I didn’t watch the initial one-off special at Christmas time. It seemed a spin-off too far. We’d only had a couple of editions of a Celebrity Gogglebox for charity and they were okay but didn’t have the natural feel of the original, which has been one of the best shows on TV series after series I’d managed to fast forward all the trailers for this that I’d seen but then a friend told me she’d seen a clip of a little girl observing that Donald Trump “had a black heart” and was ready to change my mind.
And I’m glad that I did. Two episodes in and to an extent it seems as if we have entered the Gogglebox time machine, flipped the switch and found younger versions of the adults we’ve grown to love as these junior armchair critics seem to share many of the same characteristics. That must be down to the genius of the selection process. I thought we would be watching children showing off, but we are not.
What we are watching is children entranced by television and taking in the stories in a way which their video-clip dominated world might suggest was a thing of the past and from their viewing we can glean perceptions of the way they view the world. The reason for Britain staying in the EU should be our continued participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, how buying the Queen vouchers for her birthday would be the most appropriate idea and there was something very poignant in watching children’s jaws drop and eyes spontaneously fill with tears at the sight of the Calais refugee camp.
The show itself is less topical because it has to be filmed over a longer period of time. The first programme reviewed was an episode of “The Undateables” where the children really rooted for Tom, a young man with Tourettes Syndrome causing a sever twitch. “How did he get his tattoo done if he has Tourettes?” might not occur to the adult mind but it is an extremely valid question.
Children watching adult television means that there is the potential for greater misunderstanding which makes for good TV. Meryl Streep is confused with Britney Spears and Madonna, Sarah Palin becomes a place-name read from the rostrum she’s standing at and Jacob and Connor (who could be the childhood versions of Brighton hairdressers Stephen and Chris) have a discussion when a documentary about Trump states that his father drilled a mantra into his head. Not knowing what a mantra is Jacob is horrified by such parental physical cruelty. A few minutes later he is channelling loveably grumpy old man Leon with his “Oh no!” response to teen vampire flick “Twilight”.
Some things never change. Enthusiastic responses to films such as “Harry Potter”, “Star Wars” and the enduring appeal of the music of Abba for successive generations through “Mamma Mia”. Cue Ashton from Wales – “I’ve no idea who wrote that music but whoever you are I will take my dog off for you” (removing a toy dog off his head). There was the childhood joy of watching a giraffe being born perhaps on a par with discovering “panties” and “penis” amongst the letters in an episode of “Countdown”.
Gogglebox itself was a interesting concept which has become a brilliant programme because of the way in which it has been thought out and because of the choice of individuals involved. It looks like the junior spin-off will succeed for the same reasons. If you like the adult version and haven’t yet plucked up the courage to watch this – seek it out.
– and by the time the series ends and we’ve got to know the children this will probably move to five stars.
Gogglesprogs is shown on Channel 4 on Friday at 8.00. There have been two episodes so far, at least one of which will be available on the All-4 catch-up services