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TV: Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe

April 6, 2009

I sometimes see Charlie Brooker walking up and down Wood Lane. I don’t stalk him, you understand. I just observe him from afar and when I do so I make a mental note, there goes an absolute god and he’s a year older than I am. 

It is because the man has the ability to pinpoint exactly what it is we all think about any particular given subject which gives the man his seemingly universal appeal. Though we know he’d balk at the idea, we’d all quite like to have the opportunity to invite him round for dinner, have him sit in the corner of the living room and prod him every time we feel the need to have a heated discussion brought to an end. He has that ability Brooker, you see. His full stops are reliable. What he says goes. 

Such was the experience I had on Friday night, sitting and watching the second episode in his latest series Newswipe. Me and a friend (who, it has to be said, often displays some quite unnerving similarities with myself) were entering into a third round over the recent death of reality TV star Jade Goody. 

My friend was vehemently opposed to anyone showing any sorrow about her recent passing on account of her flagrant exploitation of the media. I, on the other hand, preferred my usual confessional style. Yes her life was a bit of a strange one and yes she was part of the industry, but when the time came I did feel sorry she’d passed away and whatever media sins she might be perceived to have committed, I was prepared to forgive her for them the moment she breathed her final breath. 

Opposing counsel was having none of it. One side of the living room got louder and louder whilst I broaden my shoulders and looked down my nose. I was sure a supersillious tone would win the day. “I’m OK with feeling a slight sadness she’s passed away,” I said, “It reminds me I’m a decent human being.”

I didn’t sense the argument was won, if indeed there was an argument to win but I figured it was over. I was wrong. 

Minutes later, the difficult to fathom opening music of Brooker’s Newswipe had started up on TV. The assembled audience sat and listen to Brooker’s assessment of user generated content and the death of Jade Goody. After what amounted to the most appropriate, fitting and sincere tribute of the reality tv star, my friend was heard to say “OK Jon. Now I get it. Yes I see what you mean.”

I suspect it was the sequence when Brooker brought his audience’s attention to the fairly severe opinions the general public were sharing on the BBC website which sealed the deal. They were, as I’d seen the day she’d died, really quite unpleasant. 

What was impressive was the effect Newswipe had, something the man himself may need to get used to. Brooker is in serious danger of carving a niche in the very industry we’re all watching him critique. Soon he’ll no longer just be a broadcaster, critic, comedian, writer and columnist. He’ll be a journalist too.  He seems to be making a pretty good stab at interpreting the world at the moment.

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