Why I love watching films on Gogglebox

There is a partly vicarious, partly communal thrill in watching reactions to great cinematic moments in real-time.

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As Ryan Gilbey notes, this is a summer without blockbusters. Cinemas are slowly reopening, but major releases are postponed, and most of us will stream films at home.

Perhaps this is why the cast of Channel 4’s Gogglebox are watching more films lately (or perhaps it’s due to gaps in the TV schedule). The ever-popular series, which invites you to watch people watching TV, has always included films, but in this series of Celebrity Gogglebox, there are often two an episode. We’ve seen key scenes from Nineties thrillers Basic Instinct and Misery; big-budget action flicks Casino Royale and Mission: Impossible, and classics from Grease to Scarface.

There is a partly vicarious, partly communal thrill in watching reactions to great cinematic moments in real-time. The 73-year-old actor Joanna David (mother of Emilia Fox, also on screen) bellowed “TURN IT OFF!” in hysterical horror at the arm-sawing climax of 127 Hours (David is a joy; I wept with laughter as she screeched through Jordan Peele’s horror, Us). The Favourite scandalised Eamonn Holmes and Joe Swash. “They’re all like that, these historical dramas,” Stacey Solomon observed. “A little bit seedy.”

These segments also offer an insight into how films work. The final sequence of Cape Fear, as Robert De Niro repeatedly evades death, resulted in exhausted laughter as well as jumps of fright. But my favourite has so far been Thelma & Louise. The audience was united in shocked rage as Thelma’s attempted rapist taunts and belittles her. “Shoot him,” whispered Maureen Lipman. “Boom him, bruv!” shouted Babatúndé Aléshé. It’s clear how this scene encourages us to be complicit in Louise’s violence – and then we’re off, partners in crime, too, following them to the edge of the world, and over it. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 24 July 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Summer special

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