Cheers to 10 tipsy Gogglebox years! Stars past and present reveal ordinary people delivering riotously rude verdicts on the week’s telly – often after a few drinks – became an unlikely hit
- Gogglebox Ten Year Anniversary Special will air on 11 March at 9pm on Channel4
- READ MORE: FEMAIL reveals where the cast of Gogglebox are now
On a beach in Mauritius, Steph and Dom Parker are typically well lubricated for their interview with Weekend magazine – each swigging an iced cocktail. Steph’s is a lurid pink, Dom’s is blue. And their language is as colourful as their drinks. ‘We’re the ones everyone was meant to hate,’ Steph announces, looking back on the tenth anniversary of Gogglebox, the show that turned them into household names before they left in 2016. ‘We were the posh twits from the south. We gave posh people a chance!’
Dom looks dubious. ‘We still know lots of posh people who are complete s**ts,’ he points out.
The duo may be slightly ‘sloosh-ious’, as they call it, but they are gamely trying to analyse the appeal of the show, in which families and friends are filmed as they watch and discuss the week’s TV highlights. It began as an experiment on Channel 4 but became a phenomenon, with its 21st series now airing and a documentary later this month to celebrate its decade on screen.
Goggleboxer Gyles Brandreth (from the celebrity spin-off) calls it ‘an insight into the soul of Britain’, but for the US diplomats at London’s American embassy Gogglebox is even better than that. The US State Department’s spokesman Aaron Snipe believes it provides an ideal introduction to UK culture and humour and is so instructive it’s required viewing for embassy personnel.
Mr Snipe believes its broad range of families is a perfect microcosm of British society – ‘geographically, ethnically, religiously,’ he told a reporter in New York last year. Where else can a Yank learn the everyday unscripted idioms used by average Brits? One recent example that flummoxed embassy staff is ‘a proper hoo-hah’. They won’t hear that on The World At One.
Hoteliers Steph and Dom were invited onto the first series of Gogglebox after appearing on Ch4’s B&B competition Four In A Bed. Both of them have been ‘bamboozled’ at being turned into stars
And without Gogglebox, the rest of us would never have met a crowd of delightful and opinionated individuals, many of them natural celebrities waiting to be discovered. They include Scarlett Moffatt, the Geordie lass who has gone on to be a TV presenter, effervescent vicar the Rev Kate Bottley, as well as Brighton hairdressers Stephen and his husband Daniel and Caerphilly grandparents Dave and Shirley.
Like the US State Department, Dom and Steph believe the secret of the show’s success lies in the way it seems to include every flavour of Britishness. ‘It doesn’t matter if you live in a council house, a country house or a caravan,’ says Dom, 58.
‘It’s completely inclusive – and it began at a time when people were feeling disconnected. All kinds of opinions about TV get voiced on Gogglebox, from the profound to the banal. Whatever your job or wealth, your colour or creed, it makes people feel better about having their own opinions – even if they are wildly rude.’
Steph and Dom aren’t merely holidaying in Mauritius, they’re stranded there. ‘We’re celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and planned to go to India next,’ Steph says, ‘but Dom slipped two discs putting a beach towel on a sunbed. Typical Dom! So until he’s fit to fly, we’re stuck here.’
‘There are worse places,’ murmurs her husband.
Both of them have been ‘bamboozled’ at being turned into stars. ‘There’s so much goodwill out there,’ says Steph. ‘Whenever we bump into people, the response is so warm. We loved every moment of doing the show. We find each other very funny, so it became a competition to make each other laugh so hard that we wet the sofa.’
‘We went through four sofas,’ Dom chips in. ‘The producers were brave enough not to censor most of the more outrageous jokes, and rightly – 99 per cent of the British public has a terrific sense of humour.’
That’s the secret too of hairdresser Stephen Webb’s appeal. He’s been a regular since the first series, first with his ex-boyfriend Chris and then with mum Pat, before husband and business partner Daniel Lustig joined him on his sofa in Brighton three years ago. ‘I’m the Ken Barlow of Gogglebox,’ he declares. ‘I’ve been there since the beginning and I’ve been part of more line-ups than the Sugababes.’
Without Gogglebox, the world would never have met a crowd of delightful and opinionated individuals, many of them natural celebrities waiting to be discovered – including Scarlett Moffatt
As a result, says Daniel, fans who recognise them in the street might not know their names but they always know the show. ‘They shout out of car windows – “Gogglebox!”’
Both Daniel and Stephen agree they love being recognised. ‘It’s always really nice and positive.’ The couple even offer ‘Gogglebox haircuts’ at their salon – that’s an ordinary haircut, but you talk about telly with the boys while you’re getting it. ‘We do watch TV a lot,’ admits Stephen. ‘For the recording, it’s two nights a week, about six hours in all, with lots of chocolate and sweets. Our favourites are things like Antiques Roadshow. And the biggest giggle is Naked Attraction.’
Gyles Brandreth, on Celebrity Gogglebox, was aghast to find himself watching nude dating show Naked Attraction too, with co-stars Maureen Lipman and Sheila Hancock. Dame Maureen refused to look and shut herself in the kitchen. Dame Sheila was less shocked. In fact, says Gyles, ‘she explained some of the fruitier terminology to me’.
The backbone of the show has always been the down-to-earth families – people like the Siddiquis from Derby and the McGarrys, Linda and Pete, in Clacton with son George… nicknamed Squeaky George because of his high-pitched voice
Goggleboxer Gyles Brandreth (from the celebrity spin-off) calls it ‘an insight into the soul of Britain’ (pictured with Sheila Hancock)
But no one typifies the ordinary Goggleboxers better than Shirley and Dave Griffiths in Caerphilly, who have been married for 45 years. Their unexpected break came in 2015 when a TV producer came into the charity shop in South Wales where Shirley was working and asked her, out of the blue, if she’d like to be on telly. Dave didn’t believe her when she told him. ‘He was going to walk the dogs,’ she says, ‘and he just walked off!’
‘I thought it was a wind-up,’ Dave admits. He puts their success on the show down to their chatty personalities. ‘We like singing and talking and drinking – we’re Welsh, that explains everything.’ Viewers also love their willingness to talk about anything, despite the occasional misunderstanding, such as Shirley’s confusion when she heard the word ‘heterosexual’, thinking it meant something naughty. ‘People these days, they’re all sorts,’ she said, horrified.
‘But we’re heterosexual,’ Dave pointed out. Shirley was aghast. ‘No I am not!’ she insisted. Well, the word does sound rather suggestive…
His favourite shows, Dave says, are current affairs programmes and nature documentaries. But Shirley’s in charge of the remote… and she likes home makeovers. ‘I’ve seen Escape To The Chateau so often,’ Dave sighs, ‘I feel I know Dick Strawbridge personally. And I’ve never met him!’
Gogglebox Ten Year Anniversary Special, 11 March, 9pm, Channel 4. Gogglebox, Friday, 9pm, Channel 4.
So sozzled we fell off the sofa!
Hoteliers Steph and Dom were invited onto the first series of Gogglebox after appearing on Ch4’s B&B competition Four In A Bed. At the time they ran the Salutation Hotel in Kent (pictured)
Hoteliers Steph and Dom were invited onto the first series of Gogglebox after appearing on Ch4’s B&B competition Four In A Bed. At the time they ran the Salutation Hotel in Kent.
But they were also the parents of two children, including son Max, who has autism and was then 12. ‘That was a very difficult time for us,’ says Dom, ‘and the show gave us an opportunity for a drink and a laugh. We were locked in a room on our own, and it became our date night once a week.’
They caused national hilarity when Steph admitted she could read Dom’s date-night intentions by the drinks he plied her with. Baileys Irish Cream meant he was just feeling affectionate, but vodka and Red Bull was a sign of more energetic ambitions.
She has no hesitation when asked for her favourite memory. ‘It might be the funniest moment in my whole life. After filming the last show in series one, we went to the pub with the crew. When we all staggered home at 1am we were, umm… exuberant. I kissed Dom so hard the sofa fell over.’ Hearing the commotion, the crew switched the cameras on, in time to see the couple stagger to their feet. Then, with sublime comic timing, the phone rang – and Dom, though he could hardly see straight, managed to sound professional as he answered it: ‘The Salutation, good evening’.
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