TV Review: Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe, BBC2

Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe

I've got a theory that every entertainer – apart from Daniel Kitson, of course – ends up doing something very different to what they originally imagined themselves doing. Johnny Vegas ends up selling tea, Ben Elton ends up writing The Wright Way. I don't know what Charlie Brooker's original ambitions were, to be honest, but I've always felt he wanted to stand outside the establishment tent pissing in, not in it pissing out. But then what do I know about what goes on in Charlie Brooker's brain?

That seems to have changed. Not because he married Konnie Huq, not because he became a dad. I think the point where Brooker changed for me was when he turned up at Jonathan Ross's Halloween party in fancy dress costume last autumn alongside the likes of Nicole Scherzinger, Holly Willoughby and Claudia Winkleman. He might have had a scowl on his face, but he was still firmly in the bosom of the showbiz establishment.

All of which must make it harder for him to scowl at the showbiz establishment on his new series of Weekly Wipe, which returned last night. I've loved Brooker ever since I first came across his TV Go Home website back in the days of narrowband, but last night's episode was a relatively thin gruel of grumpiness, despite having a team of crack writers, compared to the bile-filled riches he used to serve up when I imagined him scribbling away alone at home, steam coming out of his ears, in a dingy bedsit in his pants. Charlie Brooker is, how can I put it politely, in danger of getting a bit too nice.

Having said that, there were still plenty of laughs here, just not as many as I'd expected. I couldn't help chuckling at his description of a funny foreign newsreader as "the world's first Lego human". And I liked his dubbing of Danny Dyer's new EastEnders character Mick Carter as "Git Carter". But then he goes and spoils it all by being nice about Dyer and saying how watchable he is. In fact the EastEnders clip was particularly illuminating because it contained a clever bit of wordplay almost worthy of Brooker himself when Carter's gay sister declared that she wanted her own part of the flat - her "lezzanine".

Churning out a topical weekly show like this is clearly a challenge. The best clips – news reports of a tidal wave of floods, a non-tidal wave of Romanians – will have already been seen endlessly elsewhere and plenty of gags will have already done the Twitter rounds, so the only way to stand out is with a viciously sharp script. The first episode should have been a strong one, but despite some easy targets the jokes often felt a little flat and repetitive. There was not one but two easy Game of Thrones gags. And after Brooker put his boot into news coverage of invading Romanians (including a joke about past immigrants ruining our country going right back to the Celts which is coincidentally similar to one Stewart Lee has been doing) Doug Stanhope then covered the same sort of sarcastic ground in his stand-up clip.

All of which is not to say I didn't enjoy Weekly Wipe. I'm still laughing at the thought of Philomena Cunk saying "Greenwich Marillion Line" even if her extended idiot-interview piece was too Ali G-lite. And the Celebrity Big Brother takedown was stupidly great if utterly fish-in-a-barrel. It is just that Brooker set the benchmark so astonishingly high in his early spleen-venting days that he has become his own tough act to follow. I like him inside the tent pissing out, but I preferred him outside the tent pissing in.*

Weekly Wipe is on Thursdays on BBC2. The first episode is on iPlayer

*Reading this back this feels slightly harsh, but there is something about Charlie Brooker these days that bugs me**. I think it might be in part due to his humblebrag tweets for the show where he does his best not to sound as if he is indulging in vulgar self-promotion but still gets his plug in, ie "Generic tweet promoting the new series of Weekly Wipe, which starts Thursday 9th January, BBC2, 10pm. Contains footage and sounds."  Oops, I've been harsh again.

**It might, of course, just be jealousy.

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