Review: Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe

Screen Wipe Series 2

In the UK: BBC Four, Thursdays, 10.30pm (repeated later and on Fridays)

Ah, Charlie Brooker. Anyone with any sense and love of TV reads his Guardian ‘Screen Burn’ column every Saturday. It’s usually the funniest thing you’ll read that week.

However, his Screen Wipe review show, which pretty much translates ‘Screen Burn’ into pictures, hasn’t been so compelling. The first season, now entertainingly described as “three pilot episodes”, was all over the place, as I pointed out in my Off The Telly review at the time.

Watching this season, I have the oddest feeling he’s read it because he’s fixed most of the problems.

My chief complaints were that it was a somewhat scattergun show that never really focused on anything; that it had whole segments that were supposedly designed to be informative, but weren’t really; and that there were strands that just didn’t work.

He’s fixed the show. It’s different now.

It still has the occasional talking head who can’t string a proper argument together. But the educational slots have gone, replaced with far more entertaining polemics. His “you must watch this” strand now provides evidence for why you should watch the show in question, rather than simply asking you to take his word for it. And the segments that remain have all been extended, giving him time to develop an argument.

The reason I’m suspicious he’s read my review is because he spent about five minutes extolling the virtues of Deadwood. That was one of the shows he praised last season but without supporting evidence, something I mentioned at the time. On Thursday, his return to Deadwood was very eloquent and persuasive. Even though I never warmed to it, I almost feel like giving “the swearing western” a second chance as a result.

I’m probably imagining the connection, but I can help feeling a little paranoid.

I’ve noticed that his fellow Brass Eye alumnus, the extremely talented David Quantick, has joined the show as a writer. Screen Wipe is certainly a better show than it was last series. Whether that’s because Quantick has managed to channel Brooker’s virtriol with positive results, Quantick’s writing has added additional depth, my review has given them a few pointers (unlikely, although it is linked to from the BBC Four web site, so you never know), there’s been a longer development time for this series compared to the slightly rushed first series or Brooker’s simply getting more experienced at hosting his own show, I couldn’t say.

It’ still a bit puerile, it could do with picking a few less obvious targets, but it’s now on the list of my unmissable week’s shows. Hooray!

  • Not sure whether it’s okay to admit this, but I am a long-term fan of le Quantick whose dour humour has provided me with much entertainment over the the years…

  • I love Quantick, not just for his writing. He and Paul Morley are usually the only things that brighten up all those Channel 4 list shows.
    I always remember his comments on The Twilight Zone (which I will now paraphrase): “Rod Serling would always come on and trot out some completely preposterous premise for the episode. ‘What if one day you woke up and shoes weren’t your friends any more?'”
    It still entertains me, but it’s the kind of thought that gives me wife nightmares: “Shoes not my friends?!”

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  • Stephen Chin

    I find his photo at the head of his articles in the Guardian OFF-putting. I wrote to the Guardian -to complain – requesting he changed it to one with a more more pleasant expression.
    I was informed he is ‘one of the Guardian’s best writers’ and my message has been passed on to him. Now many weeks later, the SAME pic is STILL there.
    I do NOT read the Guardian any more.