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Sunday 13th January 2008

Sunday 13th January 2008

Days without alcohol - 14 (2 weeks - just 25 more of those for the year. Easy).

I finished Charlie Brooker's "Dawn of the Dumb" this afternoon. I really can't recommend it enough. Although much of it is about ephemeral TV shows, Brooker acknowledges the parasitic and redundant nature of his job, and yet by writing with such beautiful ugliness and imagination it somehow transcends the subject matter to become rather profound. What is most impressive is that some of the pieces are about shows that I haven't seen from two or three years ago and yet I still find the reviews massively entertaining - with the possible exception of the stuff about the last series of Big Brother, but that is as much to do with the show running out of steam as anything else. And as I may have commented before, when Brooker writes about his life it so closely mirrors my own that I begin to wonder if actually him and me are the same person. I could believe that unbeknownst to myself I sleep-write all of his columns, except for the fact that he is a much better writer than I am. Which can only lead me to the conclusion that I am in fact a construct of Brooker's imagination and that everything I write is something he just tosses off for fun, as a kind of satire of middle class foibles.
And I don't think we can be the same person as I met him once in Edinburgh this year, where acting in character he was delightfully slightly angry with me, because his production company had been trying to get in touch with me. I was a bit confused by this as he and I had been corresponding on Facebook a little bit and so he could easily have tracked me down there - I check it approximately once every four seconds - but there was no friendly greeting, no formalities, just a perturbed, "Where have you been? We've been trying to get in touch with you."
But anyway, we've been in the same room and interacted and so we can't be the same person - although that's what the bloke in Fight Club thought isn't it? Maybe I was just shouting at myself, to the consternation of the other people at the party.
I think that my delight at Brooker is probably a generational thing though. As well as having similar social awkwardness and frustration at the practicalities of the world, we have exactly the same reference points (though he knows more about video games and comics than me). We are (as he himself intimates) of the Joey Deacon generation, a five or six year age group united in the fact that they would shout "Joey" in the face of anyone they wished to insult, as a result of Blue Peter's well-meaning, but ultimately misguided attempt to instruct the youth about the problems of people with cerebral palsy. Perhaps my guilt in this awful, though universal, pantomime is the subconscious impetus for my fundraising work for SCOPE (which I don't like to talk about).
But not only are the references the same, I think the attitude to TV is also identical. TV was massively important to me as a child. There weren't too many shows that were aimed at me, but when they came along there was nothing more vital in my life. And TV had standards. You could count the number of channels on one hand and programmes were only on for maybe twelve or fourteen hours a day. You could get to a point, if you stayed up til midnight, where TV actually stopped and they played the national anthem and then there was NOTHING on.
So like Brooker I am bamboozled and upset, yet still ultimately fascinated by the way TV has changed, by how much utter shit is on, by how great some of the shit actually is. Brooker loves TV and despairs of what is happening to it, but still ultimately can not fall out of love with it. TV didn't mean as much to the generation before us and it will, I believe, be an irrelevance to the generation after ours. When we are old(er) we will be banging on about how brilliant TV was in the same way as our grandparents went on about the radio. TV will still exist, in some form, but there will be increasingly fewer Joey Deacon moments and other things will usurp it from its kingly throne.
I'm not saying that's bad, I just think it's true. But I love TV and it would be my medium of choice to do all my stuff on, if only it hadn't gone insane and wasn't run by fuckwits.
Brooker mentions "Gus Honeybun" in one of his pieces about the way that there used to be variety in local programming. He never saw it and didn't know what it was, but used to look at the name enviously in the TSW listings and wonder what it was. As I grew up in the TSW area (due to some signal quirk, really Cheddar was more HTV, but we were served by some aerial further south) I know that Gus Honeybun was a birthday rabbit, who would hop or wink or press a magic button as the birthday of a West Country child was celebrated. I don't know why anyone ever wanted him to hop - the magic button was the cool thing to get, though in hindsight, all it did was to make the background behind him go all swirly. It was just as shit as any of the other stuff.
One of the TSW presenters would sit and read out the greetings, as the mute Honeybun just winked and hopped and wiggled his ears (or maybe I am imagining that last one). The best presenter was a very sexy, young Fern Britton. To the eight year old me she prepared the ground that Janet Ellis would later walk upon, with me grovelling in her shadow.
There was an upper age limit to getting on Gus Honeybun of 11 years old and I vividly remember the hilarity at school the day after my friend Brian Bancroft had had his name read out for reaching that age. He was, as it turned out, much too old to have another year marked by a jumping rabbit, though tellingly all of his classmates had still been watching the segment, even though they were ostensibly too sophisticated for such a childish thing. But it still makes me laugh today. What an idiot Brian Bancroft was made to look, thanks to the misguided love of his mum or (most probably) his gran.
Anyway, stop reading this and read Charlie Brooker - why bother with his inferior parody of a writer when you can be experiencing the real thing. The man is a misanthropic genius, with a heart more full of hope and beauty than he dare openly admit.

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