Gogglebox, the best programme in the history of the world, is back. As usual, Channel 4 is being fairly secretive about the details. “All the old favourites” are returning, they say, minus the Michaels, who are not in this series because Andrew Michael is standing as a Ukip candidate in the election. I will sorely miss the baseball-hatted son’s intensely pained reactions to The X Factor. Last season’s new families The Malones (the one with the grumpy, balding dad) and Jenny and Lee (the ones in the caravan) are back. And there will be some more new families. What matters most, though, is that the Goggleboxers are back. Because there has been so much to miss.
Leon’s dappy face
Leon and June are celebrating 60 years of marriage this year. Leon is an adorable and wonderful human being. When I see his face on screen, it’s like my grandad is still alive, especially when he starts being offensive and politically incorrect. I was sorry to read that last month Leon was rushed to hospital a few days after his 80th birthday. He’s back home safe now and complaining that the NHS is understaffed. June has tweeted David Cameron about it.
Stephen and Chris’s innuendoes
Stephen and Chris are the camp ones from Brighton. (I don’t think they will mind me saying that. Or at least Chris won’t.) The dynamic between these two is beautiful: Chris is forced to play the idiot hairdresser (possibly not a stretch) as Stephen takes on the professor role in the relationship, while occasionally erupting into Dick Emery-style double entendre.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Caroline Aherne or Craig Cash doing the voiceover. They’re both priceless. Carefully schooled in sounding as if they have just gone into a coma because they are so underwhelmed at the people featured on Gogglebox, they are the true voice of Britain’s cynical psyche.
The tally-ho drinking of Steph and Dom
I was concerned that Steph and Dom (“boozy posh pair”) had got too big for Gogglebox after Dom’s appearance on The Jump, during which Steph could be seen wafting around in the background looking like Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago through a haze of glühwein. There has been a danger that their “act” on Gogglebox could look forced, especially if they start playing up to it. But I suspect it’s close enough to their real selves that they’re safe for now. Finding out that one of them is actually teetotal would be worse than finding out about Father Christmas.
Best friends Sandy and Sandra (dubbed “takeaway-guzzling pals” by one tabloid) are a genius double act. Sandy represents the thoughts of the audience (disbelief, mock horror and, finally, sheer joy) as Sandra shimmies, gyrates and generally rocks out, fuelled only, she claims, by an onion bhaji. Sandra deserves some kind of award for her (not always intentional) comedy. She is a natural, gifted clown and couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of her. She is my favourite. (Sorry, Leon.)
The serious faces when they watch the news
The faces of shock, awe and cringe at crucial moments during – particularly – reality TV (I’m thinking The Voice) are ostensibly what Gogglebox is about. But I love the faces people make when they’re watching the news. They concentrate, listen and try really hard to take it seriously. Then the newsreader gets to the end of the sentence and they erupt with indignation or confusion. What Gogglebox is usually about is recognition. We all do the things these people do. And we all sit and watch the news like good little children with serious faces. It’s so sweet to see.
The all-knowing wisdom of the Siddiqui family
Baasit, Umar and Sid – two brothers and their father – have a fantastic, jovial, respectful relationship and know everything about everything and often spin off into discussions about history, politics and nuclear physics. Everyone would like to have a relationship like these guys.
Any interaction between teenager and parent
Gogglebox has an excellent cast of teenagers, who are ebullient, moody and loveable by turns. I particularly like the interaction between curly-haired Amy Tapper and her mum Nikki, who always gets excited when Gary Barlow comes on, which makes her children take their faces in their hands. This is what Gogglebox is really about: the families we wish we had, versus the families we actually have.