Tv Review: Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe

Charlie Brooker's Antiviral Wipe indexCharlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe started out as a fascinating and hilarious insight in to tv, a mixture of reviews of shows and a look in to how they were made, all of which came with Brooker’s bitingly honest dialogue. It ran for five series, and at the end of each year Brooker put together an annual wipe, a round of everything that had happened in the previous three hundred and sixty five days which was always one of the highlights of the Christmas tv season.

The last wipe was broadcast in 2016 as Brooker then found himself too busy with his anthology tv series Black Mirror, as well as the Screenwipe spin off series Cunk On, which saw Diane Morgan’s Philomena Cunk try to understand, well, everything really. While Screenwipe had started to run out of steam a little what with Brooker running out of behind the scenes secrets to give away, the annual wipes have been enormously missed as they were such a great way to look back on the year and often catch up on a sod load of different shows and bits of news that you might have missed.

Now it’s back for a one off special, thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown, but does Brooker have anything to say about it that hasn’t already been covered elsewhere on other shows / social media / your neighbour being an annoying sarky dick? And could it suffer from the fact that many of us feel a bit exhausted by the whole situation and the never ending news coverage and not want to hear another fucking word about the pandemic?

Fortunately such concerns were allayed almost instantly as Brooker’s insightful and also hilarious take on the situation was funny from the get go, as his acerbic comments were nearly always as sharp as a guillotine and often as hilarious (if you found the French revolution funny, at least). After a brief summary of the oddness of 2020 prior to the lockdown Brooker was able to examine just how the Coronavirus got so out of hand and it was fascinating to see how initially everyone thought it wasn’t going to be that serious in the West.

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, but it’s also a bloody amusing thing in Brooker’s hands as he mocked the world’s initial lack of concern, especially with one supposed expert suggesting that there’d only be dozens of cases in the UK. There was a great deal of naivety elsewhere too, especially as Boris Johnson boasted about how he’d shaken hands with people with the virus but washed his hands afterwards and so there was nothing to be concerned about. I did briefly worry that Brooker might be on dodgy ground when he covered Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation later on in the episode but he handled it beautifully, with a jibe about Gordon Brown and the number of Boris’s children generating two big laughs.

There were also a couple of great bits with Konnie Huq (with a nicely self-deprecating line about why she married him being my favourite), and some strong piss taking of how certain celebrities reacted to the pandemic, with Brooker commenting on Gal Gadot’s celebrity version of Imagine with the killer line “If only John Lennon were alive to see this he’d be ringing Mark Chapman and screaming his coordinates down the phone”, and that segment only got better with Elton John’s quite astonishingly weird version of I’m Still Standing.

Understandably it was impossible for the show not to be depressing in places – with the mention of the amount of deaths obviously always going to be the bleakest element, but the fact that Donald Trump’s popularity has not really changed came close – but thankfully the more upsetting elements were few and far between, and Brooker pleasingly offered up some optimism as there’s been more unity than people might have expected, and the world hasn’t descended in to a dystopian nightmare as many predicted.

Brooker was also pleasingly childish as well, something which I’ll never tire of, and maybe it’s just me but I felt it was really needed right now as among all the depressing elements hearing Bruce Aylward and others being overdubbed so that they talk about Mr Bumcakes and Mrs Bum made me laugh a huge amount. There was also a welcome return for Barry Shitpeas (director Al Campbell) and Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) as well who turned up to offer a rather misguided and stupid take on it all, while occasionally making sharp observations about how idiotic certain decisions made by the government were early on, and Cunk’s thoughts on David Icke and an interview concerning a vaccine were both superb too.

This was fantastic stuff then, both fascinating and funny, and it deserves a huge amount of credit for dealing with a topic that many are sick to death off in an original, honest and consistently hilarious manner. Hopefully it will have reignited Brooker’s passion for the format too, perhaps there’s no need for another series (not that I’d refuse to watch such a thing) but a return for the yearly round up’s would be very gratefully received indeed.

★★★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
If you’re based in the UK you can watch the special on BBC iPlayer here.

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