know the characters are just that – exaggerated characterizations of dysfunctional people.

I believe what makes the British so good at this type of comedy is a tendency towards subtle, dry humor and the ability to affect a believable and authoritative tone – in many cases, it’s the accent I’m sure.


For my money, the quintessential example of this genre is The Office with David Brent as the outwardly confident but professionally inadequate and socially deficient boss.  Apparently many people who watched The Office when it first went out on television believed they were watching a real BBC documentary.  But I’ve talked about this classic plenty of times so let me introduce you to some lesser known mockumentaries.

People Like Us:  Hosted by fictional, bumbling  tv journalist Ray Mallard, this series pokes fun at the mundane lives of everyday people and how they try to  inflate the importance of  their lives to the rest of the world.


Come Fly With Me:  Simulating the style and format of British reality series Airport, David Walliams and Matt Lucas portray dozens of airport employees and customers, from pilots to baggage handlers.  In my opinion, it’s not on par with  Little Britain, but I still marvel at the actors’ ability to transform so completely that they almost disappear. My husband thought that Precious, the work shy coffee kiosk attendant was an actress who had been hired for just that role.

Matt Lucas in a very unusual role as “Matt Lucas”

Matt Lucas as Precious









Twenty Twelve – Just in time for the London Olympics, this show examines, in a humorous and sadly accurate way, how inefficient committees are. Everything that can does go wrong and the tongue in cheek narration only underscores the incompetence of public servants in dealing with such a monumental project.  Series 2 is now on YouTube which I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, but if it’s full of creative bombs like this one, I can’t wait.

What do you prefer, reality or the parody of reality?

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