This week I want to put the boot in to Gogglebox (Channel 4, Fridays). Not the mostly likeable, everyday version, whose stars include our very own and much-loved Dear Mary, where ordinary-ish people are filmed reacting amusingly to the week’s TV. I mean the recent celebrity special, featuring former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, a cricketer, a footballer, Ed Sheeran, Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne, the actress formerly known as Jessica Stevenson and Jeremy Corbyn.
The last couple were filmed together sitting on a yellow sofa at a smart-looking terrace address in Edinburgh. No explanation was given as to what the leader of the Labour party was doing with the former star of Spaced — Jessica Hynes, as she’s now known. Perhaps the producers were hoping we’d go: ‘Oh, how nice. Two old, old mates, probably, hanging out, as you do.’ But to me it all seemed very rum.
Corbyn didn’t exactly help himself. Though he’s clearly had a lot of media training in the past year — his dress is snappier, he’s less tetchy and defensive — he still comes across like an early-model replicant where the programmer couldn’t quite get the ‘normal’ function right.
This was noticeable in the establishing segment, where Jessica asked Jeremy if he’d like some tea. Jeremy assented with such enthusiasm I was reminded of those scenes in Went the Day Well? where the Nazi-paratroopers-in-disguise give the game away by getting key details of British behaviour slightly wrong, like drawing sinister foreign horizontal lines on their number sevens. Yes, we do like tea in Britain, Jeremy. No we don’t respond in the manner of a crack-starved junkie suddenly asked: ‘Fancy a quick pipe?’
Jeremy was not done stressing his extreme normalness just yet. Jessica asked whether he wanted anything with his tea. Yes, said Jeremy. Something ‘bad’. By this, he didn’t mean a cheeky jazz woodbine, which would have been quite endearing while making his general knowledge recall certainly no worse than it is already (see below). But no, he meant crisps. Crisps like in Britain people always consume with their cups of tea because the flavour of crisps and the flavour of tea go so well together, don’t they?
I notice I’m focusing on Jeremy Corbyn. And believe me, I’m not done yet. Anyway, all the other celebrity contributors were exceedingly dull and predictable — the Osbournes luxuriating in their philistinism like hogs in poo, Ed Sheeran being as exciting as an Ed Sheeran song, Liam Gallagher’s boy trying to play the average Mancunian lad even though, with Dad’s millions, I expect he attended a proper posh school — so they need not detain us further.
So Jeremy — oh God, why am I calling him Jeremy? I’m playing the enemy’s game here — then gets the chance to impress us with his quizzing skills. Everyone is watching University Challenge. A question comes up: ‘Against which city state did Rome fight the three Punic Wars?’ Corbyn leans forward intently and says: ‘Sparta’. It’s not the wrongness of his answer that’s troubling so much as the relaxed, easy confidence with which he says it. There’s an affectlessness here, a weird detachment from reality that makes you wonder whether there’s anyone at home. Could it be that Corbyn’s brain has drifted so far into the realm of theory and Marxist dialectic that the world of facts, of cause and effect, is now little more than a lightly amusing distraction for him?
My fear is that these nuances will have gone right over the heads of Corbyn’s potential voter base, that they will have warmed to him more than ever and that this was entirely Channel 4’s plan. This left-wing bias became even more excruciating when, among the other items chosen for the Goggleboxers to watch, was a story from the TV news about the fact that Michael Gove had felt compelled to apologise for his apparently appalling and inappropriate joke about Harvey Weinstein.
Was Channel 4 really asking us to believe that of all the stories that had been on the news in that particular week the most interesting and comment-worthy was a desperately contrived one cooked up by the anti-Brexit luvvies who infest TV land to show one of their prime political enemies in a supposedly bad light? Yes — for it has no shame about its politics — Channel 4 was!
Perhaps it would have been excusable if someone, anyone, among the Goggleboxers had piped up and said: ‘So we’re not allowed to make jokes any more. Is that the new rule?’ But no one did. And besides, even if anyone had uttered anything so dangerously reactionary I’m sure Channel 4 would have lost it in the edit.