It’s election time, and Gogglebox gets my vote | Catherine Shoard

Politicians wanting to boost turnout figures would do well to remember that nothing unites people like the telly

If there’s one thing that ads featuring folk from Gogglebox proves it’s that this is not a staged show. Whether it’s the hairdressers Stephen and Christopher checking out Kevin Bacon’s EE package or Scarlett the beautician addressing the camera to advocate voter registration, they seem reassuringly uncomfortable. No wonder Gogglebox’s producers don’t complain: the ads are vindications of the programme’s integrity – these people really can’t act.

Yet the voting ad seems to me particularly inspired. In enlisting Gogglebox’s younger pundits to encourage their peers to have a say on 7 May (slogan: “Don’t stay silent”), the Electoral Commission has correctly identified the series’s special genius: it offers an opportunity to answer back.

Despite daily viewing still averaging around four hours, telly is usually passively received rather than vigorously batted back. You slump and soak, rather than engage and address. This doesn’t seem wholly fair or natural: when I was a baby I used to chat to the newsreaders; these days it doesn’t seem worth it, because a) I now realise they can’t hear and b) I’m not on Gogglebox.

As well as allowing for a dialogue that’s normally impossible, or pointless, Gogglebox is a reality TV show that actually portrays the reality of most people’s telly-dominated lives. The paradox, of course, is that it’s yet another TV programme, but that just makes it a double treat for the viewer. We feel it’s speaking for us as well as being entertaining in its own right.

It’s this advocacy that feels most key about Gogglebox. Its casting is so astute in terms of age, gender, race, wealth, education and sexuality that it does seem to cover British society fairly thoroughly. There’s someone for everyone; you can barely go near a watercooler without hearing people discuss their favourites (me: the hairdressers, the Siddiquis) or who gets on their nerves (the lady vicar, that new family).

It turns out that nothing brings people together – both Gogglebox viewers and the Goggleboxers themselves – like TV. At a time when politicians scrap fractiously, Gogglebox’s unity is what makes it such essential, uplifting viewing.

A chip off the old Woody

Both sides of the pond, those cinema-goers not flocking to Fast & Furious 7 are seeing While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s brilliant satire starring Ben Stiller as a documentarian seduced by hipsters. It’s a film that will send people back to Crimes and Misdemeanors, the 1989 Woody Allen comedy drama to which it pays overt homage. So here’s a tip: don’t resee it. I worship Woody, but this isn’t, it turns out, a movie that has aged well. Instead, revisit 1993’s Manhattan Murder Mystery, which has Woody and Diane Keaton as a couple whose neighbour dies unexpectedly. It’s still absolutely entrancing and was, I learned the other day, the direct model for the relationship between Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins in Paddington. So much so that the director bought both a DVD and just asked them to copy it.

Goodbye, Glamsgate express

Last week public consultation closed on plans for a brand new railway station between Minster and Ramsgate, in east Kent. As some have pointed out, it seems strange to build a station to serve Manston airport (which shut last year) and Pfizer (which moved out in 2011). Still, for me, it’s the name that’s the stumbling block: Thanet Parkway. The high-speed line on which it would sit has a fine tradition of sticking in the word “international” after places (Stratford, Ebbsfleet, Ashford), a glamorising effect that Ramsgate could really use. Plus the proposed station is actually nearest Cliffsend, a coastal village not short on history. It was here the Vikings first landed in 410; a century and a half later, Augustine dropped anchor, bringing Christianity. All things considered then, Thanet Parkway seems a bit of an undersell.



Catherine Shoard

The GuardianTramp

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