Creator Spotlight: Charlie Brooker

“Whenever I tell people I’m a misanthrope they react as though that’s a bad thing, the idiots. I live in London, for God’s sake. Have you walked down Oxford Street recently? Misanthropy’s the only thing that gets you through it. It’s not a personality flaw, it’s a skill.

It’s nothing to do with sheer numbers. Move me to a remote cottage in the Hebrides and I’d learn to despise the postman, even if he only visited once a year. I can’t abide other people, with their stink and their noise and their irritating ringtones. Bill Hicks called the human race ‘a virus with shoes’, and if you ask me he was being unduly hard on viruses; I’d consider a career in serial killing if the pay wasn’t so bad.”

The inspiring and wonderful turn of phrase of Charlie Brooker there, the creator of Black Mirror. He’s also the creator of Nathan Barley, the character that was supposed to be a hate figure but became a how-to for moneyed London dickbags, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

He took a BA in media studies but failed as his dissertation was on computer games …..which was not an eligible topic (He has said that it’s this diligence and attention to detail that has got him where he is today.)

On leaving university he began writing for PC Zone magazine, at one point causing the magazine to be pulled from British shelves for a cartoon aimed at the level of animal deaths in the Tomb Raider games. For legal reasons they couldn’t use the Tomb Raider name so it pretty much came across as a joke about animal cruelty which…oops.

In 1999 he started the website, which was half a joke TV listings page and half a howl of existential despair. Including listings for shows like “Mick Hucknall’s Pink Pancakes’ in which the Simply Red frontman presses his ‘nads against a variety of transparent materials. It’s breakout show was ‘Cunt’, which detailed the adventures of one Nathan Barley- “A swaggering fuck-haired cock-about-town whose very existence tarnishes the world’s already questionable track record”

Brooker co-wrote the real TV show that resulted, with the more presentable title Nathan Barley. (They’re on youtube and are well worth tracking down although it can be hard to face the fact that the characters in it haven’t dated. Basically Nathan Barley would definitely write for Vice now.) The show has that brilliant/unwatchable horror vibe of co-writer Chris Morris’ work (Brasseye, Jam, Four Lions)

Brooker next moved on to the ‘Wipe’ series of programs such as News wipe/Games wipe/Weekly Wipe. Brooker has a tremendous ability to point out the techniques of TV and do it in a funny way.

His best parts come when he’s pointing out the ways in which people are taken in by media and how it can ruin your life….such as in the show How TV Ruined Your Life , here’s his take on the joys of love.

His increasing TV presence led to him getting to see behind the scenes and this gave him the info to write Dead Set which had the premise “What about the zombie apocalypse from the viewpoint of the contestants of Big Brother

It’s a tremendous mini-series which is both funny and scary. The fact that it was produced by the makers of the UK version of Big Brother means it has a great verisimilitude (Up to and including the actual presenter and voice over plus cameos from previous contestants.) Brooker has written that it was slightly awkward when he met with contestants like Maxwell and Saskia who he had previously described in print as “ so profoundly thick you could sell him a pair of his own socks for £500…while he was wearing them” and having “ a face that could advertise war” respectively, and they turned out to be lovely.

This was part of the reason he curtailed his TV criticism and opinion columns for the Guardian newspaper, in that he felt he was becoming expected to only spray bile which becomes tiring. The other reason was the success of the show which is the most well known of his works Black Mirror It’s a sci-fi satire set about 15 minutes in the future. (If you watch The National Anthem or The Waldo Moment we’ve already overtaken them)

There isn’t a lot I can say about Black Mirror because you’ve definitely seen them. If you haven’t you can slip out and we’ll pretend you already had when you come back.

What I can add, is that yesterday they have announced the titles and directors for season 4 and they are as follows:

ArkAngel. Directed by Jodie Foster
USS Callister. Directed by Toby Haynes
Crocodile. Directed by John Hillcoat
Hang the Dj. Directed by Tim Van Patten
Metalhead. Directed by David Slade
Black Museum. Directed by: ??
Which is a whole load of punch the air news. I’ll finish by starting the debate on “Best Black Mirror episode” and say I vacillate between 15 Million Credits and Be Right Back which are both terrifying in entirely intellectual ways. (Barring a couple of sex scenes you could show them to kids but they are amongst the most disturbing things I’ve ever watched)