17 July 2009 | bob the moo
More funny and acerbic cynicism from Brooker with well structured points that hit home
Those familiar with Charlie Brooker from his pieces in The Guardian or from the BBC4 spin off from that, Screenwipe, will already know what the score is here from the title. Essentially in the same way as Brooker would make fun of and disassemble television in that show, here he takes on the news media. To some ears this will sound like just yet another smartarse comedian sitting in a studio making jokes out of clips that he is playing out of context, editing short to make them look worse or just getting cheap laughs. Of course to assume this would be to completely ignore anything else he has done with his other, similar shows.
What we actually get is a show that does do this at times – make fun of clips – but when it does do this it does it with invention, wonderful turns of phrase and a generally dark sense of humour that prevents it being "Newsreaders say the funniest things". Mostly though it is not just playing clips at random, because the show is actually building a point or a message while it does this – something that makes it very interesting and worth seeing. He is helped on this by some less funny sections from people like Adam Smith that are, he stresses, opinion – not fact. Opinion they may well be but they represent informed and well delivered opinion that provide food for thought.
Brooker could never present a show about kittens because the subject of cute kittens does not allow his acerbic cynicism to really be applied. At first it seemed that his brand of cynical humour would not fit with the news media as well as it had with television and popular culture in general and indeed at times it is hard for him to be as funny as one would like him to be due to the nature of news being, well, depressing stuff. However with the approach of the show he suits it really well because the topics and themes that he looks at are best approached with cynicism and, if they are not, then they will soon produce it. The hypocrisy of the media is of course laid bare but so are other aspects – many of which we know but don't hurt to be laid out again. If it bleeds it leads is one, the banality of coverage is another as are many things to do with the 24 hour news cycle (coverage of things that aren't happening, live saturation of a door, etc etc). All of them are discussed in ways that are funny and sharply observed but are still intelligent and quite insightful at the same time. Some parts of the show don't work as well as others (the poetry section is amusing but feels too long for example) but none of it really falls flat.
For those that hate Brooker this show will be another thing to miss, however I am not one of those people. For me this was another chance to enjoy his wonderful turn of phrase and acerbic cynical humour while also getting food for thought on subject of the news networks and how they operate.