This is the second series of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, a combination of all of Brooker’s previous shows that takes swipe at everything and anything in our culture but focuses mainly on television and the media.
They made some small tweaks for this series, which is the right thing to do. It’s beneficial for a show like this to try out new bits and get rid of anything that doesn’t work. The show has dropped last series’ segment where Brooker and two commentators – different each week – discussed some recent event. That section was an awkward dead weight that dragged the rest of the show down, and it’s good that the people writing Weekly Wipe are able to recognise these things.
The episode started by examining the ‘level-headed and factually watertight news reporting’ of Eastern European immigration. These satirical take-downs of the media are usually fantastic, though this one fell a little flat. Still, it made some good points, mainly about the imagery of broadcast news, which can be borderline racist when discussing immigration (the tabloids, as Brooker illustrated, can be just openly racist).
I love the Doug Stanhope sections on these shows and his misanthropic, unapologetic contempt for certain people. His rant on fear and terrorism is still one of the best things to have been on this show. Wipe has made a habit recently though of just filling these sections with old material from the comedian’s stand-up, which is annoying and a little lazy.
It’s still funny though. ‘I though the polish people already stole your jobs so maybe the Romanians are just going to steal the polish jobs, so you can relax,’ he said about immigration fears. And his politically incorrect take on the subject – ‘how simple and menial a job do you have that they can do the training in pantomime’ – is of a type of political incorrectness that people who complain about political correctness would never actually use.
Next we got some TV reviews, including Celebrity Big Brother, featuring a ‘Bratislavan prince from a 1920s silent film, some atoms in the shape of a woman, a typical American, and Dorian Grey and his picture.’ Eastenders – ‘the BBC’s expertly realised simulation of what London might look like if human beings looked and spoke in unrealistic ways’ – was also reviewed.
The TV reviews on these shows are usually really good. Beneath all the funny similes is often an interesting critique of television. Eastenders and Big Brother are low-hanging fruit, but I’m probably not in a position to criticise given all the crappy apples I’ve plucked on here.
The Barry Shitpeas (mind- mouth funnel) and Philomena Cunk (animated gif) section this episode wasn’t great but it had some funny lines like the ‘grey, undersea pig’ that is a close-up dolphin.
Much better was Philomena’s time documentary, a dead-on parody of the BBC2, 9pm docs that are usually hosted by a celebrity of some type. The hilarious idiocy of her lines were made all the better by the exact parodying in speech and tone of the presenters on those serious docs, and by the very similar direction.
‘Time,’ Philomena said, ‘has existed since before time began. Time is precious, but it’s not like other precious things. You can’t hold it like a necklace, or taste it like money.’ She asked such important questions as, ‘So what is clocks?’ and ‘Hello science man who are you?’
Diane Morgan, the comedian who plays Philomena, is fantastic in this role. Her turn and stare into the camera as the science man droned on was perfectly delivered and a very funny idea. It reminded me of The Daily Show, Philomena’s doc, and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of them as the series progresses.
Also new this episode was a short bit from comedian Limmy, of the fantastic Limmy’s Show. Limmy is an, uh, acquired taste. Lots of people don’t like his stuff. Personally, I think he’s great. Here, he shared his theories about a Russell Brand conspiracy, his attempts to communicate with Katy Perry in code, and his attempts to communicate with Glasgow City Council about the state of the park fences. It wasn’t the best thing he’s done but it was funny enough absurdity. According to this article, Limmy will be a regular feature this series, giving a conspiracy theorist’s take on notable events. It should hopefully get better as he builds the character each week.
It wasn’t the greatest Wipe episode, but even the bad ones usually have enough quality to make it worth while watching. Brooker and his fellow writers are capable of recognising their strengths – giving Philomena more to do – and their weakness – dropping the chat section from last series – while adding new bits and focusing it all around Brooker’s wit and wisdom. It’s a good formula for a successful series, and, despite this episode being a little weak, I think the show can go on to improve on the first season.
As pointed out above, they are trying to pack all of Brooker’s previous shows into one, and this series should let us know whether that’s possible, or if it might be better going back to individual shows for each subject.
- ‘Dolphins live downstairs where the sea is.’
- Danny Dyer – ‘The thinking man’s Dick Van Dyke’
- Ed Miliband – ‘He’s just like Nelson Mandela, isn’t he? Sadly irrelevant in 2014.’
- ‘Because of the shape of clocks, you might think that time goes in a circle. It actually goes in a line.’