10 Things You Never Knew About 'Black Mirror' Creator Charlie Brooker
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Black Mirror fans will know that Charlie Brooker has one of the most inventive and envelope-pushing minds in TV. He also knows how to tell a terrific story, which is why his dystopian sci-fi series has now won eight Emmy Awards. Brooker's latest project is Death to 2020, a mockumentary special sending up this most challenging of years and featuring appearances from Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, and Lisa Kudrow.
To whet your appetite, here are some things you might not know about the writer-producer-presenter whose other credits include spoof zombie series Dead Set and cult sitcom Nathan Barley.
1. His full name isn't Charles.
His parents named him Charlton Brooker after Charlton Rollnick Jr., a character who appeared in a solitary episode of classic U.S. sitcom Bewitched. So right from the start, TV was a major part of his life.
2. He was raised in a Quaker household in the village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Oxfordshire.
However, Brooker has said that his family wasn't super-staunch and he was raised Quaker "only in a relaxed, don't-fret-too-much-about-the-God stuff kind of way." Writing for The Guardian in 2014, Brooker said: "In fact the best thing about being a Quaker was the lack of God in my life. As a Quaker I got to duck out of religious education lessons at my Church of England primary school."
3. He doesn’t think he’s that posh.
Asked how posh he is, Brooker told The Guardian in 2016: "By background not very. People always assume I went to [a fee-paying British] public school, which I didn’t, so that immediately puts me somewhere. Then again I grew up in a leafy village in Oxfordshire and that’s quite posh in itself."
"Also I’m drinking a green tea right now in a fancy restaurant ... so I don’t really know," he continued. "I’m definitely a lot posher than I used to be, but I don’t like posh things, particularly. I don’t eat in posh restaurants or drink posh wine because I don’t really get it. But I make TV shows so I must be quite posh."
4. He's married to well-known British TV presenter Konnie Huq.
Huq is best known for being the longest-serving female presenter on beloved British children's show Blue Peter, which she co-hosted from 1997 to 2008. She also writes children's books and co-wrote the Black Mirror episode "Fifteen Million Merits" with Brooker, whom she married at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas in 2010.
The couple have two sons: eight-year-old Hovey and six-year-old Huxley. "It was weird because for years I'd not known if I wanted kids or a family," Brooker said on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 2018. "I couldn't perceive of that as a future. And then Konnie came along, and quite early on she said, 'Well, you know, I want kids and a family and this sort of thing,’ and I heard myself going, 'Okay'… and it was sort of the best decision I ever made."
5. He says the confidence he projects on screen is "a facade."
In the U.K., Brooker's image has been shaped by the acerbic and outspoken persona he projects on his semi-regular Wipe programs, in which he provides a satirical commentary on British TV, politics, and world news. However, he says this isn't quite the real Charlie. "I think when people meet me in the flesh, often they're surprised that I'm not like this deadpan, horrible, sarcastic monster that I play on television," he revealed on Desert Island Discs. "In real life I think I'm probably both a lot goofier and more awkward, and far less certain of my opinions than I am on screen."
6. He first came to prominence by creating the satirical TV listings website TVGoHome.
Between 1999 and 2003, the website provided spoof TV listings in the style of long-running British magazine the Radio Times, often sending up the surreal banality of early reality TV. Fictional series listed included Daily Mail Island, in which a group of Brits would be dumped on a desert island and only given access to right-wing tabloid the Daily Mail, and Touch the Truck, in which contestants were challenged to continually touch a truck for 24 hours in order to win it as a prize.
Sadly, TVGoHome no longer exists, but you can check out an archive webpage here.
7. He and Black Mirror's co-showrunner Annabel Jones have been creative collaborators since 2000.
"We have been working together for nearly 20 years, and I suppose there’s a familiarity and disrespect between us that allows us to work very openly and candidly," Jones told The Guardian last year.
Discussing Jones' role in the creative process, Brooker added: "I’m often trying to either appall or amuse or entertain you with an idea. And [Jones] will say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ And [she] will sort of drag more of it out of me. Or sometimes [she will] put up blocks and say, ‘Well that wouldn’t work because…’ and I’ll go, ‘Yeah but…’ and that sort of leads to a conversation.”
8. He co-wrote one of the U.K.'s most controversial TV programs ever.
Namely, a 2001 episode of Chris Morris' spoof comedy series Brass Eye titled "Paedogeddon!" The provocatively-titled special was designed to satirize the British media's hysterical and insensitive response to paedophilia-related stories in the news cycle, but many viewers felt its pitch-black humor was too close to the bone.
Broadcasting regulators later ordered U.K. network Channel 4 to apologize for airing the episode, which attracted a then-record number of viewer complaints. Brooker and Morris went on to co-create the cult British sitcom Nathan Barley, a send-up of London media hipsters which ran on Channel 4 in 2005. The show’s cast included Ben Whishaw, Richard Ayoade, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
9. He regrets not taking the opportunity to write an episode of Doctor Who.
"I was approached for Doctor Who and I just didn’t have time," he told The Independent in 2017. "It was really annoying. I was really busy and they haven’t asked me again since. It was a bit like the [British] Home Office asking you to do something."
10. He says the tumultuous events of 2020 have left him with a "strange kind of almost optimism."
Speaking at a press conference for Death to 2020, Brooker told outlets including London's Evening Standard: "Oddly when this happened I think on some levels I pivoted to a strange kind of almost optimism because I think that dread and anxiety of something happening, once something terrible is actually happening, it’s suddenly a real and growing concern and you are not worrying about some great unknown.”
Do you have a favorite episode of Black Mirror?