On the face of it, it's a totally daft idea. "I know, we'll stick cameras in people's living rooms and film them watching telly!" It's ridiculous. It shouldn't work. And yet...
Well, here I am, writing a blog about it. Not to mock Channel 4's Gogglebox, but to sing its praises. Because I am unashamedly in love with the show.
For all the accusations of being "set up," the show has managed to retain the number one reason so many people love it as much as I do: it feels real.
In almost every house, up and down this funny little island we call home, there is a TV (sometimes more than one), or a device on which we can catch up on shows online. And whilst we all lead busy, different lives, there are certain things that bring us all together as one. TV is one of those things. We might have wildly differing political views, or completely contrasting cultural backgrounds, but TV - no matter what slightly snobbish people might like to say - can be something that grounds each and every one of us and makes us the same. Regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, faith or race, most of us have a favourite TV show, or, at the opposite end of the scale, a show we love to hate. Television has the power to unify us and remind us that no matter how different we appear, we're often more alike than we think. Millions of us watch programmes and then natter about it to our workmates, friends and relatives - it's just a part of everyday life.
That unity is one of the chief reasons I love Gogglebox. As sentimental as it sounds, it makes my heart swell when I see so many people, from different walks of life, all watching something and often having the same reaction. We all cry at the sad things and we all laugh at the funny stuff. And of course, when the families and friends that take part in the show do have differing views on the programmes they're watching, it's just as truthful - what family doesn't disagree now and then, after all?!
It can be strangely lovely to watch a family I've grown rather fond of express an opinion wildly different to my own, too. It proves to me that different views on certain things don't mean that we can't all get along, just the same. I don't think any less of, say, Steph & Dom, if they detest a TV show I like, or they offer an opinion I completely disagree with. They still make me laugh (even though if I ever went for a drink with them, I would almost certainly die).
Photo: The Telegraph.
Most of the people who watch Gogglebox have a favourite family on the show. The wonderful thing about it is that there's such a fabulous cross-section of society represented - there's someone we can all identify with, somewhere in the mix. It's both touching and strangely reassuring to watch the show with your family and look around, thinking "ooh, those people take the mick out of each other just like we do" or "I like that they always have a snack in front of the telly - I won't feel so bad about this extra biscuit, now..."
For what it's worth, there are a lot of people on the show that I have a soft spot for, but if I had to pick a favourite family, then it's definitely the Siddiquis. There's something really heartwarming about the very clear affection the brothers, Baasit and Umar have for each other, as well as the love and respect they have for their dad, Sid (and vice versa). Sometimes in this busy, slightly materialistic world, it can feel as though genuinely nice people are hard to find, but the Siddiqui family prove that not only nice, but lovely - and very witty - people do still exist.
Photo: The Guardian.
And therein lies the power of the show, really. Because here I am, saying how lovely three people I've never met are, based on a few minutes per week of them watching telly as a family. When you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous and yet... Well, just as we take fictional characters to our hearts when we love a TV show, so millions of us have taken the Gogglebox families to our hearts as well. Because no matter what their views, or where they're from, they're essentially the same as we are. They're families or friends, sitting down to watch the telly with the people they love. And we can all identify with that.
More often than not, what makes Gogglebox such compulsive viewing isn't just finding out what other people thought of the shows you've watched on telly that week. It's watching people interacting with one another. It's the in-jokes, the little quips, the gestures between people who know each other inside out. People who genuinely care for each other. The Reverend Kate Bottley - one of the Gogglebox regulars - once said that the show isn't about TV. It's about people. And I couldn't agree more.
So, on this very grey and miserable Friday, I'm still chirpy, because one of my absolute favourite TV programmes is on tonight. A show in which people watch the telly and talk about it. It sounds ridiculous. Maybe it is. But it works.
Gogglebox is on Channel 4, Fridays at 9pm.