I love Charlie Brooker. Reading his filth in PC Zone in the late ’90s is ultimately the reason I’m now a professional writer. But this isn’t a post about that – it’s about how Charlie Brooker is changing.
At first, seeing his scowling Guardian masthead photo suddenly animated and on television was hard to get used to. But as the first series of Screenwipe went on, it became part of the reason he was so much fun to watch. He was one of us – a normal person saying things we’d always thought, but had never been smart enough to articulate. He knew he wasn’t the image of the archetypal TV presenter, punctuating every other segment with a joke about how he looked like a ‘paedophile walrus’ or had a ‘face like a bag of dented bells’, endearing him to us even more.
Humility, and normality, are rare commodities on TV, as Brooker himself has often pointed out on his various ‘wipes’, and more recently on How TV Ruined Your Life. In ‘Aspiration’ we see a repeat of a section from Screenwipe – this time with a massively inflated budget – in which he talks about the disparity between the misleading gloss of television and cruel, bastard reality.
But compare the two and you realise that success in television is having a visible effect on Brooker himself. This makes his comments about ‘prettified televisual delusions’ feel less convincing; his words don’t ring as true now that he has designer stubble, nicely cut suits and a hot celebrity wife-to-be.
Brooker’s success is well-deserved, of course. He’s one of the smartest writers and broadcasters on telly. But as he becomes more involved in the medium he made his fame and fortune sneering at, he could fall into the same traps himself. The bitter, alienated misanthrope schtick doesn’t have as much resonance when you’re swaggering around with a hundred-quid haircut and Konnie Huq on your arm.