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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
At home with TVGoHome
Charlie on sofa
Charlie Brooker settling in to the plush world of TV
Every fortnight, TVGoHome has been making its foul-mouthed claim to be the UK's premier comedy website. Now there's going to be a book and a TV series. Its creator Charlie Brooker speaks to BBC News Online's Giles Wilson

For someone who was named by the News of the World for his part in Brass Eye, Charlie Brooker doesn't seem to have been particularly shamed.

But doing things tastefully is not his strong point. For the last two years, his website TVGoHome (a name inspired, he says, "by racist graffiti, although that sounds like a terrible thing to say") has been a fortnightly assault on sensibilities.

TVGoHome book cover
Out in time for Christmas: TVGoHome, the book
Taking the form of a page of the Radio Times, Brooker, 30, has been an acerbic and often perceptive critic of modern TV.

Consider, for instance, an entry from the current edition.

10pm. Blind Viewer Confusion Zone, including EastEnders with Occasional Bursts of Bobsleigh Commentary, and Can He See Sugar.

Or the recent hit, The Ten Tasks of One-Armed, One-legged Hercules. Episode 5: Changing a duvet cover in the back of a moving caravan.

Or how about Reverberation Bay, the Australian soap set in a coastal beauty spot with unique natural echo delay. "Cindy bawls the news of her pregnancy to Scott as he stands at the water's edge - forgetting that three hours later the entire conversation will ripple across the bay in full earshot of ex-husband Paul."

As for perceptiveness, try last summer's Text Message Theatre, a programme in which the audience "texted" lines and stage directions to the cast. At the time it might have seemed fanciful; barely a month later a similar idea was taking place at the Edinburgh Fringe.


Lots of times when you meet people who say how much they hate people like Nathan Barley, it turns out they are actually just like him

Charlie Brooker
These are to say nothing of TVGoHome's most regular programme, whose title is the word ranked in recent BBC research as the most offensive swear word (83% of respondents said it was "very severe"). As such, that listing is unsuitable for a repeat here.

But that particular programme's star is the undoubted hit of TVGoHome, the standard bearer of the new media revolution, Nathan Barley, who embodies the excesses of pretentiousness and has thus become something of a 21st Century hate figure.

So successful has TVGoHome become that a collection of its issues is being published in the Autumn, and - oh the irony - there will be a TV sketch series on E4 at the end of November.

Charlie
"I'm sure a lot of people will say I've sold out, but I hope not."
Expect similar content to the website, Brooker says, albeit perhaps slightly moderated. "A lot of the stuff from the website is amusing when written down, but if you tried to re-enact it, it would be actually be quite nasty and probably illegal."

From humble beginnings, the site has grown into a production company, Zeppotron, which last year sold a 25% stake to the makers of Big Brother, Endemol.

The anti-TV acid now pours from the Shepherd's Bush HQ of the company which gives us Laurence Llewellyn Bowen, Ready Steady Cook, and Pet Rescue, to say nothing of Josh and Bubble.

If evidence were needed of how close TVGoHome has come to the real thing, outside the company lifts is a large rustic-looking log, wrapped in plastic and freshly delivered, marked for the attention of the Changing Rooms production team. Who knows what fate awaits it?


Extract of current edition
But if anyone should think of accusing Brooker of having sold out, Zeppotron's success should dispel it. After all, how many original content-driven websites are thriving, let alone seeming to make a reverse take-over on the world of television?

Brooker himself displays none of the fearsome bile which the site displays, something of which he is aware. "I don't know where the venom comes from," he says. "I'm pathetically mild-mannered, nauseatingly polite and servile in person. I make myself sick."

He is cagey about his exact role in the Brass Eye paedophile special, although his dabs were evident in places. But for a man with so much TV in his veins - his parents named him Charlton after a character in Bewitched (his sister is Samantha and the family cat was Tabitha) - he's still committed to the net.

"I'm still totally interested in doing internet-based things. The nice thing about the internet is that it's a great leveller. TVGoHome was done on a budget of nil.

Changing Room log
Log the complaints
"The one thing that matters is coming up with a simple idea. I don't know why more people don't try it and do it - come up with something simple and try to build an audience. Everyone seems to want to create Onion rip-offs, but there's plenty of room for good online comedy content."

Sadly for TVGoHome readers, it could just be that it is becoming a victim of its own success. Brooker says the book and the TV series will mark the site's swansong.

The problem, he says, is that some TV has become so bizarre, it's pointless to try parodying it.

"Touch the Truck made the point for me," he says, referring to the show in which contestants stood round a truck touching it for as long as possible, with the last one standing winning it. "I was seriously considering just copying the listing from the Radio Times and putting that on the site straight.

"And who would have thought you would have seen something like Banzai? I never thought I would have seen Pete Beale having his scrotum weighed on television."

TVGoHome the book will be published by Fourth Estate in October.

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