08 January 2015

Charlie Brooker's 2014 Wipe

Several years ago I attended a BBC TV recording session for Charlie Brooker's 'You Have Been Watching' and found myself in the front row of the audience having to avert my eyes to avoid viewing the trailer for video nasty Human Centipede. (Don't Google it). Brooker is a rare treat in a TV commentator, in that he knows the medium intimately, but unlike most other apparatchiks who buy into the notion that it's all a marvellous realm of tinsel and dreams, he is fully aware that most of what is produced is unbearable crap perpetrated by flagrantly mendacious narcissists. Even when he married the sparklingly Konnie Huq, Brooker failed to lose his mordant, grotesque fascination with picking the scabs off our declining civilisation and holding up the suppurating sores for the camera and the delectation of his relentlessly bleak worldview. (I'm selling this really well!)

His annual gazetteer Wipe programme - the title being derived from his weekly Newswipe half-hour programme - summarise the entire year's media news with a now-traditional lack of reverence for decorum and good taste, but with a healthy contempt for the self-important, puffed-up world of news and current affairs. Plus endlessly entertaining clips of stupid people trying to make instant snow by flinging boiling water into the wintery air and ending up burning themselves and going 'ow-ow-ow-ow!' He also really really doesn't like Pharrell's stupid hat and annoying song. Which I'm delighted to say I'd never heard before watching this programme.

Aside from Brooker's hilariously scabrous commentary, the Wipe also benefits from judiciously selected guest contributors. This year's highlights included a short film by Adam Curtis discussing the modern political management technique of engineering constant chaos and confusion in society as a strategy to derail political opposition to established regimes. The technique has been most successfully applied in Russia, but Curtis makes the case that it has also been successful in Britain - although this is a satirical programme, so you should never take anything strictly at face value.

There's also the recurrent commentary throughout the Wipe from Brooker's regular contributors, 'Philomena Cunk' and 'Barry Shitpeas', whose modus operandi is a level of profound stupidity that is almost operatic in scope. Witness the monologue by Cunk (actor and comedian Diane Morgan) on the ubiquity in 2014 (in Britain, at least) of Messianic comedian and bearded social revolutionary, Russell Brand:

Then he brought out a book called Revolution about how unfair everything is, and so you'd know he meant it, he pulled a serious face on the front. It was about how catapultism is naughty, and how we could build a better world if we were nice to each other instead of spending all our time thinking about coins. He'd talk about how the status quo keeps the working classes enslaved, which I found sort of boring compared to the stuff he used to do about putting his dinkle into granddaughters. What he's saying might actually be stupid, but it's hard to tell because he says it with clever words. [Clip of Brand on Newsnight: 'We don't want pedagogic figures coming in and didactically shouting at us!'] So the only people who can actually tell if he's stupid are clever themselves, and they think everyone's stupid compared to them anyway. Basically, the only way to find out if he's clever or stupid will be to do everything he says, and see if society totally collapses and hundreds of thousands of people die.
For more of this arrant nonsense, see the 2014 Wipe below, as broadcast by the BBC on 30 December. (They seem to make an exception to their no-uploads policy for the Wipe, for some reason).

See also:
Comedy: Charlie Brooker & the Blockheads - Reasons to be Fearful '14
Comedy: The death spiral of news, 17 March 2014
Comedy: "I'm actually an atheist", 7 January 2014
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