There are a lot of angry people on television. Flick between the channels on any given evening and you will see a healthy cast of actors on various programmes spouting words of malice and vitriol like there’s no tomorrow. What sets Charlie Brooker apart from every other angry person on television, and every other critic for that matter, is that he has a winning combination of intelligence and bluntness, cynicism and despondency. In short, Brooker is the complete critic and he has found his niche in presenting programmes that dissect the media, and most prominently news channels, peppering his opinions with healthy doses of scorn and disdain.
It would be unfair to say that Brooker has gone from strength to strength over the past year, for in this period he has maintained his usual high levels of wit, it’s just that the wider public have began to take notice. To be honest, Brooker has been easy to miss – he writes a weekly column for the Guardian and, curiously, his television programmes are relegated to BBC Four, and sporadically repeated in the graveyard slots on BBC Two, rather than being given a position that reflects their true worth.
The fact remains that there is nothing quite as captivating, intelligent or amusing on television than Brooker’s tirades against the lamentable state of televisual journalism. His genius isn’t in his absurd metaphors, nor within profane outbursts, it is the fact that he is on the money every time. Throughout the two series of Newswipe, Brooker has sat on his burgundy sofa and torn into the shoddy, sensationalist state of journalism, and its reports on terrorism, pandemics, freak weather, baby killers, Jade Goody and almost anything else going. And during every episode, I have sat, nodded and laughed at the right moments before feeling a great hollowness as I realise that this is most definitely not the ‘way it should be’.
In our twenty-four hour news society, we believe ourselves to be greatly informed about the issues affecting the world. If Brooker has taught us anything, it is that we have never been more disinformed. His shows expose the nature of our relationship with news; the public have this overwhelming desire for sensation, and the more we yearn for it, the more willing the TV companies are to provide it. Newswipe urges you to wake up through its revelation of the true vacuousness of this sensationalism and the redundancy of the term ‘Breaking News’ when used merely to satisfy this desire to be the first to hear about an event.
Brooker cuts through all the bullshit within the world of journalism with such ease that it makes you wonder why no-one had noticed this before, or why this state of affairs has been accepted for so long. He is a televisual Private Eye, and long may his crusade for quality journalism continue.