Monday 18 December 2017

Upfront: Spotlight on - BAFTA winning gogglebox

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Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

As a concept it shouldn't work. It really shouldn't work. But the Channel 4 show has proved to be an unlikely hit, and its BAFTA win has showed it has firmly taken its place as compulsive prime time viewing.

On paper the concept is ludicrous – you are watching TV, to watch people watch TV.

And, well, that's pretty much it.

Each week, we move between around a half dozen families as they watch the same five or six shows. The concept sounds dull you say, incredibly so in fact. But the genius of this show isn't in its concept, it's in how it is executed. The real key to the show's success is the seemingly average people who have proven so engaging to spend an evening with.

It works because of the average people – in a genre which has become saturated with freaks and lunatics with ever-more-elaborate sob stories, these Joe Soaps are a breath of fresh air.

There's no nuns moonlighting as strippers, or lion tamers trying to launch a singing career. Just ordinary people reflecting a cross section of modern life – the posh couple, the gay couple, the happy family. They can be witty, cringy, and sometimes inappropriate – but that's why it works.

They prove that ordinary is not banal or boring – and for that reason it's more real than anything else the reality genre has spewed up over the last decade. The viewing experience has fallen victim to hundreds of satellite channels, on-demand viewing and online streaming services – and this is the niche the show has filled.

We get to once again share in what others thought of TV – what your one was wearing, the result of the talent competition, how boring that episode was. And sometimes in its most amusing moments they even vocalise the inappropriate thought we had. It's those off-the-cuff remarks, those hilarious passing comments which we are all capable of making that Channel 4 has turned into TV gold. The show has taken its place along with Big Brother and Come Dine With Me as the latest reality show smash for the station.

From humble beginnings, the show has grown from just over one million viewers a week to almost four times that. It didn't start with the bright lights and blazing publicity of the former, or slowly clock up the numbers through constant re-runs like Come Dine With Me –

it grew its audience through chatter on social media.

For Channel 4, it has gone from barely making a blip to their viewership to being one of the most watched show of the week, and from an obscure midweek time slot to primetime Friday night viewing. TV3, which is to produce an Irish version, now faces the challenge of casting the re-make. There's always a risk; sometimes they come off as dreadfully cheap knock-offs.

However, as the show's success is down to the people, not any expensive sets or production, they stand to make the Irish one even better.

We're a chatty, opinionated and banter-loving nation – let's turn those traits into some TV gold.

Award winning

The show has gone from one million viewers to four times that, and from a mid-week time slot to primetime Friday night viewing

Stars of Googlebox

STEPH AND DOM PARKER – 'THE POSH ONES'

The terribly upmarket pair have proved one of the show's most popular couples.

Always with a glass of booze in hand, the two are known to engage in spirited debate.

They've provided some of the show's most talked about moments – their couch famously fell over during one episode, while in another episode, while watching the toffs in Downton Abbey, Steph wondered aloud how many windows the manor has?

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday’s Irish Independent

CHRIS STEED AND STEPHEN WEBB – 'THE GAY ONES'

Not since Britney and Justin have people willed a couple to get back together so much. The pair parted ways romantically after the first series of the show, however continue to take part as friends. One of their most famous exchanges happened during an episode of Homeland, when Chris remarked: "We all like a bad boy, don't we?", to which Stephen responded: "Yeah, but not a terrorist, Chris."

SCARLETT SIGOURNEY MOFFATT – 'THE GEORDIE'

She took part in the show with her parents – and can now be seen at the opening of any Z-list envelope.

The 22-year-old also took part in MTV's trashy reality show Beauty School Cop Outs. Not known for her particularly nuanced arguments – she made her name by watching TV in her PJs, with full head of make-up and extensions.

Who should TV3 cast

The loudmouth:

The loudmouth has an opinion on everything, but the facts on nothing. Infuriating to watch, compulsory to disagree with – but every show needs a bad guy.

The silent but deadly type:

The one who stays silent for most of the episode, collecting their thoughts, only to deliver a comment so cutting that we feel their silence was only meant to punctuate that remark.

The politically incorrect one:

Normally filled by a retiree who's too old to care about what society thinks it's okay to say. Sure, we'll be appalled on the outside, but amused on the inside.

The politically correct one:

The one who's filled with so much rosy optimism and happiness that they can't say anything bad about anyone.

Sure, that episode of the Late Late was crap, but didn't Ryan have a lovely tie on?

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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