Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe – familiar and flat pack

BBC/Netflix/Matt Holyoak

Charlie Brooker returned to BBC Two this month with Antiviral Wipe, his first Wipe instalment since 2016.

Originally unplanned, Antiviral Wipe came about because the production team were supposed to be making a new Philomena Cunk show. “We wanted to keep as much of the team on as possible – the BBC asked if we’d make a new Wipe show instead, and I initially said no before relenting when it became clear the format itself would still work under lockdown”, Charlie Brooker said during a Q&A with the BBC.

As you’ll see straight after the opening credits roll, the programme was produced under lockdown, so the set is furnished with a makeshift desk made from what looks like the cardboard box a TV came in. With much of the show containing archive footage from news and television, the format feels the same to those familiar with the Wipe series.

Charlie Brooker described 2016 as ‘shitmongous’ because it was so huge and scary. His word to describe 2020 – ‘Fuckawfulous’.

Wipe’s regular cohorts Al Campbell and Diane Morgan appear too, filmed from their homes. Charlie said “it’s basically a locked-off shot so you don’t really need a big studio, and it’s about as complex as Gogglebox. As luck would have it both Al Campbell (Shitpeas) and Diane Morgan (Cunk) are directors. So the equipment basically got dumped on doorsteps and from that point on it was all a bit DIY”.

Until now Charlie has been “too busy” to make a new Wipe programme, with a lot of his time spent producing the dystopian science fiction Netflix series Black Mirror. Much like The Simpsons, where fans think past episodes have predicted the future, people turn to Black Mirror to demonstrate how the storylines often have worrying similarities with current events. Charlie says he’s not bored of the comparison though – “It’s flattering on a professional level but terrifying on an oh-shit-the-world-is-dreadful level”.

While this was the first Wipe in some time, and may be the only one we see for a while, this won’t be the last Wipe we see. As he said to The Independent, “I always like the idea of doing a Final Wipe. When the world really is about to f**king end”.

Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.