Grace Dent on TV: Gogglebox, Channel 4

It's TV that brings the nation together, and this show is a glorious celebration of that

In Britain, according to Caroline Aherne's narration on C4's Gogglebox – the show that watches us watching TV – 20 million of us sit down to watch our televisions every evening. This is a pleasing statistic for people like me who adore telly and the sense of unity and warmth it can bring. I have wondered long and hard what the other 40 million of us can possibly be up to and can only imagine that they are planning ways to corner me at parties, displaying Paxman-esque flared nostrils of disgust while sighing: “Oh, I don't actually own a television. Well, I do, but it's covered in dust with no plug. In fact during October I'll be glueing seashells to a large reclaimed Bell's Whisky bottle to make an ethically kind lampstand.”

These people are not my people. My people are people just like Gogglebox's two female friends Sandy and Sandra from Brixton, who spend their downtime on a sofa enjoying TV twaddle like Sex Box, The X Factor or Through the Keyhole, while ordering take-away chicken shish with extra garlic sauce. Or, in Sandra's case, drinking orange squash from an old Pot Noodle cup while wondering aloud whether the man with the tattoo-strewn face from My Tattoo Addiction might be good in bed as every time he turned his head, mid-sex-thrust, it would feel like a different bloke. I wish I could press a red button on my screen at any time and find them sitting there in their kaftans giving thoughts on Godfrey Bloom, Keith Lemon and that Daisy Chain band from X Factor who were loyal, best friends forever until Gary offered the prettiest, thinnest one a solo shot at fame.

Yes, my people are people like Gogglebox's lovable, pithy bon vivants Steph and Dom – husband and wife – plus their worshipped dachshund Gigi – who enjoy nights of co-bitching on a sofa in Sandwich. “Kevin McCloud, do you think he knows he's an arse?” wonders Steph, knocking back one of Dom's potent Long Island iced teas. I'd also fit in very well on the end of hairdressers Steve and Chris's sofa in Brighton, as they cackle their way through the X Factor audition stages.

There's something rather joyous and soothing about Gogglebox. It reminds me a touch of series one Big Brother when participants were in the main reserved, unaffected and compellingly natural. Gogglebox allows for long sofa silences, for very important sentences which fade away to confused mumbling, for lingering cameras on gormless ajar gobs. Yes, this is just a show where people on telly watch other people on telly, but it's also a pleasing documentation of the modern British “family” unit and how we actually chatter and how common reactions to TV plots unite us. We were all bored and embarrassed by Sex Box and had previously imagined we would see inside the box or might at least hear a modicum of squelching. But no, we just got dishevelled hair and sweaty faces and people telling Mariella Frostrup that sex really is better after 17 years as you can cut out the faffing about and know what works, y'know a bit like starting an old temperamental boiler you can't be bothered to replace.

A better advert for romantic longevity is Gogglebox's OAP couple Joan and Leon from Liverpool, who watch TV every night in matching recliners. Leon took Joan out on their first date in 1955 and still thinks she's highly fanciable. “That Susanna Reid is always flashing her legs off,” Leon tutted as they watched Strictly Come Dancing. “If I had legs like that I'd show them off,” sighed Joan. “Your legs are better than that,” Leon pointed out.

We could not be wholly certain that Leon wasn't buttering Joan up for a WeightWatchers biscuit as she currently has her husband on a strict calorie-controlled diet. “I lost a stone!” he tells her again. “They rang a little bell!”

The pair sit down to watch Jamie Oliver cooking his Money Saving Meals. Jamie is eking out a less fancy cut of lamb with plenty of cheap and cheerful roast veg and lots of gravy. “Mmmmmghhghhhgh,” sighs Leon, slavering a little. Joan tuts, almost inaudibly, rolling her eyes. “I've only had me Ryvita and me salad today!” says Leon. I could watch a whole half hour of these two just quietly, affectionately, pass-agg teasing each other with almost 50 years of back material.

I could watch Gogglebox every night, but I pray it stays the same: occasional, cherished, understated and filled with wholly normal people, not grotesque Geordie Shore types, and without any nod towards the show being a competition or a journey or having any real point at all. It's just people talking back to the telly and sometimes talking to each other, just like 20 million of us do every evening. It's not much of a format, but it's currently one of the greatest ones on British TV.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas