Meet the stars of Gogglebox

Who knew watching people watching TV could be so entertaining? Kirsty Lang is hooked…

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Meet the stars of Gogglebox
Written By
Kirsty Lang and Claire Webb

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… 


THE POSH PAIR

Steph and husband Dom Parker run a B&B from their Grade I listed home in Kent

Why did you and Dom volunteer?

On paper, it sounded like absolute rubbish. Why on earth would I want to watch people watching TV? We thought it’s either going to go dreadfully wrong or it’s going to be fantastic. Luckily, it was the latter.

What was it like seeing yourself on TV?

I hid behind the sofa. I was absolutely mortified. All I could see was my double chin and how fat I looked and all the lines round my face. Then in the second episode, I got over myself and actually started watching, and was hissing with laughter.

Why do you think it works?

It’s a real-cross section of England and what you see is exactly what people are thinking. There’s nothing scripted: it’s real observational TV.

In one episode your sofa famously tipped over – did that really happen?

I was as surprised as everybody else when that was shown: I hadn’t realised the cameras were on. I had leant over to give Dom a kiss – which I never normally do – I was a little enthusiastic and the sofa tipped over. We’d been playing along with an episode of The Cube where this chap had to build a tower out of cylindrical blocks – except we substituted our crystal port glasses, thinking we were being really clever. So that’s what you could hear in the background: smashing glasses.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I wish I hadn’t said that I wanted a new pair of breasts.

TOP QUOTE

Steph on Downton: I wonder how many windows they’ve got? We’ve got 63.


THE EX-HOTELIERS

Andrew Michael and his wife Carolyne live in Brighton with their teenage children Katie and Louis

Andrew, why did you do it?

I said yes to amuse the children more than anything. At one point I wanted to pull out because I wasn’t sure what we were letting ourselves in for. I hesitated and I left the decision to my 16-year-old son Louis, to be honest. He said: “Do you know what, Dad? I think we’ll go for it.”

How did your friends and family react?

A quarter of them said: “You must be mad. They’re going to make you look bad.” The rest thought it sounded like fun. And the three-quarters proved to be right because my family seems to be enjoying it. Everybody seems to be enjoying it.

Any mortifying moments?

No, not really. Obviously they could include silly things that the children have done or said, and they haven’t done. So I initially had some concerns, but they’ve been allayed.

Do you get recognised these days?

My wife and I have been stopped so many times – possibly up to 20 times now – by people enthusing about it. It’s strange. Especially when they want to be photographed with you!

TOP QUOTE

On midwives

Dad: I remember when Louis was born, when I put him on my shoulder he was bouncing off.

Son: I’ve been trying to get away from you since day one!


THE RETIRED TEACHERS

June and Leon Bernicoff from Liverpool

What was it like seeing yourself on television?

June: It was worrying because we couldn’t remember what we had said. Leon [in the background]: I enjoyed it!

What was the reaction of your friends and family?

June: It was very mixed. We didn’t tell many people so they were surprised when they saw us. My elder daughter is always worried my husband will say something to embarrass her, but my grandchildren love it.

Why do you think it works?

June: I think the essence of the programme is that people are spontaneous. If we think it’s not good, we’ll say so. There have been occasions where I’ve walked out the room and said, “I don’t want to watch that.”

Do you get recognised these days?

June: They’re always very complimentary. We have been recognised as far away as Birmingham station and in a hospital in Cardiff. Leon [in the background]: They say we’re the best!

TOP QUOTE

On Strictly

June: If I had lefs like Susanne Reid’s I’d show them off

Leon: Well you have… you’ve got better legs than her!


THE HAIRDRESSERS

Chris Steed and best friend Stephen Webb are based in Brighton

Chris, why did you volunteer to take part?

I’ve always said that there should be a civilian version of Room 101.

What was it like tuning in for the first time?

The first time you don’t know how they’re going to edit it and how you’re going to come across. So I was very reserved and my friends and family were like: that wasn’t really you.

Why do you think it works?

Everyone can relate to it because there are people from all different walks of life – and they’re real people.

Most embarrassing moment?

I’m more embarrassed about the stuff Stephen sometimes says! I’m a lot more discreet. I think that’s why we work well together.

Now you’re on national TV, do you get recognised in the street?

I get fed up with people messaging me on Twitter saying, “You’re so gorgeous, Stephen is so lucky.” I’m single! I keep saying to the producers: can you please put that in the programme?

TOP QUOTE

On Homeland

Chris: We all like a bad boy, don’t we?

Stephen: Yeah, but not a terrorist, Chris.


Gogglebox continues Wednesday, 10:00pm, C4

 

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