Have you been watching … Gogglebox?

Channel 4's Gogglebox is reality TV for real: we watch people watching telly. But what makes it stand out is the sharpness of its sofa-based TV criticism

In an age of on-demand television, Gogglebox really shouldn't work: a programme that watches people watching television, and then broadcasts it as entertainment. Yet, the third series of this glimpse into the nation's living rooms will come to a close this evening with its stars presumably contemplating the show's Bafta win; and Channel 4 admiring its excellent ratings.

We join 12 groups of friends and family as they slump on their sofas, and share their reactions to the week's telly – from EastEnders' Lucy Beale being murdered to 24, to Simon Cowell juggernauts. ("It's called Britain's Got Talent, not Britain's Got Talent and Emotional Issues.") Three series in and Gogglebox has grown in strength and confidence as regular "viewers" have become established characters, and new faces have been introduced.

For me, Leon and June Bernicoff, retired teachers from Merseyside, are the show's real stars. He sits slouched in his chair; she perches upright, ready to bat down the next bawdy remark Leon makes about Susanna Reid's legs or a sex scene in Ghost.

I've enjoyed Leon most when he's been watching party political broadcasts or Newsnight: he is supportive of gay marriage, Scottish independence and Britain's continued involvement in Europe. Shouting at the TV is one of life's great pleasures but so too is watching someone else berate Nigel Farage or "two dickheads" Gary Barlow and James Corden.

You start to watch other programmes with an eye to how the Goggleboxers will react, from The Island with Bear Grylls ("You'd think one of them would have smuggled in a box of matches.") to Eurovision ("I might start washing my clothes like that,"). Conchita Wurst was obviously going to cause a stir, baffling the majority of them, even if they did back her message of unity.

It's the product of tireless editing but the real joy of Gogglebox is that it feels authentic. This is how people really do watch telly; the stars of the show are sharing an experience, rather than trying to become famous. It helps, of course, that they also produce such honest and funny TV criticism. There is 14-year-old Amy Tapper's dismissal of Top Gear ("As pointless as pointless gets."), while elsewhere there are some home truths for Mastermind ("It's like, when the camera is on you, look as if a family member has died,"). Every one of the sofa-bound critics of Gogglebox has something to say. Except, perhaps, "silent" Jay, a member of the Woerdenweber family in Liverpool. Two series in and his only contribution has been in growing a bum-fluff beard.

Narrated alternately by Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne – a neat nod to the fact Gogglebox owes a big debt to The Royle Family – I do wonder about some of the newer families added to the Gogglebox mix. Are they quite as good as the others? I'm not sure the Moffatt family have truly clicked, with parents Mark and Betty seemingly tagging along reluctantly behind daughter Scarlett's witterings. Similarly, vicar Kate appears to have dragged husband Graham along for the ride: the highlight of their contributions coming from a pet dog. The third set of newcomers, Annie and Marc, have barely appeared.

Worries over these slow starts are, however, alleviated by the rise in popularity of those who made similarly underwhelming beginnings in series two. Both the Siddiqui family and Clacton trio Linda, Pete and George Gilbey, have provided regular highlights this series. Perhaps we just need to give the newcomers time to warm up?

So, have you been watching Gogglebox? Has the move to Friday nights worked? And what of the new characters? Who are your favourites and who needs the axe?


David Renshaw

The GuardianTramp

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