Review: The Execution of Gary Glitter (Channel 4)

The Execution of Gary Glitter has caused a fair amount of controversy and sniggering already, so now it’s finally aired, what have we learned?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What was in the show? Well, for a kick-off, it was like watching a weird version of Time Trumpet. However, instead of the set-up being ‘…and here’s a ludicrous, hyper-real vision of the ridiculous future that our idiot species is heading for in full technicolour with some belly-laughs…‘, it’s a super-depressing look into a world gone mental. A world where Garry Bushell is no longer the voice of The Silent Majority, but rather, The Honking Trap Of The Fetid Bile Merchant, ready with a pitchfork.

A lot of people will have invariably made (the crushingly obvious) comparison to that infamous BrassEye ‘special’, which hoodwinked many into believing it was all real. That was funny because it made people look daft by virtue of the fact that someone could feasibly believe in a show that featured a man disguised as a primary school.

However, this show had no joke or punchline. It was horribly believable in places. The use of real talking heads as mouthpieces (Miranda Sawyer, Ann Widdicombe, the aforementioned Garry Bushell) gave the programme an eerie foot in reality. Anyone accidentally tuning into this could easily see it as a documentary and think ‘justice done’.

The whole thing made me squirm. Firstly, because the show preyed on a bloodluster’s worst traits, but worse still, it preyed on the supposed intelligentsia’s feeling that ‘proles’ are all out to lynch anyone even stood close to the sex offenders register.

Of course, this show is a product of a million Facebook groups that have sprouted out of the various blood-curdling cries for the head of Ian Huntley or Baby P’s killers. Whilst the need for a public flogging may be as old as these shores, the show felt like a product of a very modern face-off, with those wanting to sneer at ‘the idiots’ and those wanting an eye-for-an-eye.

It’s this point that was most important because, whilst there is no doubt that Channel 4 will have wanted to kick-start a debate, the close of the show left us with a whole series of debates addressed… except the one that the show was pinned on… and that is: Should we bring back the death penalty?

Furthermore, you get the impression that many of those assumed herd-mentalists who were shown on the show, marching on Downing Street with signs reading ‘PEEDO SCUM’, aren’t necessarily going to be tuning in for a dialogue heavy Channel 4 mockumentary.

At least the show provided a scene so preposterous that it was almost funny… notably, something I shall refer to as The Remix Scene. For some inexplicable reason, they featured a remix of ‘Leader of the Gang’ with the word ‘ponce’ crudely plastered all over it. I assumed that the chorus was going to be “Do you wanna see a Glitter hang? Glitter hang? Glitter hang? Do you wanna see a Glitter hang? Oh yeah!” Mercifully, it didn’t stoop as low as my thought-process.

Now the show is over, with its mixture of incredibly believable portrayals and, well, shall we say, absolute horseshit performances, everyone is no doubt going ape over sections of the show and getting involved in a debate that the show itself was too chicken to tackle. An issue dealt with more movingly in Let Him Have It and Dancer In The Dark.

Basically, The Execution of Gary Glitter featured an alternative universe Britain which saw British politicians cowing to the violent mob, seemingly, without any consequence at all. In itself, that’s the most irritating thing of all. The show barely scratched the surface of the issue at hand and rather, simply read out the programme title over and over again until everyone got a bit bored or uneasy. Quite why they felt the need to choose a celebrity criminal is obvious, but really, not altogether necessary.

About the author

I'm Mof Gimmers.

I've been writing about TV for a long time. I love it and loathe it in equal measures. I'm pretty sure the TV feels the same away about me too.
More from this author »

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1