Charlie Brooker's an insightful and talented writer when it comes to dissecting television, although it sometimes feels like he hates things simply because it's easier to write disparaging remarks and poke fun at people's appearance. How many times do you remember him eulogizing a TV programme or celebrity? The answer: occasionally and very briefly. There's no comedy in loving something passionately -- but most people, especially Brits, love a good, articulate, vociferous moan.
Brooker's latest series, BBC2's How TV Ruined Your Life, took a pessimistic view of television (as the title suggests), which is a default perspective of Brooker's that can be wearying. He also recycled material from his BBC4 show Screenwipe and Channel 4 series You Have Been Watching, or at least made the same broad points, which is a shame for existing fans craving new opinions. Still, HTVRYL was as acerbic and intelligent as we've come to expect from Brooker (king of the withering, effusive putdown), with the only real downside being the inclusion of comedy sketches that either outstayed their welcome, or delivered a weak punchline that didn't justify the effort.Dan Owen, Dan's Media Digest, 9th March 2011
To describe Charlie Brooker as biting the hand that feeds him in How TV Ruined Your Life isn't quite right. What actually happened is that television saw him gnashing and snapping away in print like a rabid alsatian, and thought "That looks lively... I wonder if it would be fun to stick a hand in his mouth." And the answer is yes. This week, he was addressing the effect the "flickering fibbing machine" has on our attitudes to romantic love, with its nightly propaganda about soul mates, physical beauty and the proper conduct of a love affair.
Much of the energy came from satirising our illusions about love itself, rather than any telly-induced misconceptions about it. He made a decent case, for example, that chewing gum offers a good metaphor for the trajectory of the average infatuation: "After the initial burst of excitement you soon find yourself just going through the motions, while your interest drains away and then you end up just spitting it into a hankie." But he's also very good at the clichés of television presentation, neatly caught here in a TV news bulletin about the progress of an office romance, presented as if it were an unfolding political story, with an earnest pavement reporter telling the news anchor that "our sources indicate she intends to terminate their 18-month relationship". I'm not sure what Konnie Huq will make of his bleak view of love, but for anyone not married to him it was very entertaining.Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 16th February 2011
Charlie Brooker continues his deliciously satirical campaign against our most prized possession - the idiot box - in the fourth episode of How TV Ruined Your Life, with tonight's episode shining the spot light upon love.James Cheetham, On The Box, 15th February 2011
Charlie Brooker's bracing cocktail of bile, wit and shocking clips is mixed to perfection tonight. His theme is the way the "flickering fibbing machine" in the corner peddles myths about love and romance. Whoever combs the archives to find his footage has played a blinder: it's almost impossible to believe the clips from a 1980s QED doc testing female sexual response with a big metal probe or a hideous reality show called Breaking Up with Shannon Doherty aren't fakes - almost, but not quite. Brooker slips into rant-o-matic occasionally, but he's angrily right on most counts, and the spoof boy-band song about settling, called Girl You'll Do, is priceless.David Butcher, Radio Times, 15th February 2011
Charlie Brooker's combination of real archive footage with well-crafted spoofs of the same is entertaining, if never quite delivering the killer punches that made his BBC4 shows Screenwipe and Newswipe unmissable. This week, he looks at how television has distorted love and romance.Scott Matthewman, The Stage, 14th February 2011
Charlie Brooker's comedy is mixed with cynicism and imaginative descriptive observations that are impossible not to laugh out loud at. And the pace at which each episode runs may cause viewers to marvel at the amount of content intricately packed into each episode.Ashley Jacob, Suite 101, 3rd February 2011
Commencing with a cheerful explanation of how all of us are utterly alone in this world, Charlie Brooker turns to TV's treatment of love and how the "flickering fibbing machine" has misled us about romance. He skewers the myths about soul mates and the importance of the grand gesture, and shows how TV's insistence on photogenic beauty raises unrealistic expectations. A little obvious in places, but always redeemed by Brooker's verbals, which soar to inspired heights in an extended description of his own face.David Stubbs, The Guardian, 1st February 2011
Charlie Brooker's sardonic look at the gulf between television and reality continues. This week, he uses sketches, archive footage and his signature misanthropic rants to skewer TV's ability to irritate you throughout the ageing process, from creepy children's shows to patronising twaddle for pensioners.Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 31st January 2011
As Charlie Brooker noted in his astute and acerbic How TV Ruined Your Life, one of the most fundamental jobs of the box in the corner is to scare us. Or, to put it in Brooker-speak, shout: "'Boo!' in your mind." Not only is that the function of a large amount of primetime entertainment, it has also been the reliable aim of public information films - sort of health and safety porn - designed to reform our behaviour. That explains why, if we're to believe the treasure trove of paranoid PIFs that Brooker's researchers unearthed, you no longer see schoolboys swinging fishing rods beneath low-lying electricity pylons.
Although, leaving absurdity aside, repeated images over a long period may inhibit our actions, it's rare that television manages to shock or scare us. We've seen too much, and most of it on TV, to be jolted by what we see on TV. But, once in a while, along comes a film that is so powerful and haunting that it seems to stop the world as you watch, leaving you struggling to re-enter the reality of unfolding life.Andrew Anthony, The Observer, 30th January 2011