GYLES BRANDRETH looks back on six weeks of Celebrity Gogglebox

GYLES BRANDRETH looks back on six weeks of Celebrity Gogglebox

I’ve gone goggle-eyed at the shockers on the box: GYLES BRANDRETH looks back on six weeks of watching everything from Love Island to Naked Attraction for his stint on Celebrity Gogglebox

  • When chimps share an experience it helps them get on better afterwards
  • They show more interest in one another and want to spend time together 
  • Watching TV with friends or family is much better for us than watching alone 

Apparently, even monkeys bond better after watching a film together. According to new research, based on a series of experiments, other primates, such as chimpanzees, behave like humans.

When chimps share an experience, such as watching the same movie at the same time, it helps them get on better together afterwards. They show more interest in one another and want to spend more time together. It’s the same for you and me.

Psychologically, socially, emotionally, watching TV with friends or family is much better for us than watching TV alone.

I have been taking part in a Channel 4 series called Gogglebox. (Catch a repeat of the final episode on Thursday.) If you don’t know the show, it’s a simple idea. Producers go to somebody’s home and, using hidden cameras, film them watching the box

That doesn’t surprise me. I have just concluded a six-week TV-viewing experiment of my own and I have discovered that watching the box with a buddy is just about the best fun you can have with your clothes on. (And I have to confess there were a few moments during the experiment when I was almost tempted to strip off.)

I have been taking part in a Channel 4 series called Gogglebox. (Catch a repeat of the final episode on Thursday.) If you don’t know the show, it’s a simple idea. Producers go to somebody’s home and, using hidden cameras, film them watching the box.

That’s it. And it’s been a Bafta-award-winning ratings hit for six years.

I’ve been in the ‘celebrity’ version, teamed up to watch TV with my old friend, actress Sheila Hancock, 86. Other celebrity couples included Celebrity Big Brother winner Rylan Clark-Neal and his mum; ex-boxer Chris Eubank and his son; and theatrical first cousins, Emilia and Laurence Fox.

I’ve been in the ‘celebrity’ version, teamed up to watch TV with my old friend, actress Sheila Hancock, 86. Pictured, Rachel Riley and Pasha on Celebrity Gogglebox

We all seem to have had a ball.

Why have I found it so much fun? Partly because I have been watching TV with a clear conscience and partly because I have been watching TV programmes I would never normally watch.

With Gogglebox, you don’t get to choose your viewing. You just sit down in front of the TV (equipped with the beverage of your choice and a never-ending supply of snacks), press the play button on the remote control and watch what you’re given. And you watch for at least three hours at a time — not including loo breaks. (Sheila and I are of a certain vintage, after all.)

At home, I don’t watch much TV. I belong to the generation that thinks it is some sort of sin to turn on the telly before 6pm and, because of a puritan streak instilled in me by my parents, I feel guilty if I watch more than one programme a night.

My wife and I will sit down with an episode of Location, Location, Location or a cosy drama such as The Durrells, and when we’ve seen it, that’s that. We used to watch the news, but it’s got so repetitive (and depressing) of late that we have decided it’s not good for morale.

So, after an hour or so of feel-good comfort viewing, we switch off and head for bed.

With Gogglebox, Sheila and I have been able to watch hours together with a clear conscience and we have been made to watch things I would never dare to watch at home.

For example, Naked Attraction.

Essentially, Naked Attraction is a dating show in which the contestants all appear stark naked. Pictured, Nicolas Grimshaw and his niece Liv on Gogglebox

I know I’m beginning to look like Victor Meldrew. Watching Naked Attraction, I’m certainly sounding like him. Even before the opening credits were through, I was crying: ‘I don’t believe it!’ at the screen, and, as the show progressed, I was alternately hiding behind my hands and edging closer to the screen to get a better look.

Essentially, Naked Attraction is a dating show in which the contestants all appear stark naked. A girl comes on looking for the man of her dreams. Six are on offer and they are revealed to her bit by bit — starting with the lower half, moving up to the torso, and ending up with the face.

The girl gets to inspect the blokes’ private parts in as much detail as she likes and, indeed, tells us exactly what she likes.

This week, the lady in question pronounced herself much impressed by one fellow’s equipment. Incredibly, she even brought her pet dog, Cush, with her so that (on a lead) it could join her in sniffing out the naked lads’ sex potential. When the girl has whittled down her six men to just two, she gets her own kit off and the blokes size her up before she picks her winner.

In some episodes, it’s a boy picking a girl and the host, a fully clothed Anna Richardson, spares no one’s blushes by helping look for the finer features of the females on display in the most graphic terms. And, because this is 2019, it isn’t only boys looking for girls they fancy and vice-versa.

Oh no, if you happen to be ‘bi’, don’t worry: you can pick the gender of your choice.

When I was a child, my mother’s favourite TV programme was The Black And White Minstrel Show. She would probably be arrested for watching it now.

What is acceptable on TV has changed beyond recognition over the years. ‘Cowboys and Indians’ are out: your dangly bits in high-definition close-up are in.

My favourite programme from the Fifties was Billy Bunter Of Greyfriars School. It ran for ten years and I don’t think I missed an episode. But, of course, it was a comedy about a fat child who was regularly beaten by his schoolmasters and would be totally unacceptable today.

I recall the moment, in 1965, when theatre critic Kenneth Tynan first said ‘f***’ on TV. I was watching with my parents. None of us knew what to say or where to look.

What is acceptable on TV has changed beyond recognition over the years. ‘Cowboys and Indians’ are out: your dangly bits in high-definition close-up are in

I feel embarrassed just recalling the moment. Now, it seems, nobody is embarrassed by anything.

The word ‘f***’, and, more particularly, the adjective ‘f***ing’ popped up in every other programme Sheila and I saw on our six-week stint on Celebrity Gogglebox.

We were both shocked by Naked Attraction, but I’m hooked on it now. (I took my kimono round to Sheila’s to watch this week’s episode. She was amused, but resisted the temptation to slip into her jim-jams.)

I’m addicted to Love Island, too. It’s a reality soap opera in which physically attractive (but not always mentally acute) young people are flung together so that we can watch who pairs off with whom — and who doesn’t — and who gets hurt (or ‘gutted, like’) along the way.

The programme is deliberately erotically charged. We don’t see live intercourse, but we do see the young ones snuggling up under the duvet, and Sheila and I were both introduced to a new turn of phrase. One of the girls admitted she was having ‘fanny flutters’.

It’s good to be taken out of your comfort zone.

At home, my wife and I never watch thrillers. In Midsomer Murders, when the cellos start to play and we know another killing is in the offing, my wife puts a tea-towel over her head and makes me turn the sound down.

On Gogglebox, Sheila and I had to sit through the full horror of The Silence Of The Lambs. The film was terrifying and rather thrilling, too. Of course, we watched frivolous stuff, as well: natural history documentaries (including a ludicrous one about gay dogs), cookery programmes (Nigella licking her lips and making us lick ours) and endless game shows.

We particularly enjoyed The £100K Drop. It’s a quiz show in which contestants are offered multiple- choice answers to pretty elementary questions.

‘Which of these bears normally appears naked: a) Fozzie; b) Rupert; c) Winnie-the-Pooh; d) Bungle?’ You have to put your money on the answer you think is right and you can spread your money between the answers if you’re not sure. Back a wrong answer, and you lose the money.

With the episode we watched, the studio contestants lost every penny, but Sheila and I would have ended up with the full £100,000. That was fun.

In fact, it was all fun.

And the greatest part of the fun was sitting with an old friend, sharing the programmes — liking some, hating some — and just, well, chatting.

Loneliness is said to be one of the great scourges of our age. Over the past six weeks, I have discovered the answer. Phone a friend and invite them over to your place to watch Naked Attraction.

You can shout ‘I don’t believe it!’ at the screen together. 

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