Gogglebox is one of those programmes that makes me feel warm and fuzzy about being British. I think it’s because there’s something very intimate about watching television with close friends or family, sitting on the sofa with your cup of tea or glass of wine, commenting on what’s on the screen. People let their guard down and say what they really think.
“My inspiration was The Royle Family,” says Stephen Lambert, the man behind some of reality TV’s most successful formats, including Wife Swap, Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss. “I wanted to do a real-life version of the sitcom, which is why I asked Caroline Aherne to be the narrator. But I also wanted it to be topical so it had to be about programmes that have been on TV in the past seven days.”
Launched last April, Gogglebox is now five weeks into its second series and has become a word-of-mouth hit that’s had the Twittersphere buzzing. The format has been sold to a US cable network, and the Chinese are planning a version.
Logistically, Gogglebox is quite a challenge. The producers have a pool of 14 households that they can call on in any week, and a team of editors who work 15-hour days sifting through the material and cutting it together.
Lambert says they deliberately put in two or three news clips each week. “We wanted to capture something of the national conversation. Our participants are pretty sophisticated in their analysis of what’s going on in the world. They know when politicians are not answering questions and will shout at the screen.”
What’s novel is that it allows members of the public to comment on the week’s TV rather than critics. Although it is reassuring to see nearly all those taking part make full use of Radio Times.
“On one level it’s a simple show, but television covers so many aspects of human life that it enables us to go on an emotional rollercoaster,” says Lambert. “Gogglebox is like a weekly thermometer of what this country is thinking about – whether they are watching The X Factor, a powerful documentary or a soap.”
Meet the stars…