Charlie Brooker, The Hell of it All (Faber & Faber, 2008)
"In his latest laugh-out-loud collection of misanthropic scribblings, hideous Q-list celebrity failure Charlie Brooker tackles everything from the misery of nightclubs to the death of Michael Jackson, making room for Sir Alan Sugar, potato crisps, global financial meltdown, conspiracy theories and Hole in the Wall along the way. The collapse of civilisation has never felt this funny (unless you're a sociopath, in which case it's been an uninterrupted laugh riot since the days of the Somme).
This book is guaranteed to brighten your life, put a spring in your step, and lie to you on its back cover."
"Mankind clearly peaked about 40 years ago. It's been downhill ever since. For all this talk of our dazzling modern age, the two biggest advances of the past decade are Wi-Fi and Nando's. That's the best we can do."
"People often say to me “Phillis, why do you love Charlie Brooker so?”, to which I can give no single answer. So given the chance I’d crawl 3 miles across broken glass just to lick the last seat Mr Brooker sat on – even if he’d had bad wind and was unwell shortly before. A fair and unbiased review won’t be taking place in this instance. But that redresses the balance considering all the heinous rot permanently seeping in to every moist nook and cranny of our lives on a day to day basis.
No need to worry about the contents of the book (it’s mostly taken from his columns in the Guardian) it’s of course all very funny and incredibly well written. The fact that Charlie Brooker hasn’t been put on some Genius-of-our-time list is a modern day tragedy. Hawking may understand the intricate nature of 11 dimensional M-Theory but when it comes to theories about the absolute flaming bloody obvious he’s misses the mark. That’s where Brooker will step in and put you right.
So twisted is everyone’s mind from the hideous nonsense they’re bombarded with on a daily basis, it’s easy to lose sight of reality and forget where normality, decency and kindness disappeared to. The Hell of it All tackles all this from the misery of nightclubs to the death of Michael Jackson, Sir Alan Sugar, potato crisps, global financial meltdown and conspiracy theories. It’s all in there and you can read it. Adopt Brooker’s opinion as your own and join in the fight to build utopia.
I will be buying two copies, one to read, the other to soil." - derrenbrown.co.uk
"HE'S top stuff – even if the mumbling, jealous critics will say the Guardian’s Charlie Brooker, for all his talent and imagination, picks on easy targets. Like dunderhead contestants on The Apprentice, judges on telly talent competitions and reporters struggling to cope with the pressure of keeping round the clock news channels rolling by plebbledashing.
Plebbledashing? That’s a word he dreamed up, meaning “to bulk up television news reports with needless vox-pop soundbites from ill-informed members of the public”.
You can find it in Brooker’s new media dictionary section of his new book, The Hell Of It All, and sits alongside “Inspector Google” (meaning: an allegedly investigative reporter who relies solely on the internet) and “broverkill” (to be almost but not quite as bored of listening to people talk about how they don’t watch Big Brother as the continued existence of the programme itself).
I wonder if he has a word for a newspaper columnist who can perform the trick of getting paid for the same work twice.
With this new hardback brick, he revives all of his Guardian work since August 2007 and his acerbic TV reviews, with only a few minor amendments.
You can understand him wanting to strike while the iron is hot. Not only do some of his comments on recent television feel time-sensitive – nobody’s going to care whether or not Ben from The Apprentice looks like “a He-Man figurine with the head of a six-year-old girl” in a few years – but also because he’s everywhere at the moment.
Like James Corden. And Adrian Chiles, who has been everywhere for two years and refuses to relent. Switch on the television or
the radio, and there Brooker is. Being funny. Everywhere. There’s probably a new media dictionary word for that as well.
Since somebody in tellyville agreed that he could cross over from the pages of the Guardian and onto television, he’s been on panel shows, his own and other people’s. He’s done more series of his excellent “Wipe” programmes, Screenwipe, Newswipe, Gameswipe, full of shouty but clever reviews and incisive rants, again often on the desperation of 24-hour news coverage.
He’s also been recording radio shows to showcase more of his disgusted take of modern life. At this rate, don’t rule him out of being on Strictly Come Dancing. I hope he never reaches that stage.
In the current Brooker overload, The Hell Of It All is a chance for recent converts and non-Guardian readers, or non-G2 readers – perhaps the people put off by the rambling interviews with Ben Fogle every week – to catch up.
As easy as his targets may be, he is undeniably witty and is often spot-on with his observational work. For instance, we’ve all been frustrated by standing behind someone prevaricating at a ticket machine when we’re in a rush.
“His hand hovered over the touch screen, afraid to choose like a man deciding whether to stroke a sleeping wolf.” Nobody does a “like a” line better than Brooker.
Yet the old adage that “less is more” does come into play.
This is effectively 380-odd pages of why living in London in your 30s is so awful, in beautifully lurid commentary. A barrage of shitty things explained in minute detail.
It’s a lot of shit to digest and consuming two years of Brooker in one sitting is a bit like trying to watch every episode of The Thick Of It in a row. As wonderful as Peter Capaldi’s character is, you’d be pig-sick of Malcolm Tucker’s mad swearhili by the end of nine hours of it.
The same goes with Brooker: Brilliant, but better in small doses.
Charlie vents his spleen on...
Phillip from The Apprentice: ‘HE looks like he throws himself roughly onto the bed each night, hungrily moving his hands all over his own body, trying to kiss himself deep in the mouth. If it were legal or even possible to do so, he’d probably marry himself, then conduct a long-term affair with himself behind himself’s back, eventually fathering nine children with himself, all of whom would walk and talk like him.’
The Spice Girls: ‘SPEAKING of embarrassments, the Spice Girls have managed to imbue their long-awaited comeback with all the glamour and class of a hurried crap in a service station toilet by whoring themselves out to Tesco.’
Gordon Brown: ‘HE can’t even pop onto YouTube and attempt a smile without everyone laughing and calling him creepy. And they’re right. The smiles were creepy: they made him look like the long-dead corpse of a gameshow host resurrected by a crazed scientist in some satirical horror movie.’ " - Richard Osley
"I am not a fan of the London Underground. Travelling on the thing can become something of a harrowing experience akin to getting a light sedative while a grinning dentist stands over you with a drill buzzing away and for the life of me; I know some sort of horror is approaching, but no matter how hard one tries, there is simply no escape.
There are a number of ways to try and distract the horror – some read the roughened toilet roll/newspaper that is the Metro, not knowing that deep down inside its moronic pulp is slowing chewing away at the brainpan, thereby turning said reader into a drooling, mummified idiot – the metamorphosis is astonishing. Others slap on their iPod to drown both precious minutes and hearing with the latest inoffensive Radio 1 pap, while twitching tube neighbours get visibly angrier and angrier and angrier, until one day they will no doubt burst into a rather large ball of flames that quickly sucks the air out their enclosed carriage (i.e. – their head), thereby making breathing rather difficult – unless of course someone is clever enough to either open a window or throw a bucket over his head; but people like that are never about, are they? Don’t be frightened if this occurs – sometimes it just happens.
Thirdly, one could do like me and read a book. It’s great; not only does reading pass the time, it also happens to make one less untelligent – the only problem is unless the book is incredibly easy to digest, I am normally a painfully slow reader. For example, I have been reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross since last June – it’s only 600 pages long and I am only now nearing its completion. Don’t get me wrong – it is a truly fascinating book and one that has made my brain expand by 0.5% and is also a thoroughly enjoyable read, but it is heavy. When you read it, you end up absorbing a lot of information and I have never been a good sponge.
However, there are plenty of examples of books that even I seem to get through incredibly quickly like The Story of Ayrton Senna by Christopher Hilton, Simon Armitage’s Gig …and ehhhhh, well that’s all that I can think of off the top of my head. Charlie Brooker’s, The Hell of it All can now be safely added to that list of easy readables.
It is easy too see why it’s so easy though, for it is just Brooker’s articles from the Guardian since 2007; each little piece is approximately 2 pagers long and easily digestible. Amongst all the commentaries about useless Apprentice contestants and useless Big Brother contestants and useless Britain’s Got Talent contestants and useless… well you get the idea – there are plenty of ditties about culture, politics, travels, games and the sheer horror that is modern life. Because that’s what modern life is – horrible. Or rubbish as Blur were once kind enough to point out.
The format of The Hell of it All means that it can be put down in January and picked up June with no issues, because the structure allows it to be – the only possible problem is if you have no idea who was in the 2007 edition of the Apprentice. Admittedly, I have not seen the show since the first series and right now, I don’t have a television at all; however thanks to my over active thought-box, when it comes to reality TV, all I have to do is picture someone I don’t like and I am sorted. It is also handy that like me, Charlie Brooker is something of a bitter twisted person; thereby making my deep dislike of the human race slightly justified and wholesome.
Best book ever? Not in a million years. Killer of tube monotony? Absolutely, and brilliant at it too!!" - Leigh O'Gorman
"A recurring conceit in Charlie Brooker’s column in the Guardian is that Brooker – a ‘prick’ and an ‘absolute shit’ who writes ‘gibberish’ (his words, but I won’t quibble) – doesn’t really belong in such an apparently respectable organ. ‘I’m amazed I get published in a newspaper’, he recently said in an interview. He takes this teenage complaint of ‘I’m really crap, but everyone thinks I’m brilliant, how fucked up is that?’ a step further in his published collection of columns, titled The Hell of it All. Next to the logo of Faber & Faber, one of the poshest and most esteemed publishing houses in Britain, there is Brooker again describing himself as a ‘hideous Q-list celebrity failure’. Hmmm. Something doesn’t quite add up, does it reader?
Brooker’s conceit is actually quite clever, very clever, probably the cleverest thing in his weekly outpourings, the vast majority of which feel like having a conversation with a 15-year-old boy suffering from adjectivitis who imagines he is the first person in history to hate the modern world and everyone who inhabits it when in fact everyone from William Blake to Joseph Goebbels to Mary Whitehouse got there yonks before him. Because in presenting himself as a gatecrasher in the world of liberal letters, a grumpy outsider who talks bollocks but keeps on getting published for some inexplicable reason, Brooker can suppress what for him is clearly an unpalatable truth: that he is feted in the Guardian and by Faber & Faber and on BBC Four because his views, far from being ‘fucking weird’, chime perfectly with the stony-faced miserabilism that passes for Being A Liberal these days. Brooker has perfected his act as obtuse, overgrown teenager to disguise what he increasingly really is: the attack dog of mainstream misanthropy.
To anyone who has ever suffered a dinner party, read a broadsheet or met someone called Hermione, Will or Ethan, there will be nothing surprising in Brooker’s worldview. The only distinction is that he espouses the worldview – let’s call it middle-class miserabilism just to wind people up – with a few more f-words, c-words and s-words attached than you would normally hear at a Nigella-inspired soirée. (Like Richard Curtis, Brooker thinks saying ‘fuck’ is automatically funny.) You want some handwringing about working-class blokes? Brooker’s yer man, asking ‘Is there a single force in the universe worse than swaggering, cocksure, stupid young men? Because I’m struggling to think of one.’ You want some trendy anti-humanism? Brooker won’t disappoint. ‘Hooray for us humans… Global warming, terrorism, bird flu, peak oil, gun crime, David Cameron.’
If it’s Chinaphobia you’re after, because as we all know those Chinese are not only killing their own people but potentially the rest of us with lead-riddled toys and pollution, Brooker will deliver. ‘It cost around £50million and was probably rehearsed at the shooty end of a machine gun’, he said of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing. ‘Dance, beloved populace! Miss three steps and we take out your kneecaps. Miss five and we go for the head.’ Or if you like to read quite sly and totally unconvincing defences of the European Union against its populist critics (er, like the millions of Irish, French and Dutch people who have continually told the EU to piss off?), then check out Brooker lamenting the ‘pointless piece[s] of eye-rolling anti-EU extrapolation’ that frequently appear in newspapers. Apparently if you think the EU is undemocratic and censorious and stuffed to its rafters with rotters, then you must be a slave to the Daily Mail Death Star.
Or if your favourite liberal prejudice is that the mass of the population is stupid, especially for daring to question the Gospel According to Science, then you’ll enjoy a Brooker column titled ‘Minds wide shut’ in which he says ‘huge swathes of the general public’ hate scientists because ‘they’re always spoiling our fun, pointing out homeopathy doesn’t work or ghosts don’t exist EVEN THOUGH they KNOW we REALLY, REALLY want to believe in them.’ (Brooker’s capitals. No, I don’t know why either.) Elsewhere Brooker says the British public is ‘gleefully lapping up neckful after neckful of steaming, cloddish bullshit in all its forms, from crackpot conspiracy theories to fairytale nutritional advice, from alternative medicine to energy yawns’. Because we’re so stupid, you see! Or REALLY fucking STUPID, as Brooker might say. Of course, and I know I don’t even have to say this, Brooker says not a jot about climate change ‘bullshit’, which has been shown recently to contain some dodgy science of its own and which also encourages in its adherents cranky rituals and a belief in stupid fairytales (complete with floods, carbon monsters and drowning puppies).
Or if you’re the kind of broadsheet reader who likes being titillated by stories of young people’s disgusting drinking habits and sexual shenanigans, then you’ll enjoy Brooker’s comments on young men in Glasgow (who drink ‘pints of phlegm’) or his attack on nightclubs (which are ‘insufferable dungeons of misery’ with smelly young people ‘preening and jigging about like desperate animals’). At least when the Sun bangs on about feral youth and drunken chavs it gives us some scandalous photographs to gawp at – in Brooker’s world we have only his sixth-form-style writing to inform us that Britain is going to hell in a horny, drunken handcart.
For all Brooker’s protestations about being an outsider who produces little more than ‘misanthropic scribblings’, not one of these views would be out of place in… how do we describe that world today? ‘Islington’ is over, ‘dinner party’ is too broad, and ‘Guardian-reading set’ is probably unfair since I’m sure lots of people read the Guardian simply to get their news. But you know what world I mean, that secluded, chattering world where they fret about loud blokes and sluttish women; where they love the EU (but they’re not really sure why) and fear China; where Scientific Truth has become a new kind of religion, especially to the extent that it reveals the stupidity of the mass of the population; and where panic about global warming and cynicism towards mainstream, democratic politics mix together to create a powerful mood of misanthropy that boils to the surface of so much daily commentary.
The real reason Brooker titillates some people, such as at Faber & Faber and in the commissioning offices of the BBC where he presents a TV-baiting TV show called Screenwipe, is not because he is daring and different, but because he says what they already think but in a more bizarre, violent and gruff manner. So he doesn’t only fret about cocksure young men, for example, like every other talking head in the land does – he also fantasises about beating them into submission, Orwellian-style, where ‘if you want a vision of the perfect future, picture a boot stamping on a gurgling blokey face – forever’. It is this frisson of violence, a bubbling-under-the-surface desire for vengeance against the ‘Dumb’ (one of Brooker’s favourite words), that excites and enthralls various editors and TV men, who also imagine doing such things but never reveal their imaginings out loud (far less actually try to carry them out - they’d get battered). Brooker’s success is not as weird as he would have us believe – it merely confirms that miserabilism and misanthropy are trendy, and that today’s liberal intelligentsia is actually not that liberal nor very intelligent.
Indeed, in many ways, Brooker is the Mary Whitehouse of our age. Like her, he is alarmed by the garish antics of young people. Like her, he is shocked by what happens in nightclubs. And like her, he has made a career from moaning about what is on the box. Whitehouse was a constant campaigner against smut on TV, while Brooker, in a modern twist on that conservative, purple-haired approach to ‘shocking content’, makes a living from writing about the dross they show on TV and presenting a TV show that ridicules it. Of course, the only difference between Whitehouse and Brooker is that he doesn’t want to censor smut. Er, actually…
Last year Brooker took his intolerant screeds to their logical conclusion when he encouraged readers of his Guardian column to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about Jan Moir’s now-notorious and apparently homophobic piece on Stephen Gateley published in the Daily Mail. Describing himself as ‘still struggling to absorb the sheer scope of [Moir’s] hateful idiocy’, Brooker provided readers with a link to the PCC’s complaints page. Thanks to his and other commentators’ efforts, more than 20,000 people complained, further puffing up the PCC as judge, jury and executioner of what is permissible in media debate and further shrinking the parameters of ‘acceptable discourse’. Where Whitehouse wanted to ban stuff that offended God, Brooker wants to block stuff that offends gays. The end result, though, is the same: whipped-up hysteria in the service of censorship.
Some will argue that there’s a difference between censoring someone (Whitehouse’s tactic) and censuring them (Brooker’s preferred method). In fact, ‘censureship’ is the new censorship. In our relativistic world of moral uncertainty, it is almost impossible to have any traditional system of censorship, of rules governing what can and cannot be said, for that would require devising a moral outlook and enforcing it. So laws and organisations that brutally blocked the broadcasting or publication of ‘offensive’ material have slowly been replaced by new groups – Ofcom, the PCC, the Advertising Standards Authority – that censure after broadcast or publication, usually in the bullshit name of ‘public opinion’. That way, the parameters of debate can still be controlled without the arduous task of having to use moral judgement to proscribe certain ideas and arguments. And you know what? That just about sums up Brooker and today’s numerous other middle-class miserabilists, too: they don’t know what they’re for, they don’t really have a morality, but boy do they know what they hate: you, me, the Daily Mail, blokes, Simon Cowell, Christians, homeopaths, motorists, holidaymakers, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz." - Brendan O’Neill
"Like most misanthropes, Charlie Brooker is a romantic at heart, but a permanently disillusioned one. This latest collection of writings from UK broadsheet The Guardian combines his TV criticism with the regular Monday column in which he finds tragedy, confusion and discomfort in matters ranging far beyond the idiot box.
Few writers can summon comparable levels of bile towards George W Bush, celebrity gossip magazines and spiders (or ‘mobile nightmare units’). It’s also instructive to read a column once spiked for being slightly too bleak for Monday morning Guardian readers to contemplate – remarkably, it manages to make credible use of the sentence ‘we can all learn from Daniel Bedingfield’.
Rage is all very well. But as time goes by, Brooker shows signs of mastering subtler emotions, too. No one could read his charming tribute to Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate and continue to doubt that Brooker’s ongoing irritation with the world comes from a conviction that it could be so much better. Crucially, Brooker is every bit as hard on himself as he is on the rest of the endlessly disappointing world he surveys. He shouldn’t be: few current columnists dissect these baffling and gloomy times with such abrasive panache." - Laura Chubb
"British TV might have become exactly like the sort of sensationalist, vapid nonsense we once used to patronise countries like Italy for producing, but if it hadn't become a vat of cheap vulgarity there would be no Charlie Brooker. Brooker made his name with TVGoHome, a spoof TV listings website which is still the funniest thing the web has produced. The Guardian came calling and the Screen Burn column was born. Brooker has a delightful, caustic wit and a gift for neologism.
The Hell of It All is the third collection of Brooker's writing for the Guardian and is as stupidly funny as the first two. It takes some talent to make reviews of TV programmes you have never seen and have no intention of watching essential reading. Whether describing William Hague as a "cheery dot-eyed cueball"or ex-Eastender Marc Bannerman as looking as though he is "on the verge of gurgling for a birthday cake like a four-year-old" Brooker is honest, to the point, funny and rude.
If Brooker is famous for his misanthropic, curmudgeonly persona and a black sense of humour that makes poetry out of scatalogical jokes, there is another side to the man. He's an enthusiast. He clearly loves television and turns all his brilliant bile on much of what is on the box because he believes it's so far away from what it could be. Anyone who thinks Brooker just satisfies the sort of reader who thinks jaded metropolitian cynicism is clever should pay attention when the man actually likes something. He's just as compelling when talking about the beauty of The Wire as when bemoaning the latest edition of Celebrity Big Brother." - Garan Holcombe
Charlie Brooker, Dawn of the Dumb: Dispatches from the Idiotic Frontline (Faber and Faber, 2007)
"Polite, pensive, mature, reserved... Charlie Brooker is none of these things and less. Picking up where his hilarious Screen Burn left off, Dawn of the Dumb collects the best of Brooker's recent TV writing, together with uproarious spleen-venting diatribes on a range of non-televisual subjects - tackling everything from David Cameron to human hair.
Rude, unhinged, outrageous, and above all funny, Dawn of the Dumb is essential reading for anyone with a brain and a spinal cord. And hands for turning the pages."
'I don't get people. What's their appeal, precisely? They waddle around with their haircuts on, cluttering the pavement like gormless, farting skittles. They're awful.'
"Charlie Brooker is a very funny man and I read through... collections of his Guardian columns in a matter of days. Brooker began writing his TV column in 2000 and together the two books cover all of them to 2007. Unlike most TV columnists, Brooker hates most TV, the way it insults viewers, aims at the lowest possible demographic, and the way it slides into needless cruelty.
In a way he reminds me of the comedian Bill Hicks, who also used savage invective to communicate a righteous anger and made it funny. Like Hicks, Brooker has a fine line in knob (and arse) gags. He’s at his best when he’s looking on at something in horror.
Not everyone will appreciate what Brooker does, but if you like this sort of thing, then what Brooker does is some of the best of that sort of thing you’re likely to find. And it does bring memories of awful TV shows flooding back." - xchmp.com
"What is the worst thing about Charlie Brooker? Is it his mealy-mouthed prose? His complacency? His blind acceptance of everything the Tory party stands for? His pollyanna-ish optimism? Or just his relentless, infuriating good humour?
Those of you who are already familiar with Brooker's work - and there must be a few of you, as he writes for this newspaper - will know that he actually exhibits the polar opposite tendencies to each of the ones I have listed above. He writes as if he is in a fight against the forces of idiocy, but backed against a wall with no sign of help arriving, and so lashes out with the most lethal verbal weapons he can find. He is a curmudgeonly misanthrope who makes the words "curmudgeonly misanthrope" look twee and grossly inappropriate. He recently wrote a column in which he wondered why people didn't recognise the futility of their lives and simply blow their own heads off. The column was spiked and he had to replace it with one about spiders; not one of his best. But the original made a point that I thought was well worth making. He would not, after all, be the first person to notice that the most pressing philosophical question was that of suicide.
And yet Brooker's work is strangely liberating. Recently, while suffering from personal circumstances so dire that I had assumed that I wouldn't ever laugh again, I found myself literally crying with laughter at one of his columns - the one in which he proposes to solve the problem of teenage hooliganism by humiliating them inventively on national TV. (Sadly written too recently for inclusion here.) And this book, even though I have read most of it before (as you may well have, too), has, for the last week or so, been my friend: a comfort and a solace in an age of mind-boggling stupidity. For it is not all flailing rage: it is often purposely flailing rage. See his piece on the ratings system for films adopted by Sky Magazine. One can only concur with his assertion that it spells the eventual end of the human race ("I give us six years, tops"). He can also be celebratory: he loves Doctor Who with just the right level of enthusiasm - and his suggestions on how to improve it should be taken seriously by the BBC.
The more delicate reader should be advised that Brooker's language tends towards the scatological. There is a great deal of shit in here. Well, only last week I was complaining about our own lack of robustness in this area compared with that of the 18th century, and here we have a verbal Gillray. And if the thought of Robbie Williams renaming himself Baron Plop-Plop and "fly[ing] across Devon in an undersized Sopwith camel with a hole in the bottom so he could stick his bum out and poo[ing] on people trying to enjoy picnics below" doesn't make you laugh, then this may not be the book for you. There is also a limit to the number of times he describes his extreme visceral reactions to stupidity and ugliness before he starts repeating himself. You can only gouge your own eyeballs out so many times.
As far as his TV criticism, well represented here, goes, I think that if you read a piece about a programme you have never seen and still enjoy it, then you are in fairly safe hands. (The now fairly hackneyed phrase about someone watching an enormous amount of appallingly bad TV "so you don't have to" very much applies here.) It also goes some way towards justifying the reprinting of the original articles - not to mention whiting out the ethical grey area in which a columnist praises and recommends the work of another columnist for the same paper. I have no problem urging Brooker on you because he will enrich your life and make you laugh - a lot. And like the best kind of misanthrope, he is only like that because, deep down, he cares. He is on your side. Well, sort of. Actually, he says he hates everyone. But I think that's just his little game. He hates the villains far more.
And hallelujah, it's even got an index. "Piss, Justin see Timberlake, Justin"; "Unforgivable subhuman cocksuckers see psychics"." - Nicholas Lezard
"Advantages: Hilarious and highly amusing.
Disadvantages: Some of the content may be out-of-date.
You've all seen Screen wipe, right? If not I suggest you begin now where you will witness one of the best columnists and writers of this decade. The person I'm referring to is of course Charlie Brooker, writer of the critically acclaimed Screen Burn and the book this review is concerning - Dawn of the Dumb.
For those of you who don't know, Charlie Brooker is well known for his sharp witted nature, his pessimism and general profaneness. These qualities make him stand out from all the other writers out there. These features may not seem like qualities in everyday life but they sure are in writing.
Brooker loves a good moan like most Brits do and I believe this helps us to connect on a personal level with his columns. As I said before his humour is risqué and slightly over the top but it's his sheer inventiveness and brilliance that make him such an amusing author.
Phrases that he comes out with are hilarious. He uses similes but not in the familiar sense like 'her hair glistened like the sun'. He somehow manages to change them into derogatory phrases which have an entertaining aspect to it in a sort of twisted way. You may even try to incorporate some of his phrases into to your own life like me but just be careful who you say them to.
Essentially, this is just a hundred or so articles bunched together to create a book. Obviously, the book makes it more convenient then storing every newspaper that Charlie Brooker has ever featured in but it also enables a person to read all of Brooker's columns without having to purchase a single Guardian newspaper. Result.
The book is split up into sections. The first is his renowned Screen Burn columns that take a well-deserved position in the Guardian newspaper every week and then there are articles on the state of affairs at that time. The downside to this is that the articles were written from 2004 onwards which means I struggle to remember what some of the articles are about as I had just become a teenager at this time, and where I was prancing around in my room listening to rebellious punk music.
Another problem is if you don't remember what the content of the article is, there is no explanation because obviously at the time you would've just bought a newspaper which covered the factual events of the news.
However, as a television nut myself, I had no problem recollecting the events of television in the past 5 years which made my journey through the book much more enjoyable. He ridicules TV programmes such as Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity, X Factor, Jeremy Kyle, Derek Accorah and many more. Frankly, he rips them to shreds.
All in all, I would recommend this book to everyone if you aren't easily offended as this book contains a wide variety of swear words which feature on numerous occasions. I suggest you watch some of his clips on YouTube just to check whether or not you enjoy his offensive sense of humour. The book is quite similar to Harry Hill's TV Burp just ten times more offensive. If you like TV Burp then buy this book, as you're in for a highly amusing read.
Summary: Top book with laugh out loud moments all the way" - Jake Ledge
"After reading TV Go Home a couple of years ago, which also has a website, I couldn't help but love the output of Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker.
Since then I've gorged myself on the wonderful Unnovations and Screen Burn, and last week prepared for another feast of righteous anger and poetic descriptions.
Beginning with an account of the flack from a column he wrote about George Bush in October 2004 which was taken rather too seriously by some across America, the book contains two and a half beautiful years of columns.
Unlike Screen Burn, which only concerns itself with the world of television, Dawn of the Dumb includes attacks on David Cameron (someone I personally loathe: well done Mr Brooker, the world applaudes you for taking on this policyless PR-dependent fool), Sandi Thom (who Brooke describes as "the musical Antichrist") and Myspace.
ittle-watched programs such as The Half Hour News Hour are torn apart alongside more well-known fare such as The Jeremy Kyle Show.
However,Brooker is not just a humorous smiter.
He also praises shows he loves, such as Paul Merton's Silent Clowns, The Daily Show and Bleak House.
Unlike most television reviewers, Brooker does not hold back on his reserves of anger and contempt.
He also lets his imagination out for a stroll across the page.
Anyway, back to my psychic prison fantasies. The problem with trying to jail all the mediums in Britain is they'd a) see it coming, and escape overseas to somewhere even more gullible, like Narnia, before you'd passed the legislation, or b) call on their ghostly friends in the spirit world to whisk them from harm's reach.
Another highly recommended product from the mind of Charlie Brooker." - Richard Brennan
Charlie Brooker, Screen Burn (Faber & Faber, 2004)
"Anyone who enjoys watching sport on television is an imbecile; a dangle-mouthed, cud-chewing, salivating ding-dong with a brain full of dim piss, blobbing out in front of a box watching a grunting thicko knock a ball round a field while their own sad carcass gently coagulates into a wobbling mass of beer and fat and thick white heart-attack gravy."
I picked that out more or less at random from the collected TV review columns of The Guardian's Charlie Brooker. Just about every other paragraph contains rants every bit as grim and wrong and sick and just plain hilarious. It is laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish. It's embarrassingly funny: it's belly-laughs-while-sitting-on-your-own-on-public-transport funny. It's the funniest thing I've read since Woody Allen's Complete Prose.
I remember Chris Morris of Brass Eye fame on a radio tribute to the late Peter Cook saying something like, "If this show is 30 minutes long, then it should just be 30 minutes of clips of Peter Cook." I feel the same about this review. If it's going to be 500 words long, then I'm already wasting too many of them here when I could just be quoting Brooker. Here he is on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here: Live (ITV2), where viewers were encouraged to share their opinions on the show via text messages, with the results broadcast on the bottom of the screen:
As a snapshot of the condition of twenty-first century Britain, the results ain't encouraging. The average texter has the IQ of a small puddle [...] Reading the endless dribble, it's hard not to picture a nation of hairless, boneless, Matrix-style pod people soaking in Petri dishes, jabbing outsized thumbs at their phone keypads, barking like seals each time their messages done go get on the telly box [...] Swear to God, it's an unforgiving glimpse into one barren existence after another.
Brooker's humour comes from his anger at the brainless stupidity of what passes for untertainment on today's TV. No one is spared his wrath: the people responsible for commissioning it and putting it out, the people appearing on it and producing it, the people watching it. But as you sneer, beware: as Brooker often points out, if you sit too close to the screen, you'll catch your own reflection staring back at you. Who's the real loser in this deal? Brooker's critique is therefore immanent; he recognises that he, both as viewer and reviewer, is as much a part of this slight on humanity as anyone else.
The truth of this took a sadder turn recently with Brooker's wrongcast, Nathan Barley, a sitcom he co-wrote with Chris Morris. Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris write a sitcom! How could it possibly go wrong? I don't know, but it did. It had its moments, but after some of the poorer episodes, to nick yet more of Brooker's images, I felt like sewing my eyelids shut with fishing wire, slicing the top of my skull off, and scooping the memories out with a spoon. A couple of good gags were stretched out into a complete Bo Selecta of a series. Not completely terrible, and better than most, but when Brooker and Morris get together, anything less than genius is a crushing disappointment.
So forget Nathan Barley. Get Screen Burn and Brass Eye. After reading and watching their work, you'll never again be able to watch TV without despairing at why the producers so plainly assume an audience of slack-jawed dimwits. Just don't sit too close to that screen or you might find the answer staring back at you." - Stuart Watkins
"I judge newspaper TV reviewers by a very high standard indeed. Why the hell shouldn't I? Let's face it, this is the dream job any human being can have. Sitting, scratching your mardy arse whilst staring out the flickers that would bombard your face anyway and getting paid for it. Jesus! They have to be very entertaining indeed to offset the sickening pang of envy I get while reading one. They rarely live up.
For a few years Jim Shelley aka Tapehead in the Guardian Guide managed to fit the bill. He was witty, acerbic, mostly accurate, and excreted his metaphysical bile duct in a pleasingly over-the-top manner. When he left in 2000 I was deeply worried (what a dangerous existence I lead!) Which safe trendoid would cast their yawnsome "wry eye" over events now? But thankfully they didn't choose the safe option, they chose Charlie Brooker. And he made Shelley look like an amalgam of Dennis Norden and Jenny Bond.
Put aside any justifiable lit-snobbery you may have in thinking that a collection of TV reviews cannot make a great book. In 99% of cases you'd be right, but not here. Brooker's is a glorious, venomous vision which blasts acidly over modern society with TV as its launch-pad.
Brooker's writing persona is self-deprecating, neurotic, unpretentious, and above all seriously pissed off at the televisual shite shovelled his way. He has a real genius for brief, cutting description which highlights its victim as expertly as it destroys them.
In the main, his scatological, violent epigrams simply speak for themselves. Rarely as gut-churningly offensive as his XXX rated old web site TV Go Home they are probably more effective and hilarious for their relative subtlety (we're talking very relative here.) Try these for size
On The Generation Game: "Jim scampers onstage, winking and twitching like a man with a fish-hook stuck in his glans, and immediately launches into a comic pantomime of such awkward, ill-conceived clunkiness, you can't help but wonder if its been scripted by a human with a lap-top or a dog with a Fisher Price Activity Centre."
On Davina McCall: "It's like her brain's been spooned out and replaced by a rotating glitter-ball."
On a "Steps" TV Special: "Ho ho ho, we all love Steps really don't we? No. They're not harmless fun; they're slapdash trash. "H" is not a lovable scamp: he's a blank eyed glove puppet with half the charisma of a discarded ping-pong bat rotating slowly in a pig trough full of rainwater. This represents untertainment at its finest and will be warmly welcome by anyone who regularly sits in front of the box with a loaded shotgun in their mouth, trying to pluck up the courage."
And, more obscurely, on finding a DVD boxed set of Planet of The Apes with Charlton Heston disconsolate before the Statue of Liberty on the cover:
"What next? A special edition of Seven in a commemorative case mocked up to resemble Gwynneth Paltrow's severed head?"
Childish? Yes. Hilarious? Well I think so. If it was all fantasy disembowelling of nob-ends in colourful language Brooker could be dismissed as a one-trick pony, even if that trick is astonishingly amusing. But there's a real vision at work here; stinging, jaded eyes surveying a Boschean hellscape of demonic coke-crazed execs ladling poisonous gruel down the mouths of uncomplaining dribble-mouthed buffoons.
And yet for all the apparent misanthropy there's a cornered and bruised altruism at work here too. Brooker recently wrote Nathan Barley with the immortal Chris Morris (the best thing on telly despite what the nay-sayers nay-say) but while the latter is the greater comedic and satirical talent (not just of Brooker, but of everyone) Brooker actually has a humanity about him seemingly absent in our latter-day Swift. For all his violent imagery, a longstanding vein in his work is a contempt for the kind of sniggering nihilists who watch genuine suffering for kicks. This can perhaps be seen best in his dissection of some feeble "comedy awards" programme door-stepping Les Dennis about his break-up with his wife.
"Perhaps I'm a wuss but I think harassing the heartbroken for funnies is disgraceful. Clearly the producer, Dan Clapton, believes that human suffering equals big guffaws, so if anyone has any first-hand accounts of him having his heart broken, send me the juicy details and I'll reprint them here so we can have a good hearty ho-ho together. After all, it's just a bit of fun, right Dan? Right?"
Of course it helps that I agree with most of what he says but even when describing his affection for David Dickinson (ugh!), Monarch of the Glen (gah!) and, worst of all Friends (arrrggghhhhhhhhh!) he's still funny. I dare say he'd have a few words to say about my soft spot for Judge John Deed too. We're all entitled to like some shite in our lives. Indeed, it's Brooker's recognition of this, the simultaneous fascination and revulsion he has for the likes of Pop Idol and Big Brother that makes it very far from some highbrow denunciation of TV as a whole. This is a guy who loves the possibilities of what television has to offer, and an enjoyment for even the more throwaway aspects of the medium. The Hulkish anger at so much of what he sees is akin to that of a neglected lover. How dare his great love try to fob him of with such crap, not well made crap but the likes of The Generation Game which "drops off the low end of the stupidity spectrum, to a point where the human brain is incapable of interpreting its signal"?
I have only two criticisms of this excellent book. One: unlike the columns from which they are taken they are each headed by one of the most memorable phrases from the piece; "A fascist chorus line", "An aging thundercat", "A pastel sketch of a lonely duckling" "Do spiders live alone?" This has the effect of spoiling the surprise within and is uncalled for, like trailers that spell out the plot of a film. Two: I've read all of them before and remember them all anyway. But unless you're a sad bastard Guardian reader who has stored all your old Guides together in a handy binder; you should still get this to have the brilliance of the writing to hand. And if you've not read him before; just buy it; you're missing out." - Ben Granger
"The book, despite being published some four years ago by Faber & Faber, still resonates with the same mocking distaste that Brooker carries – burdens? – today, but sets upon instead the nostalgic weekly listings at the turn of the century.
The book is a collection of the columns Charlie Brooker wrote for The Guardian between the years 2000 and 2004; a time when TV was revolutionising, Brooker had the delight to flex his opinionated muscles on now-household, now-debated names such as Big Brother, Shipwrecked, The Office and The Sopranos.
What’s great about Brooker’s book is that it is set five years ago; as a nostalgic look-back at the beginning of the decade, the reader will very often find themselves suddenly surprised by the whole host of shows they have forgotten about. Remember the father of late-night gambling programmes, Banzai? Remember Channel 5’s Cheaters? Remember Garden Force? Brooker helps you remember with painful accuracy.
This is a man, after all, who realises that reading about the good bits of television are never interesting; it’s the jokes, the stupidity, the ‘trying to be good’, the sheer absurdity and the glibness.
It’s also Brooker’s ridiculous comparisons and tangents he draws that make the book so much more enjoyable; admittedly it’s random:
“For God’s sake, watch Cheaters (C5), because its absolutely flabbergasting. As trashy experiences go, it’s on par with staring into a dustbin full of used contraceptives. An animated dustbin. With its own theme tune.” [4 Aug 2001]
This is a man that, after all, attempts to mix high-art Haiku with television listings:
“The National Lottery: Winning Lines (BBC1)
As bubblegum balls fall in line;
You have won f*** all!”
There aren’t many bad points; Brooker’s collection of Guardian anecdotes and attitudes are short and sweet enough that they can be picked-up and put-down either in the toilet or at the bedside.
The fact, however, that Brooker has had to fill some 350 pages with short, three-page, reviews means the reader can occasionally come across one that looks like its been written in a good five minutes before deadline. The amount of better and brilliant articles is, on the other hand, the majority.
Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn: Television with its Face Torn Off is a brilliant hark-back to the eras of television that the reader will find enlightening and nostalgic – don’t expect to pay any more than £10.00 for it." - Matthew Caines
Charlie Brooker, Unnovations (HarperCollins, 2002)
"From the makers of TV Go Home comes a comic spoof of the consumer-product catalogues that arrive like an unwanted rash from newpapers and magazines. Modelled on those catalogues that spill unwanted from your weekend newspapers, this is a celebration of triumphantly useless and inappropriate consumer choices. Illustrated throughout in the shape and style of catalogues that offer you the chance to buy machines that stamp your initials onto golf balls or allow you to warm you slippers electronically before putting them on. An array of toys, gadgets, and handy-helps, it's a modern vision of a consumer paradise gone very weird indeed."
Charlie Brooker, TV Go Home (Fourth Estate, 2003)
"TV Go Home is Britain's most infamous comedy magazine - a cult spoof of both television and TV listings magazines such as the Radio Times. Its humour attracts over 150,000 readers a month - an audience that is constantly growing. This book is that website - multiplied by eight and presented in a handy, portable paper-and-inkward edition. Based on Britain's most popular comedy website, TV Go Home is a spoof listings magazine that does for the Radio Times what The Onion did for newspapers. Savage, satirical, surreal, and frequently incredibly stupid, this book should make you laugh out loud."
"TVGoHome was a website which parodied the television listings style of the British magazine Radio Times. It was produced fortnightly from 1999 to 2001, and sporadically until 2003, by Charlie Brooker. The site now exists only in archive form. TVGoHome columns also appeared for a short time in Loaded magazine, sometimes edited from their original web version.
The website gained a cult following, partly due to its tie-up with the technology newsletter Need To Know, and its use of strong language, surreal imagery and savage satire reminiscent of the work of Chris Morris. Regular targets for abuse were the Daily Mail, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, and the TV presenters Rowland Rivron and Nicky Campbell. TVGoHome's most consistent target, however, was fictional. Nathan Barley, an ex-public-school media wannabe living off his parents' wealth, had his life chronicled in a fly-on-the-wall documentary series (in the TVGoHome universe) entitled simply 'Cunt'. The programme mocked the "new media" scene that developed around the turn of the millennium in Hoxton and Shoreditch in east London and its population of middle-class web designers, DJs and magazine producers, their obsessions with absurd fashions and gadgetry, their inevitably feeble attempts at creativity and their tireless and ludicrous efforts to embody the cutting edge of urban cool. A spinoff book of the same title was later released featuring old and new material.
Brooker has cited the increasing absurdity of reality television as one of the main reasons he stopped writing TVGoHome. The ideas for real life shows such as Touch the Truck, in which contestants must continually touch a truck for 24 hours in order to win the truck as a prize, were the kind of idea that at one point would only have existed as a satirical creation of Brooker's website. Now that they were becoming a reality, Brooker felt it was time to stop.
In 2006, Brooker began a regular column in The Guardian, featuring new TVGoHome listings.
- Cunt, a fly-on-the wall series featuring Nathan Barley, a "new media" type kept housed and up to date with the latest pointless technological gadgets through constant parental financial support. Barley is depicted as being of absolutely no value to society, with no morals and even less intelligence, and having many friends (all of whom are exactly like him). On one occasion he attempts to let his girlfriend down over a 6 month period, ultimately ending in his confident, happy girlfriend being sectioned. He is subject to almost pathological levels of hatred from the writer of the billing of the show.
- Daily Mail Island, a reality TV show where several normal people are deposited on an island and not allowed access to any media other than the strongly right-wing and conservative Daily Mail newspaper, leading to them becoming progressively more irrational as the series progresses - for example, tying teenage lovers together with sacks on their heads and beating them, or sealing a teenager caught masturbating into a coffin filled with broken glass and dog faeces and throwing it over a cliff and their language devolving into rhetorical questions and sarcastic snorts.
- Get Hen!, a bizarre interactive programme in which home viewers fire lightguns at a dancing hen inserted into various pieces of film.
- Mick Hucknall's Pink Pancakes, in which Mick Hucknall of Simply Red fame presses his testicles against various transparent surfaces, including shop windows, glass coffee tables and Chinese riot shields. Briefly succeeded by Mick Hucknall's Spud Tip Challenge, in which he quite simply balanced a baby new potato on the end of his penis.
- Ricky's Luck, a drama featuring Ricky who suffers appallingly bad luck in just about everything he does. The 'Ricky' featured is almost certainly based on/actually meant to be EastEnders character
- Ricky Butcher, noted for having constantly bad luck throughout his tenure on the soap. The title is also likely a play on Tucker's Luck a spin-off of children's series Grange Hill.
- Patrick Kielty's Streets of Fundom, where Patrick Kielty proceeds to perform various completely spurious actions while roaming the streets of Britain, such as wearing a Viking helmet, climbing onto the back of a man dressed as a cartoon Hitler and then letting off party poppers each time he passes an elderly woman." - wikipedia
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