For a good few years one of the highlights of the Christmas season was Charlie Brooker’s annual “Wipe”, a take on the previous year where he scathingly mocked and satirised what had happened over the past 365 days. He’s supposedly been too busy with Black Mirror and other projects to do this for the past two years, though he’s found the time to do something partially similar with the comedy character he co-created, Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan).
Cunk used to be a part of “Wipe”, but would only pop up to comment on something for about five minutes, and I can’t help but feel she’s far more effective in small doses than during a full thirty minute show, something which her series “Cunk On Britain” also suggested, not that it was bad, it just felt a little repetitive as Cunk misunderstood something on a regular basis or just said something plain idiotic.
Perhaps that’s why this programme has been divided up in to five minute bitesize servings, as she and Wipe regular Barry Shitpeas (Al Campbell) along with new characters characters Chiwetel Bacca (Hammed Animashaun) and Jinni Wreckon (Emily Lloyd Saini) comment on the big news stories of 2019. Though it is due to be broadcast as one long half hour show at a later date, and that’s how I viewed it as I watched them all back to back (bar the sixth episode if we’re to be pedantic, which I caught just now).
Perhaps that was a mistake and it works better in five minute chunks, but even then I have my doubts as a I was only finding it intermittently funny right from the start. The first episode tackled climate change, Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion protests and it certainly had it’s moments, with Cunk amusingly commenting “Normally I’d just ignore the terrified pleading of a child” and the clip (and subsequent mockery) of Jeremy Clarkson was extremely welcome, but a lot of the gags felt a little tired and old, being the kind of thing you’ll probably have seen online months ago.
The same applied with the second episode which examined Jeffrey Epstein’s death and Prince Andrew’s obvious (INNOCENCE – Legal editor). Brooker and his large selection of writers still have a way with words so Cunk’s line that Epstein “Died in a freak necktie accident while one of his prison guards was blinking for too long” made me laugh, but too many of the gags were a bit obvious, like Shitpea’s comment that “It’s hard to even conceive of a world without Prince Andrew’s contribution to it. That’s Britain fucked now”. Also weak was a bit on Chernobyl which didn’t have much to offer up about the series apart from that it was bleak as hell, but I’m pretty sure everyone knew that.
Somehow it took a nose dive after the first two episodes as well, the third tackled the current political situation in the UK and US and the supposed insights were painfully obvious, the only funny gag being how if Trump worked at Philomena’s workplace “He’d have at least one verbal warning by now and he might have been asked to go on a course”, but given the subject matter and the potential for really angry comedy / satire it was enormously disappointing to see how slapdash and tepid it all was, with one really bad joke about a guy who’s bi-polar and barely on speaking terms with himself making me cringe.
Not quite as bad (though only slightly), the fourth episode saw our commentators muse about the films of the year, though once again it was predictable stuff, with only Barry Shitpeas having a good joke about The Lion King and how due to the use of CGI the lions were forced in to “green leotards with ping pong balls all over them”, and Chitwel finally saying something funny when he described Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood as “A new version of that film he does”. But the rest made me sigh loudly, with the material on Joker and the fears it might spark mass shootings at the cinema being particularly unfunny, and once again a case of jokes that were told ages ago.
Unfortunately the fifth episode was the weakest yet, returning to British politics, the election and Brexit you’d think there’d be so much that could be torn apart but instead there were some really limp gags about Theresa May’s face, Boris looking a bit like a Scarecrow, and at one point Cunk calls Michael Gove “Michael Glove” and I found myself shouting loudly at my laptop screen. There was one laugh, when Shitpeas mentioned Boris and how “He tricked the queen to turning Parliament off and on again” but that was it.
Given all of the above I had little hope that the sixth episode would redeem everything, but I didn’t expect it to be the worst of them all. Unfortunately it was though, following on from the previous episode covered the recent General Election yet again the observations were all but pointless, I kept on waiting for something original, something that hadn’t been said elsewhere, but it didn’t happen once.
Considering it was written by not only Charlie Brooker but also Ben Caudell, Charlie George, Eli Goldstone, Mollie Goodfellow, Jason Hazeley and Kae Kurd I really expected a lot more from the series, okay it started off in a decent enough fashion but the way it collapsed after about ten minutes was truly depressing, and I really hope this is a one off and next year Brooker pulls his finger out and returns to the Wipe format. Or does nothing at all, as that would be better than this gigantic mess.